It's once again that time of year - when writers tear their hair out and twist their guts into knots over the challenge that is NaNoWriMo... but first, a refresher for those poor souls who don't know what this is!
National Novel Writing Month is exactly that - a writing challenge for anyone who wishes to take it up. All you need to do is write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 31st and you win... well, nothing but bragging rights but it's a wonderful way to jumpstart that novel you've been wanting to write. It's an exercise that thousands have joined in over the years and has its own website where you can meet others in your area and be inspired and encouraged to Get It Done.
I've done this challenge and won twice - this year I'll be passing because it doesn't fall into the right time for my writing. I've got one book in edits (Tales from the Edge, book 3!) and waiting to hear on another big project and can't dedicate myself to a whole new book but I do encourage those of you who can to give it a try.
Why? Because it's a great way to teach yourself to get that Butt In Chair and get writing! 50K words is approximately 1613 words a day... ah, but don't get all smug thinking that it's an easy goal to meet! Let me toss some issues out there before you settle down for what you think is going to be an easy run...
First that's SEVEN days a week. No days off for church, work, shopping... did you notice that Thanksgiving is in there? AND Black Friday? Hmm... so you're still going to slam down 1600 words a day while stuffing that turkey or waiting in line for that great sale?
Suddenly that 1600 words seems a bit more daunting, yes?
The worst thing about NaNoWriMo, in my opinion, is that there's a major holiday smack dab in the middle of it - and if you don't plan for it this speed bump can send you right off the road and into the bushes no matter how much planning you do to complete your novel.
First - OVERWRITE every day! Don't settle for just 1613 words and walk away from your keyboard feeling smug about it. Write, overwrite, keep writing until you don't have any time left. Don't forget this is a first draft and the important thing is to get the words down on the page - there's no restriction here on good grammar, spelling or anything else other than what you make it. Get ahead of the count so that when you DO have those bad days where you end up spending the entire day working on fixing the oven so you can make that pumpkin pie or waiting at the airport for a late flight or trying to grab that great deal for Black Friday and not end up floundering in your wordcount. Get ahead at the start and you'll be prepared for those stumbles that are going to happen no matter what you do.
Don't fret over the phrasing too much - as I said above, this is a First Draft and IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE LOUSY WRITING. Any author who claims their first draft is ready for market is a wee bit loopy to start with. The important thing about NaNoWriMo is for you to get the words down on the page, not prepare it for submission. It's fine for you to go back over the previous day's work and give it a bit of a polish but don't get obsessed with making it perfect out of the gate - that's what December and all of 2015 is for. Get your fingers on the keyboard and get writing and don't fret too much about the spelling or the grammar. It can all be fixed later on.
The only thing you have to worry about and I've gotten trapped in this, is bad planning. Don't wait until after you start the book to have some idea of where your plot is going or what your ending is. You may not know all the bits and details about what happens but know where your characters are going to end up and what's going to happen at the end of the book. Free range writing is fine on your own but when you're committed to 50K words within a single month you don't have time to have your story wander off track.
Finally, and this is important - on November 1st pat yourself on the back no matter whether you've finished your work or not and walk away for a week or two to recover. You can go back and either finish your book or start editing it later on - give yourself that break to recharge the batteries and get a fresh look at your work.
If you intend to pursue publication you need to get that bit of space to go back to your work with a keen eye toward editing - and don't even think about sending it out to agents and publishers until 2015 and months after finishing (and hopefully winning) NaNoWriMo. Your work needs to breathe and you need to refresh your mind and body before beginning the next stage of editing and rewriting to prepare it for submission. Please give yourself that break to recharge your writing batteries and you'll find your work benefits from it.
Me? I've sold two NaNoWriMo books. Blood of the Pride and Blaze of Glory were NaNo novels that I sold after months of rewriting and editing so yes, it can be done. But even if you never sell your book NaNoWriMo is an excellent mental exercise to get your writing skills honed and test your endurance and organizational skills. If you're serious about writing I encourage you to consider this great way to join a huge writing community and have a good time doing it!
And plan for that turkey coma!