As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month, also called NaNoWriMo.
Basically, once all the Halloween candy has been consumed and before that elf hits the shelf, it’s time for a whole lot of masochists to say goodbye to their friends and family and write a novel in a month.
No big deal, right? It’s got to be easier than training for a marathon or studying for your LSATs.
Not that I’ve done either.
What I have done is almost finish NaNoWriMo, and here’s how I did it: with a whole lot of planning.
While you aren’t supposed to start your draft until November 1, you should be working on outlining, beat lists, and character development now. You can devise charts, Pinterest boards, Spotify playlists, or anything else that is helpful. The NaNoWriMo website has a lot of great resources to help you get started.
Whether or not you generally plan ahead, if you are going to draft quickly, it's a lifesaver. That way, when you start to write, you’ll know where the story is going, what you need to accomplish, and how you are going to get there.
Although, there will definitely be some surprises along the way. Characters rarely behave.
Here are my best tips to get to the coveted 50,000 words in 30 days.
Tip one: cancel all social plans. Thanksgiving? Meh. Just get a Lean Cuisine turkey entrée. Okay, so maybe that’s extreme, but anything that can wait until December 1st should wait.
Tip two: set goals. 50,000 words divided by 30 days is 1,666 words a day. That’s not so much. However, If you work full time during the week, you may want to aim for more words during the weekend and fewer during the week.
Tip three: find time to write. Some people like to get up early and write before work. They’re the same ones who probably like to jog at 6 a.m. While I admire them, I would make sure I wrote during my lunch break and again after 9 p.m.
Tip four: treat yourself. After you meet your weekly goals, watch a couple of episodes of Buffy, or do something else to clear your mind. This is supposed to be fun after all!
Tip five: don’t go back and read what you wrote. Not yet. Hemingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” NaNoWriMo is supposed to help you get words on the page. They aren’t supposed to be perfect ones. You’ll edit (and edit, and edit) later. Just focus on writing for now.
Tip six: finish the manuscript. While 50,000 is a lot to write in a month, most novels not written for children are longer. So, finish yours and then you can celebrate because whether you “win” or “lose,” you’ll have a whole lot more done than those of us who spent the month doing something useless like training for a marathon or studying for the LSATS.
Lastly, and most importantly. Please don’t send your work to agents, editors, or even friends on December 1. Shower, put on some clothes that don’t resemble pajamas and let your manuscript sit for at least a few days before you dig in and tackle the revisions. Then edit the heck out of it, get some great critique partners, and edit some more.
There’s a reason why the Oscars honor editors every year. It’s hard work.