Every November, thousands of mentally-imbalanced people across the globe commit to writing a novel in a single month. That’s 1,667 words each day. 50,000 words, total.
What kind of lunatic would attempt such a thing? Unless you’re a full-time fiction writer, how can you even find time to plunk out over 1,500 words every day for an entire month?
I’m that kind of lunatic.
Last year, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and won. Everyone who hits the 50K word mark is a winner, and rightfully so. That’s a shit-ton of words.
Yes, it was difficult (especially with the distraction of last year’s election circus), but I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. AND I developed a new way of writing–the kind of free-flow writing that doesn’t give a damn about proper punctuation or utilizing the perfect metaphor. I just wrote.
This year, as I attempt to win my second NaNo, I remember some of last year’s lessons and try to apply them to my writing. Mainly:
- Go into it with a rough outline–a story arc of some kind–but don’t worry about sticking to it (see #5).
- Just write. Let the scene flow out of you without too many edits or corrections.
- Don’t dwell on creating perfect sentences or paragraphs–just pay attention to the main ideas of the scene.
- Adverbs? Cliches? Over-used metaphors? Sure, put ’em in. You can always eliminate these writing no-no’s in your rewrite.
- Let the story take the lead. This is something I generally do anyway–I have a basic outline, but I ultimately let my story surprise me with whatever twists it wants to take.
- Don’t get bogged down by details. Did the best friend have blue eyes or brown? Was that cafe I mentioned in the beginning of the book called the Jumping Bean? Or Bean Dream? Or…? Since you’re moving so quickly through NaNo, you’re bound to get some of the story details wrong. Don’t worry. You can fix them later.
- Have faith in your rewriting abilities. Just lay down a story. Get something out there. Once you have the foundation of a story, you can always go back and rearrange it, fix incongruities, and tighten the plot.
- Plan on shelving the story for a few months. You make think you’ve created something brilliant, but it’s a good idea to set it aside for a time and let it percolate.
- Find your own groove. Ultimately, you understand your own personal writing style better than anyone else. Figure out what works for you, and stick with it (even if that means completely ignoring tips #1-8 in this post!).
So far, I’m on track to win NaNo for the second year running, BUT I’m starting a new ghost writing project this week, in addition to a nonfiction book coaching gig and some editing work. Not exactly a free schedule, but if I stick to the lessons I learned and not get bogged down by penning the perfect sentence (something I do FAR too often), I’m confident I will conquer the 50,000 word mountain.
How about you? Are you attempting NaNoWriMo this year? Have you thought about writing a novel, but have held back for some reason? Feel free to comment below OR send me a personal message. I’d love to hear from you.
Kate Bitters is a Minneapolis-based author and freelance writer. She is the author of Elmer Left, Ten Thousand Lines, and He Found Me. One of her proudest/nerdiest moments was when Neil Gaiman read one of her short stories on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater.