October has a mere three days left, and you fiction writers all know what that means…
Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time!
NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—invites you … no, encourages … actually it sort of demands that you write a whole novel in one month. It’s how I wrote a book, many years ago, and it’s one of the best things I ever did. And no, I haven’t sold the book. It’s still sitting in a drawer, grumbling whenever I walk by, reminding me it exists and it still needs work and I need to dust it off and get over myself already …
But I digress.
My point is, I wrote a book thanks to this challenge. So did Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) and Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants), among others. And so can you.
For me, the best thing about NaNoWriMo was that it forced me to forge ahead with what the nano people call the “craptastic” first draft, and silence my internal editor. My first draft switched back and forth from first to third person, past and present tense, and included breaks in the story that simply said “Needs more dialogue here,” and “Set the scene!” and “Fill in with some back story.” I did go back and work on all these things later, but in the heated frenzy of creation, I didn’t want the deliberation they required to slow me down. I couldn’t, because the whole point of the challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel (a very short novel by industry standards) in the month of November.
If you’re thinking of doing NaNoWriMo, the Internet offers no shortage of advice. Here are a few tips of my own:
- First, sign up on the NaNoWriMo site. You could do the challenge without signing up, of course, but why would you? The site lets you record your daily word count, rewards you with badges along the way, and offers up advice via newsletters and forums. It also lets you find a community of writers so you can…
- Team up with someone. Find groups in your area hosting events and write-ins and offering general support. Or just have write-ins with friends, live or via skype.
- Set yourself up with a Dropbox account if you haven’t done so already. That way you can write from any computer, anywhere, and not have five different versions of your masterpiece floating around.
- Get apps, if you’re into that, to help you along. Some of them are described here.
- Do the math: 50,000 words in 30 days equals 1,666 words a day. (This little blog post is nearly half that already.) But if you’re the take-the-weekend-off type, that’s 2,500 words a day. If you’re the take-the-weekdays off type, that’s 5,000 words every Saturday and Sunday (November has five weekends this year). And if you write long on some days and short on others, just figure out what suits your work style best and stick with it.
- Sneak in writing wherever you can—during lunch breaks and football practices, at the dinner table and in bed. Keep a notebook on every level of your house in case inspiration, or a commercial, strikes.
- Give yourself permission to drop off the radar for a while. That might mean fewer social gatherings, school events, kitchen cleanings, TV viewings, or bedtime stories. Ditch the guilt. It’s only for a month, and then you’ll be back in your old routine—but, with any luck, still working away on your book when you can.
- And most importantly, prepare to get blown away by this. Creativity, when a word count hovers and a deadline looms, can freeze you right into writer’s block. But if you’re open to it, it can surge through you—free up your inner artist and push you to imagine new worlds and take risks on the page. Let it. If you’re stuck, make notes, and move on. Because this challenge ends at 11:59, November 30, 2014. And you want to be typing THE END by then.
Are you up for NaNoWriMo? Let us know! We’d love to hear all about your progress.
You can get all the details here.
Write well, everyone—and write a lot!