Getting ready for and conquering #NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month. It’s coming around the corner, and it’s actually a thing, and they have their own website. It’s a pretty neat website and if you’re interested in writing a book in 30 days, I’d recommend checking it out and participating.
Just to be clear, I’m not affiliated with NaNoWriMo in any way. I do think it’s cool, as long as a writer doesn’t think that’s all there is to writing a book.
A lot of different advice is out there on how to write a book in thirty days. I have written more than one book in a 30-day timeframe and that has been since my early writing days, before I heard of NaNoWriMo.
In my case, I spent an entire year writing my first book in 2000, and I’m glad I did. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote that novel as I learned, studied, and honed the craft. I intentionally spent that year developing skills that aided me in having the ability to write as quickly as I have over the years since then. I write fast and clean, and I still revise.
Fast forward 15 years and I have written almost 100 novels and novellas. My current work in progress is my 98th. I have 62 full-length novels in print and 45 novellas of all sizes in anthologies, collections, box sets, and more. I am a hybrid author and have written for St. Martin’s Press, Ellora’s Cave, and have been in anthologies with HarperCollins and other publishers. I chose to go Indie 4 years ago–best decision of my career.
One of my bestselling novels with my first publisher, a book that won a “RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award,” along with other honors, was written in 30 days–not counting revisions. That book was published as King of Hearts with Ellora’s Cave and as Taken by Passion with St. Martin’s Griffin. To be honest it needed another revision, which I gave it when the rights were reverted back to me and I republished it in early 2015. It’s a stronger book now, and even though it won the honors it did, I wish I would have given it that last revision. Maybe I just needed 12 years to think about it. 😉
It’s not easy to write a book in 30 days and you have to know that it’s not going to be your finished product. It’s a draft. Few mega-hit bestsellers were written in 30 days. I personally don’t know any, but there are a couple that make you wonder if they were written in 30 days with no revisions. 😉
Let’s get started. My post is not so much about NaNoWriMo as it is about writing a solid draft in 30 days.
This example applies to any book, any goal, any timeframe, any month of the year. Break down your manuscript into smaller pieces to make everything more palatable:
- What length do you want your novel to be? Example: 60,000 words (NaNoWriMo uses 50K as a goal)
- What is your timeframe? Don’t say “November.” Consider days you may need to take away from writing. Let’s take Nov 1st to Nov. 30th = 30 days, less those you may be taking off, such as Thanksgiving. For good measure, throw in a couple of other days for the unexpected where you might be forced to be away from the computer. Life happens.
- Break your word count down per day. Let’s say you have 27 days of the 30 to write. Words per day to obtain your goal of 60,000 words divided by 27 days =2222 words per day
Easy-peasy right? Here are a few of my recommendations to help you reach your 30-day goal.
–It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: you MUST exercise discipline. Sit your butt in that chair and WRITE. Writing is a discipline. People don’t become novelists if they don’t sit in their writing space and start putting down words. Hopefully in a logical manner that makes for a good book. 😉
From what I understand, NaNoWriMo is about pantsing it–writing by the seat of your pants. I used to be a pantser. Or at least I thought I was. Years into “pantsing” and I realized that all of the storyboarding; post-it note organizing; collage designing; bullet-point brainstorming–all of it was an attempt to organize and outline my thoughts in some manner. So what do I do now? I do brief outlines. Bullet point outlines.
I suggest that before you start, you write at the very least a brief outline of what you want to accomplish when you start writing that book. For you pantsers, it isn’t going to physically hurt to write down some ideas in a specific order. (Like I said, I was a pantser for years. I get it.) Easy one-liners written in a simplistic manner as a guide never hurt anyone.
Think of it as someone giving you directions because Siri or your GPS isn’t cooperating. (Like that never happens, right? Ha.) You call your friend who tells you “take your first left, the second right, keep going until you pass a park on the right, before you take another left, and my house is the third on the left.” There you are. SIMPLE. An itty bitty map.
Know what your beginning, middle, and end will be. Have a pretty good idea one way or another. What are a few scenes that you know need to happen to reach “The All-Important-End?” You don’t want to be staring at the screen when you need to be typing words in that once blank doc.
DO NOT go over and over a scene, trying to make it perfect. This is not the time, and nothing you write will EVER be PERFECT. It is not possible to be perfect. If you are, you belong on a cloud on the other side of pearly gates wearing a golden halo. That or walking on water, take your pick.
The time for editing will be when you reach THE END! Make notes along the way. If you use the notes feature in Word, leave yourself bubbles with comments of what you need to go back and work on. And if you realize about 2/3 of the way through that you need to have something foreshadowed, like the smoking gun, leave yourself a note to fill it in later.
Sometimes I will have 50 to 100 notes to myself on things I need to go back and work in or check to make sure I didn’t forget to put it in. That’s something you can do during the revision process in December after you’ve reached “the end” of the damn book.
Notice I never say FINISH the book. You’re going to write it, speedy rough draft, and then you are going to fix it over the next few weeks.
One more time. JUST WRITE. Don’t correct. WRITE. This is not to see how fast you can write a book, it’s to teach you not to edit yourself over and over and over again. You’ll never get through a book at that rate. Nothing, nothing, is ever perfect.
Did I make that perfectly clear? 😉
Let’s say you’ve jotted down some directions that equal your idea of a brief outline. Once November 1st hits, you’re ready to write those 2222 daily words. You’ve been excited about this for weeks and it’s finally here! Your fingers fly across the keyboard and you’re on a total high. Before you know it, 2223 words are written. Woohoo!
However, when you get to those 2222 words for the day (Or whatever your daily goal is!), KEEP GOING. It’s possible the next day you may have something urgent come up with the kids, a pet, your significant other, and you’ll be glad you padded your word count for each day you write. Things are bound to come up no matter how well you plan. LIFE HAPPENS.
A good idea is to keep a notebook with you just in case life happens. If you have to take the dog to the vet because she can’t poop (true story) and you’re waiting for the vet to X-Ray and then flush out poor dog ($300 later–poor wallet) you can write a scene in your notebook.
Odds are you’re going to be sitting in a waiting room for a while. You can use that time toward making your goal. Sometimes you can get the BEST ideas when you physically put pen to paper. Then go home and type the scene into your doc.
The end of November is approaching. You’ve planned well. You’ve been ready for anything that might pop up and try to get in the way. And you type:
Then get your ass back to work. It’s time to rewrite that mess you made in November.