First off, I ought to say I’m not doing the breakneck sprint to 50,000 words this year. I’ve peeked at my profile on the NaNoWriMo website, ghosted around the forums a bit, and side-eyed some projects, but I have other stuff that needs taking care of this November, and I know I won’t cross that finish line.
It doesn’t mean I won’t spend the month writing, though, or that I’m not cheering for you lot who are already, what hundreds or thousands of words in?
Still, some scattershot thoughts on the Month of Many Words. Use ’em or discard ’em as you see fit.
Some NaNo-ish posts from years past:
- NaNoWriMo: Are You Playing to Win, or Playing to Write?
- NaNo-ish Things Part 2 (The Useful Post)
Things to keep in mind while the fingers are flying:
- Falling behind isn’t losing. Did you write stuff? Every day? Most days? Several days of the week? Good! Keep going. If you have a few unproductive days, pick up that pencil, put your butt back in that chair, and get back to the project.
- Winning isn’t the same as being done.Finishing is great. Finishing is awesome.Sit back and revel in that feeling of accomplishment. Then realize you need to break out the red pen, tear that bad cat apart, and put it back together to make it even better.
- 50,000 words does not quite a novel make. Did you cross the 50,000 word line? Sweet! Understand, though, that unless you’re writing middle grade or for a specific subset of the romance genre, your book’s around 25,000 words short of what most professional organizations (SFWA, HWA, MWA) consider novel length.
- Padding really isn’t your friend… Extra adjectives. Extra names. No pronouns! One character asks a question, the other completely restates it before answering. No contractions! Sandwiches made in excruciating detail. Typing out someone counting all the way to one hundred in a game of hide-and-seek. Grocery lists. This is all stuff you’re likely going to cut in December. Why waste your time on it now?
- …unless the padding helps you figure shit out about the world. Which means, guess what, you’re probably not actually padding. It’s perfectly okay to write a scene you’ll never keep in the final novel if it helps you figure out character/setting/plot. By all means, if you can describe making a peanut butter sandwich in a way that reveals something about the character making it, do it.But if all you’re putting on the page is the step-by-excruciating-step of an ordinary character making a mundane gorram sandwich so you can get to 1667 and call it a day, put on the brakes and reconsider:What would this characterdo in this scene that makes it noteworthy?Would a princess make her sandwich differently than a stable boy? Would someone who’s just been asked to the prom make it differently than the guy who just got dumped? You bet. Show that.
- Take risks. If you can’t fuck around with character, setting, style, and structure during NaNo, well hell, when can you? Not sure you can pull a particular thing off? Give it a try! Is witty banter your weak spot? Practice makes perfect. If you hate the result, no one ever has to see.
- Have fun. If the project becomes a slog, you’re more likely to put it down and walk away. When you hit one of those walls, move on to a scene or a character that excites you. It’s okay, you can come back to the other later.
- Don’t measure yourself against other NaNo-ers. I guarantee you right now, ten hours in, someone has “won” already. That person is not your competition. Your participating friends are not your competition. Some days they’ll write more than you; some days you’ll write more than them. Don’t gloat at each other.
- We’re all in this together. Encourage your fellow NaNo-ers. Give your friends pep talks. Ask for them if you need one yourself. Propose writing sprints and coffee breaks, and when one of you wails about how everything on the page is dreadful, dreadful, DREADFUL! be ready with sympathy. And a kick in the pants to get writing again.
- December 1st isn’t the end. Sure, it’s the end of NaNoWriMo. However, if you want to be a writer, you don’t get to put your pen down for the next 335 days. Keep writing. Maybe not at NaNo’s lightning pace, but hey, you’ve started a habit. Find the parts that worked well for you during the month and keep doing those things. Do you like writing in the mornings? Continue setting your alarm early. Found a favorite spot in the house to put words on paper? Claim it going forward. For fifteen minutes a day. An hour. Every Sunday afternoon.
Writing is hard. Writing is work. You can do this.
And if you need a pep talk or a kick in the ass, ping me.