Every year starting on November 1st several million people sit down and attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, most while holding down jobs and raising kids.
Four years running, 2010 – 2014, I used the month of November to lay down the rough draft of an intended novel. I made an outline in October and drew maps and such so that on November 1st I could hit the ground running. Most of the time, once I have that foundation down, I can write off the cuff, and that is how three of my books came into existence.
However, last year I already had two novels in the final stages and one simmering on the back burner. What I lacked was short stories. I had the brilliant idea to write a short story collection, because I knew I had to build my backlog of submittable work. As a result, and despite having a viral plague during the entire month of November, I wrote 42 short stories for a total of 105,000 words.
That’s not counting the blog posts I also wrote. NaNoWroMo 2015 was a prolific year despite the plague!
For many participants, the challenge of sitting down and using the “seat of your pants” style of creative writing is what draws them to sign up.
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
In 2011, the year I wrote Huw the Bard, I spewed the basic rough draft in the most unlinear way possible. I had the plot outline and followed it, sort of. With that as my guide, no matter how off track I found poor Huw (pronounced Hew), I still managed to get him to the end I had originally envisioned.
The next year, my novel didn’t go quite as smoothly, and I had a few hiccups.
But that novel was really only a writing exercise for me, just to see if I could write in that particular genre and I fell out of love with it. Since it didn’t have a grip on my heart, and by November 15th I had written 50,000 words of a story I hated, I began a different story.
I kept the work I had already done, as that book was as done as it was ever going to get. But I’m not silly – I had no intention of wasting that word count, so at the bottom of the last page, I began a new novel, which eventually became The Wayward Son, and was just published last month. At the end of that November, I had written 115,000 words total and had 2 completely different novels to show for my efforts.
This year my book has the working title of November Tales 2016: 30 days of Madness and Pot Pies by Dragon_Fangirl: The literary ranting of an author on the edge.
Once again I am embarking on a binge of writing short stories and essays.
Many authors are unwilling to commit to NaNoWriMo because it takes discipline to write 1667 words a day.
Also, they fear having to recoup any perceived losses should they find themselves in the middle of NaNoWriMo when they suddenly realize they’ve gone terribly astray. Or they fear writers’ block.
It happens. Not to me usually, because I know the secret: If you can’t write on the subject you intended, write about what you are experiencing and what interests you at that moment. Yes, it’s not that fabulous fantasy novel you began but are stuck on, and no epic dragons will be in it. (Unless you are Stephen Swartz. His real life has epic dragons. And bunnies.)
The key here is you will be writing, and that is what is important.
Rule 1 of NaNoWriMo: write.
Rule 2: Write 1667 words every day.
Rule 3: Every time you rewrite the scene with a slightly different outcome, it counts toward your word count. Don’t delete – just change the font color to red in that section, and begin rewriting the scene the way it SHOULD have been written in the first place, using the usual black font.
In December, cut the offending scene out of the ms, paste it into a separate document and save it in a ‘Background File’ in the same folder as the main manuscript. By doing that, you don’t lose prose you may need later.
During National Novel Writing Month, every word in my manuscript over and above 50,000 counts toward my region’s total word count. So if that means I have a lo-o-o-o-ong, multicolored manuscript for a few weeks, so be it.
For me, if I don’t begin to make those changes when I first realize they need to be done, I might forget until Dave Cantrell, my first reader and structural genius, points it out. (I daily thank God for Dave, and am grateful the internet connects to California.) (♥)
As one of the Municipal Liaisons for the Olympia Washington Region, I am required to attend most of the write-ins, which happen at different coffee shops or libraries. I handle the daylight hours, as I don’t drive after dark. It does eat into my day, which is why my husband thinks of it as National Pot-Pie Month. But I do get a lot of stream-of-consciousness writing done at these events and I have made life-long friends among the writing community of Olympia and the surrounding area.
If you want to sign up for this year’s month of madness and mayhem, get on the internet and go to:
Sign up, pick a NaNo name – mine is Dragon_Fangirl, and you are in business. Look me up and make me one of your writing buddies. Spend the rest of October organizing what you think you will need to begin you story on November first. Then, on the first day of November you begin writing. If you apply yourself, and write (AT the minimum) 1667 words every day, on the 30th of November you should have a novel…or something.
In reality, if you set aside one or two hours a day, and pound out the words as fast as you can during that time, you will get your word count. Never delete, and do not self-edit as you go along. Just spew words, misspelled and awkward as they may be. They all count, misspelled or not, and it is the discipline of writing that we are working on here, not the nuts and bolts of good manuscript.
Revising and correcting gross mistakes will come in the second draft, when you have time to look at it with a critical eye. What you are doing now is getting the ideas down.
Never discard your work no matter how much your first reader says it stinks. Even if what you wrote is the worst drivel she ever read, some of it will be worth saving and reusing later.
Spending a month immersed in stream-of-consciousness writing is not a waste of time. You will definitely have something to show for your efforts, and you will have developed the most import skill a writer must have: self-discipline.