It has become sacrosanct, writing a novel in November, a religious experience of sorts. Channeling my muse to perform diarrhea of the mind, through my fingers, and onto the computer screen. Much of it is drivel. You could argue most of it is. But, writing a novel in thirty days is the marathon of writing.
National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide will participate in “literary abandon.” I wish I could say I’ve written a novel each November for the last eight years, but I can’t. Some years the writing goes well, ideas flow, characters develop, and the story reaches an end. Other years, the story falls apart before it’s even gotten off the ground.
I started participating in NaNoWriMo in 2004, and I’ve only missed two years (2008 and 2011). In the years I didn’t do it, I tried, but decided to work on editing The Fifth Kraut, desperately trying to rework it, itself a NaNoWriMo novel, into something more polished.
This year, I’ll continue the tradition of writing in November. I’ll probably extend it into December, writing 65,000 words by December 15. But, for those of you just getting into NaNoWriMo, here are some things to consider!
Ten things to do:
- Use October to plan, plot, develop character, outline, or just think. A good story comes from a little planning. Imagine your characters, their traits, their motivations, and work things out in your mind or in an outline before you get started.
- Write anything and everything that comes to mind. Words count, good or bad. To reach your goal of 50,000 words in thirty days, you need only write 1,667 per day. It may seem daunting, but you can do it. Set goals and stick to them.
- Stock up on coffee, fattening foods, and more coffee. Prepare yourself for long nights, irregular sleep patterns, and inconsistent caloric intake. Coffee may be the only thing you live on for the next thirty days, so be prepared.
- Sever all connections to friends, family, pets, and coworkers. With goals in hand, you won’t have time to be anything other than a recluse. Ask the kids to take out the trash for the next month, beg the wife to deal with the dog. And forget the yard work. You won’t pick up a rake again until December.
- Reaching the 10,000 word mark is a milestone. It will be complete drivel, but you’ll find that if you’re actually going to finish this thing, the story should begin to come together by now. You’ve developed characters, scenes, places, and the beginnings of plot. This is a critical juncture, so be proud. You’ve got 40,000 more words to generate.
- Don’t be afraid to miss Thanksgiving and be antisocial to family. Family is a resilient lot. Especially if you play the disturbed writer card. Family will forgive you for eating and then retreating to a guest bedroom to write for a few hours while everyone else talks about you behind your back. It’s what family is for. You’ve got four and a half days of writing to do between when you leave work on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after. Use it for writing.
- Write as much as you can early in the month when the motivation is there and the 50,000 mark is far away. The more you complete early, the less you’ll need to cram at the end. But we’ll procrastinate and write 10,000 words from November 29 – 30 just to get’er done.
- Don’t think a sentence sounds good? Wish you’d used a different word here or a shorter sentence there? Don’t edit. NaNoWriMo is for writing. Editing will come later. In fact, writing isn’t the hard part. Anyone can write. It’s later turning what you’ve written into something usable that’s the hard part. Editing is much more difficult, and it’s discouraging. Whatever you do, don’t go back and rework or retool until after you’ve finished writing.
- Find others who are doing NaNoWriMo and write together. Visit NaNoWriMo.org, join the forums, and seek motivation from the hundreds of thousands of others who will be doing as you’re doing in November: struggling and ultimately overcoming the challenge of writing. There are many local NaNoWriMos. We’ve got a Facebook page called CU WriMo.
- Most of all, have fun. This may be the one time in your life where you will write a novel. Enjoy it.
No matter how much you write in November, you’ve started a journey. All of us have a novel in us. Write!