Every year, many writers begin writing on November 1st, fully intending to get their 1,667 words (or more) written every day, to get their 50,000 words by November 30th. In my region last year, 245 writers created profiles and began an official manuscript at www.nanowrimo.org.
Some are young people just out of school who “always wanted to write a book.” They usually don’t have any idea of what they want to write, and no clue of how to be disciplined enough to spend two hours a day writing any words, much less the number of words it takes to make a novel.
They start, get 30 to 1,000 words in, and realize they have nothing to say. But 34 people made it to the 10,000 word mark before they stopped writing. That is almost a novella.
Others do well for a week, or even two, and then, at the 20,000 word mark, they take a day off. Somehow, they never get back to it. Someday, they may actually succeed in finishing that book. Just not this year.
Even seasoned writers may find the commitment to sit and write 1,667 words every day is not doable for them. Things come up—life happens.
But 78 writers out of the 245 in our region made it to the 50,000 word mark, and 5 exceeded 100,000 words.
It takes personal discipline to write 1,667 new words every day. This is not revising old work—this is writing something new, not looking at what you wrote yesterday. This is starting where you left off and moving forward.
For me, having the outline keeps me on track.
I’m not a good typist. The words that fall out of my head during this month are not all golden, just so you know. Some words will be garbled and miskeyed. This means I sometimes have a lot of revising of the work I intend to keep.
Some of what I write will be worth keeping, and some not at all. But even among the weeds, some passages and scenes will be found that could make a story work. I will keep and use them because they say what I mean to say, and the others I will revise.
One flash fiction that came out of November 2015 fully formed and required little in the way of revisions is The Iron Dragon. The story wanted to be told, and I wrote it in two hours one morning.
Yet another very short story came out of NaNoWriMo 2015, The Cat, the Jeweler, and the Thief. That story remained very much as it began, and also was written in one morning.
I had the prompts and basic ideas of what I intended to write when I sat down. The words fell out of my mind, and the stories told themselves.
For me, as a NaNo Rebel, this is my little vacation from the serious novels that take up most of my time. I don’t accept any editing clients during November or December—my attention is on writing in November and cooking in December.
It’s a matter of getting the ideas down and putting the words on paper. If you don’t get those ideas out of your head and onto paper, you can’t revise and reshape them into something worth reading.
How do we develop the discipline to write every day? This is my list of suggestions for how to have a successful NaNoWriMo, and end November with that winner’s certificate:
- Write at least 1,670 words every day (three more than is required) This takes me about 2 hours – I’m not fast at this.
- Write every day, no matter if you have an idea worth writing about or not. Do it even if you have to get up at 4:00 am to find the time and don’t let anything derail you.
- If you are stuck, write about how your day went and how you are feeling about things that are happening in your life, or write that grocery list. Just write and think about where you want to take your real story. Write about what you would like to have happen in that story. Soon, you will be writing that story.
- Check in on the national threads and your regional thread to keep in contact with other writers.
- Attend a write-in if your region is having any or join a virtual write-in at NaNoWriMo on Facebook. This will keep you enthused about your project.
- Delete nothing. Passages you want to delete later can be highlighted, and the font turned to red or blue, so you can easily separate them out later.
- Remember, not every story is a novel. If your story comes to an end, start a new story in the same manuscript. Use a different font or a different color of font, and you can always separate the stories later. That way you won’t lose your word count.
- Validate your word count every day.
These suggestions require you to actually sit in a chair and write. Talking about what you intend to write isn’t getting the book written—for that you must sit your backside down and write.
That is what NaNoWriMo is all about. Writing, and developing discipline.
Authors write. Authors have finished manuscripts to show for their efforts, whether they are good or bad.
If you don’t actually have time to write, you may be a dreamer and a story teller, but you aren’t an author – yet.
Set aside the time to write, develop a habit of writing, and don’t let anything get in the way of your writing time. Don’t allow your writing time to be infringed upon, but also, don’t let it eat into your family time. In 1989, as a single parent with one child still at home, I found myself writing on the bus as I rode to work. I hadn’t ever had the thought that someone would want to read my work, but I had one hour of peace and quiet each way in the morning and evening, and so I wrote in a notebook.
Find the least intrusive block of time for you to have to yourself. What would happen if you dedicated two hours an evening to writing your novel instead of watching TV? What if you got up an hour early and wrote before you went to work every day? Make it your rule, your daily habit to use that time to write 1,667 new words a day for the month of November.
That is how you can get your first draft of a novel written in 30 days and still have time for your family.
Credits and Attributions:
Leo Tolstoy by Ilya Repin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Notebooks, by L.Marie (https://www.flickr.com/photos/lenore-m/2812598573/) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons