Each November begins the literary mayhem known internationally as National Novel Writing Month–affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo. Aspiring novelists throughout the world take the challenge to write a 50,000 word rough draft novel. The rules are simple: you can’t start the actual prose before midnight on the first of the month; you must finish by midnight on the thirtieth; and the plot should have a beginning, middle, and end. Of course, you could always participate as a NaNoWriMo Rebel, which lots of people do, in order to ride the creative energy of all the writers working through November.
All you need to do is sign up to be a participant at the NaNoWriMo site and enter your wordcount each day. In return, you get access to chatrooms, fun writing tools to keep track of your word count and how close you are to your goal, and (if you “win”) some prizes donated by site sponsors! One of the prizes this year is three months of free Evernote!
So, you could be a plotter (someone who likes to plan out their novel) or a pantser (someone who writes without an outline–seat of the pants) or someone firmly in the middle. I tend to like a loose outline so I don’t lose track of where I’m going, but there’s no firm rule. Just do whatever works for you.
And remember, the goal is to write a ROUGH DRAFT NOVEL. So the main goal is QUANTITY over QUALITY. After all, the idea is to stop procrastinating whatever story you want to write and just get it down, because you can’t edit a blank page. Editing is for AFTER November. So give yourself permission to write badly, let loose those creative spider monkeys, and see what they turn up!
Every year I have participated, I have completed my goal, so I thought I would share my strategy. It might work for you. If it doesn’t, feel free to do your own thing!
- Plan out your daily wordcount goal. There are thirty days in November, but I know that it’s much harder for me to write on weekends than weekdays, so I plan to write only on weekdays. This translates to writing 2,300 words each weekday (instead of 1,667 every single day). This way, if I get sick or fall behind, I have a nice buffer; plus anything I write on weekends is a bonus! I plan to write every day, but it’s nice to have a break when/if I need one.
- Back up your writing OFTEN, at least once a day. You can do this by copying and pasting into emails or saving on two different online places; I use Evernote and GDocs. Some people even write their novels out by hand or print each night. Whatever works best for you is the right thing.
- Have an outline. I’m not talking about a huge deal, just maybe a sentence for each chapter you plan to write. I usually plan one thing for each day I’m writing. This year, there are twenty-two weekdays so I am creating a loose outline with twenty-two bullet points. I have a beginning, put something in the middle, and the end, and then I fill in the points between.
- Don’t be married to the outline. Be prepared to shift your goal as your characters and plot do things you didn’t expect. You can always tweak the outline and make small notes so you don’t forget important plot points, but really–just have fun with it. Being surprised by what your brain puts on the page is half the fun!
- Learn to be okay with writing badly. Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is shit. That said, this is only a first draft. If you love it, you can edit it AFTER November. If you don’t, maybe you can salvage something from it for other stories. No matter what happens, you’ve stirred up your creative juices, and that’s a GOOD thing!
Have fun this month, and happy noveling! If you want to follow my progress and be writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo site, my alias is ganymeder. Good luck!