November fast approaches. Time to decide who’s in…. and who’s out. What are your thoughts and are you ready to buddy up?
Last year was my first encounter with National Novel Writing Month. I’d heard the hype, seen the sponsors and figured 50,000 words in a month can’t be too hard, can it?
The answer is absolutely not if…
- Your story doesn’t die after 10K.
- Writing is done every day and daily word count targets are met.
- Accept absolutely it’s first draft mode; no stopping to edit, rethink, ponder grammar or tautology. Nothing matters except words on the page.
- Plan. Not the novel, but life around the writing. Time scheduling is everything, those groceries won’t fetch themselves and the kids might like to eat now and then.
- Plan. The novel, if that’s what you need to do. But don’t start November in this phase, that time has passed. Personally I don’t plan in detail, I write. It works or it doesn’t.
My own take on the above is subject to variation. We don’t all approach writing the same way. I go lengths of time doing none, but know I can hit up to 5000 words a day when I’m in the zone. I could probably do more if I ignored everything else.
One day I might write that post about how I go about it. I have not forgotten a few people have asked…
Returning to the bullet points.
Never treat NaNo as a win/lose battle. 50,000 words might, or might not, be a full novel. I tend to target mine at around 70 to 90k, so November for me is about getting a book really going. Afterwards there are plenty of CampNaNo months to finish things off, if that’s how you choose to target things. The first one next year tackles editing the November draft and finishing the novel. The great thing here is you set your own goals instead of being allocated one. Used regularly Camps can get you into a consistent writing frame of mind.
Also, be prepared for the story to die on you. I’m not saying it will, but if it starts to lose appeal, NaNoWriMo is unforgiving. Get to 10k and find its going sour and there is no time to start over and realistically hit the magic number. This is where I diverge from it and return to not treating it as win/lose. The important thing is words, any words and manage how you actually think about the process.
Consider a story that flops at 10k. You can drift into a chasm lined with failure, can’t write, lost the challenge, waste of time…
Or, you can turn it round. Better to explore an idea and find it doesn’t hold you sooner rather than later. Personally, I’d like to know that after 3000 words, but 10k is my outer limit. It means I’ve tried something and decided to slush pile it. Pushing on when it won’t gel is about accepting that. It’s actually positve. Exploring an idea, rather than no words at all. A perceived failure is therefore a real writers boon. I don’t know ANY writers of note that start some stories and think, “Nope, this one is not going anywhere.” In NaNo, this does happen. Accept the potential is there because you’ve not written this book yet.
Better still set a personal success criteria. I do this myself. 20k is my target. If I go above this then I’ve “won” in my thinking. If the story is really working then the targets thereafter grow in 10k increments. 50k is just a bonus…although I’d like to have that winners mug…
Planning. Multifaceted this one and not all about wrtiting. Life exists too and curve balls do get thrown into the mix. More so if you have children. I’m sure every parent knows they are silent until you are doing something for you. Never put the writing above them, it ends in disaster on all levels. Flash anger at interruptions, guilt at putting writing first, anxiety at dropping the word count to deal with things…the fallout can be legion and it will affect the mindset making NaNo that little bit tougher. My advice is to plan the day in chunks. Identify the best times to write and work everything else around that. Do not neglect things if life has demands you can’t put aside without feeling guilty for doing so.
Set a daily wordcount and stick to it. Easy to say, but if you don’t then two weeks in will see the required rate rising rapidly. There comes a point where it gets impossible to catch up. Again, not something to catastrophise about. It happens, just keep going and aim for your personal target. In reality the total wordcount is not important. The fact you have one to worry about is. You can’t edit a blank page. Even 10k is better then nothing.
Accept it’s a first draft too. Nothing matters except getting the bones of the story down. You can plan forever, but it’s the words that matter. Remember there is no time to sit and rework material. Plot, story arc and characters are known better at the end than they are at the start. Editing will turn the draft into the real deal. That’s the CampNaNo project. Words matter, thinking about words after the start doesn’t. That moment has gone and it’s time to write.
Buddy up too. This is essential in my opinion. There are plenty of bloggers here that do NaNo so reach out to them. On your dashboard you can monitor their progress too. Some will soar off, some will falter due to reasons above. It helps you stay calm. If you do start dropping off then you won’t be alone. If someone soars it can also motivate you too. Writing alone is tough, buddies are a great way to interact. Use the forums, join the blog hops and do not stress if the 50k begins to disappear into the distance.
The real deal is challenging yourself. Several chapters rather than no chapters, new friends and not looking at any wordcount lower than 50k as failure.
Above all else, have fun and write on!
As for me, I have announced my novel on the NaNo site. This post was supposed to do that here, alas I digressed so the next one will do that. I’m still undecided on tackling it this November. I know the novel is ready to speak, and some of you might be interested to know it’s a follow up to last years book The Bequest. Not that I have allowed anyone to read that yet, but some of the characters featured are in my short stories here. The full series never appeared on my blog so the paranormal brothers Carmichael need their tale completing. The short stories need re-writing and their journey must continue.
Anyone wanting to buddy up is welcome to do so. Even if I don’t do it this year, you will be on my dashboard for next time!