October 30, 2013 § 4 Comments
No, it’s almost National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.
If you’ve never tried to write an entire novel, start to finish, in a single month, now’s your chance to join the nearly 180,000 other crazy people all committing to cranking out 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several times, and even “won” (i.e., wrote 50,000 words) twice. I won’t lie; it ain’t for the faint of heart. You have to pretty much give up TV, your friends, your family, social events, and all other distractions to be able to hit the 1,667 words a day you need to write to make it across the finish line by the end of the month.
In exchange for all you give up, you gain a little self-respect for sticking to it. You gain a little insight into what it’s like to be a full-time writer. And most importantly, you gain a first draft of your novel.
You also learn—out of absolute necessity—to silence your internal editor. That’s because what you’ll be cranking out at the pace of 1,667 words per day isn’t going to be good. It’s going to be a lumpy, roughly sewn first draft, with glaring seams, bad transitions, stilted dialogue, and way too much exposition—and that’s perfectly fine. You have to be okay with that. Your internal editor won’t like it, but you have to ignore that voice in your head that’s telling you to go back and change that one scene or that one line or that one word, because once you start going back, you stop going forward. And you can’t afford that, not if you want to win.
And you want to win. Trust me.
You want to win, because you want that rough draft.
You want to win, because then it’s just a matter of polishing; the hard work is getting that first draft out of your head and onto the screen or the paper.
You want to win, because it’s a fantastic feeling to know you’ve written a novel in a month. (It’s probably like a runner’s high. I wouldn’t know, though; I only run if something is chasing me.)
It seems like a lot of words—trust me, I know. My current writing pace is wretchedly slow—300 words a day, if I’m lucky. That’s far less than John Scalzi, who writes (I think) 1,800 words a day, or Charles Stross, who cranks out 5,000-plus.
But 1,667 words a day is doable. I know because I’ve done it. It helps if you have an understanding spouse or supportive friends (and hey, as a WriMo, you’ve got 180,000 supportive friends). I think it helps if you have an outline, but others find it easier to make it up as they go along and fix what doesn’t make sense in the rewrite.
One of my WriMo friends believes in the power of her magic red wine. Another creates a writing soundtrack. Yet another will force herself to listen to the same crappy song, on repeat, until she hits her goal for the day. Some meet up in local coffee shops for write-ins, others schedule writing sprints with fellow WriMos on Twitter or Facebook.
There are all sorts of tips and tricks. The point is, you can do it.
So go sign up at NaNoWriMo.org, and write a novel next month! Then come back and share your secrets for WriMo success. And if you’re already a NaNo veteran, share your tips in the comments!