As we rush towards November again I thought I’d share a few thoughts about National Novel Writing Month and how I’ve done it – and survived!
Both “Blaze of Glory” and “Blood of the Pride” started off as NaNo projects and later on became successful series with two different publishers – so it can be done and done well!
The trick, of course, is how to do it well… so here are my tips on how to survive November!
1) Speed is Life.
It’s very easy to look at the calendar and do the math. 50K words divided by 30 days is 1667 words a day, right?
Yes, in theory that’s right. 30 x 1667 will give you the right number of words… but let’s be honest – that isn’t going to work.
November is a month of pre-holiday insanity. In addition to the American Thanksgiving ripping four days out of the calendar (depending on your celebrations) there’s also Black Friday for the rabid shoppers.
You don’t really have thirty days.
You *might* have twenty days if you pull out the weekends (because most people get busy on weekends with family and oh, that turkey thing, and don’t get their word allotment for the day.
So don’t just do 1667 words a day and kick back. If you can do more, DO MORE. Write until you drop so you have a safety cushion in case (and when) you lose a day. Don’t get caught playing catch-up because you don’t need the stress.
And you can always just go out for Thanksgiving dinner, right?
2) No, It’s Not Ready for PrimeTime.
We all know the horror stories – come December 1st the publishers and agents find their email boxes stuffed with queries and outlines for the Best Novel Evah that’s just been completed a few hours earlier.
Do I really have to point out the obvious? Yes, “Blaze of Glory” was a NaNo project but it was nowhere near ready for submission. It took a year’s worth of editing plus a R&R to get it into shape and accepted by Samhain Publishing.
Your special snowflake of a novel is not ready. I don’t care how many character charts you filled out or how complex you drew the map of your fantasy world or how in-depth your outline is.
It’s. Not. Ready.
Put it in a drawer and enjoy the holidays. Mark down on the calendar for January 2nd to pull it out and look at it with a fresh eye and start editing.
And, really – why ruin so many peoples’ holiday? Trust me, publishers and agents are busy enough through December without having to slog through a virtual CN Tower of novels, queries and outlines from NaNo winners. They have enough from their regular authors and clients to worry about.
3) Don’t get swallowed up with the hype.
It’s easy to get sucked into the Internet; it’s the monster under the bed grabbing at every writer’s ankles. We check the email, we check our websites, we check our rankings, we check our Facebook and Twitter, we check our email… we go back to check on the NaNo boards about who’s in our area, who’s in our city, who’s in our state and check on local write-ins and can we get there and chat and check our email…
You get the idea.
And while NaNoWriMo offers a GREAT amount of support both in the forums and through local writing groups it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the chitchat and forget the main reason for being here.
When I was in Second Life there were active groups who would invite writers to put their virtual avatars in a spot and plonk away at a virtual typewriter with others. With a scoreboard to put your word count into it was a great support group and let you go into another world to do your writing.
But as with all things it was easy to get distracted and away from the word count. And as we all know, getting those words down is the one single important thing about this entire writing exercise.
So keep visiting the boards, keep hanging out on the virtual caravan – but don’t forget that they’re all there to support you FINISHING THAT NOVEL. Not to let you make new friends and recruit possible beta readers or clients or readers.
4) Don’t Panic.
It’s very easy to fall behind the first few days or weeks and begin panicking, tossing your arms up in the air and declaring the month a write-off and a waste and you’re a failure as a writer and…
Panicking, that is. Not writing.
Say you get sidetracked and only manage 200 words a day instead of over a thousand. Say it takes you three months instead of one to finish that first draft.
It’s OKAY to take longer than thirty days to do your first draft. Life has a way of tossing crap our way that can get in the way of getting 50K in 30 days.
But that doesn’t mean you stop writing. That means you keep writing into December and into January and as long as it takes to finish the book. You’ve done the work, created the world and written the outline and given birth to the characters – and now you’re going to leave them because of a lousy word count.
NaNo is a great way to give your writing a kick in the pants but it’s all about the long run – the editing, the rewriting and then the query letter, the submission and then more rewriting and editing. Don’t lose sight of the goal because you tripped over a hard word count and can’t finish it by December 1st.
Go forth and write, peeps.
And keep on writing!