NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, is a great idea. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel throughout November, and the website offers help, forums, tips and encouragement to help you (over 200,000 people participated in 2010). The reason I like the idea of NaNoWriMo is it encourages people to approach the challenge of book writing by breaking it down into bitesize chunks – one of my favorite productivity tips. 50,000 words in a month sounds like a lot, but 1500+ words a day for 30 days is a whole different proposition.
I started writing a novel over a year ago (it’s ended up being 100,000 words and it’s on its third draft currently), and while it wasn’t part of NaNoWriMo, I learned a few things from the practice of writing X amount of words per day that might be helpful to anybody currently spending November burning up their keyboard. Hope it helps!
Regardless of how you feel, whether you have no energy or you just can’t can’t think of anything to write, force yourself to sit down and write something each day. The key is persistence, repetition and momentum. Once you skip a day because you just don’t feel like writing, any momentum you might have built up will be lost. And the biggest challenge is always starting (again) and picking up where you left off. Heck, just do a paragraph or two if you’re really not in the mood.
Be prepared for your writing to suck
Sometimes, you’re on a roll and write pages and pages of pure brilliance. Then the next day, it just doesn’t flow and you spew out unpublishable rubbish. Don’t get disheartened, that’s how it goes. If you wait for the magic to come before you write anything, you’ll be waiting a very long time. It will take several drafts and revisions, maybe even dozens, to get everything from the first page to the last polished to perfection. I would go so far as to say, you’ll spend more time editing and tweaking what you’re already written, than actually writing new content. Whatever you write in November is only the start.
Carve out a time in the day for it
Carve out an hour, thirty minutes, whatever. Just make this writing period each day sacred. It’s critical you identify or make room for writing when you plan your day out. View it as more important than anything else you’re doing, make it your top priority, your number one task each day. And make sure everyone else understands and respects this too so you’re not needlessly distracted and they don’t take it the wrong way.
Read, read, read
This applies in two ways – read through your work often and read the work of others too. During my second draft, I got carried away, described things in a little too much detail, added a lot of superfluous nonsense that would have bored most people to death. This wasn’t apparent until I’d finished and began reading through it. If I’d read through my progress more often this would have been apparent earlier. Then I happened to start reading A Game Of Thrones and it was a timely reminder that it’s not about how many words you use to describe a person or a scene, it’s about how you use the words. Don’t write in a vacuum, be influenced by other great reads out there.
Don’t give up
It might take a month, or it might take a few years, to write your book. Be prepared for it to take just as long to get published. Rejection is part of the business. J.K. Rowling was rejected nine times, Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected thirty times. Keep evolving your work and getting constructive feedback from as many honest people as possible. And, if you genuinely don’t think a publishing deal is forthcoming, there are numerous alternative options nowadays to get your work out there.
Write as much as you’re comfortable with
Yes, the goal with NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s basically 1,667 words a day. It’s a nice figure actually, but don’t view it as a golden rule. I went as low as 1000 words a day, or just one page a day, depending on how much time I had. It was a number that worked for me. Don’t think that such numbers are a small, effortless amount, because it’s surprising the number of well established writers who work at such a small scale. As my first tip pointed out, it’s all about persistence. 1,667 words today is smallfry, sure, but do that for a week and you have over 11,000 words. In a month you will have the magical 50,000 words.