October 31, 2014

Writing on a K480
NaNoWriMo 2014

November is, as usual, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The concept is simple: Write a novel in a month. Or part of one, whatever’s your goal. I guess “beating” NaNoWriMo means that you wrote a novel during the month of November, but there’s a big difference between 60,000 words and 240,000 words, in case you hadn’t noticed.

It matters little, because NaNoWriMo brings writers, prospective ones in particular, together. There’s cheering and helpful pats on the back, because everyone’s suffering. Some are giving this organized and disciplined novel writing thing a go for the first time, and they realize how hard it is. Others are seasoned, with several drafts or even published books behind them, and they know how hard it is.

A few years ago I started the Thoughts on Writing series, in conjunction with NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t participating then, and I’m not going to this year either, because to me writing’s more or less constant, and I’ve beaten a lot of months over the years. I do think that NaNoWriMo is a good thing though. Every year, there are some snarky comments about it, from people who think you should just write right away, not hold out for November. These people are right, obviously, because waiting for NaNoWriMo to begin just so that you can write is a bit silly. What the nay-sayers are missing, though, is the community and extra support that’s passed around every November. That, and the fact that beating NaNoWriMo is one of those things some people would like to do. It’s on their bucket list perhaps, what do I know, I dislike bucket lists.

So November’s around the corner, and you’re thinking of writing a novel in a month. Here’s some advice, in no particular order:

  • Have an outline ready. You don’t want to be outlining when you should be writing.
  • Dedicate time to write daily, and stick to your schedule.
  • Word goals are a good idea. Want to write a 60,000 word novel? That’s 2,000 words every day, so that’s what you’ll have to do. Skipping a day, saying “I’ll catch up later”, is making things hard on yourself.
  • Have your tools in order, meaning, don’t fiddle with writing apps or keyboards or computers or tablets or whatever, when you should be writing. And don’t switch midstream either, pick your tools – be it fully featured Scrivener, minimalistic Byword, or a web app like BlankPage – for this project and stick to them.
  • Procrastination isn’t your friend, but when you’re not writing, be sure to tweet how things are going, with the #nanowrimo2014 hashtag preferably.
  • Backup every day. Seriously, every day.
  • Don’t edit. Don’t look back. Just write. No fiddling with the words until your done with your first draft. Then, after the mandatory celebration of a job done, you can start tearing it to pieces.
  • Don’t read too much writing advice. Just write already!

Finally, if you do indeed want some writing advice – before you actually start writing, that is – then by all means read my Thoughts on Writing essays (some are linked above). You don’t have to agree with me, most likely you shouldn’t, but wouldn’t it be great if you came to some sort of conclusion yourself, based on what you read? That’s the whole idea with those pieces, to help you figure out how you write.

Best of luck.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.