I never thought I’d be writing about thriving in National Novel Writing Month, but November 2016 changed my perspective on what I could do in my writing life. I learned the discipline of trying to write an entire novel in one month. I had had nothing but challenges trying to find a publisher for my first novel, The Renaissance Club (forthcoming January 16, 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing). They say the best thing you can do to sell your book is write a new one. So on a reckless whim, I signed up for my first #NaNoWriMo.
How did I find a way to thrive? By plunging into a daily word goal of 1,600+ words. What I learned is that I love s challenge, and word count made me compete with myself, I was not only reckless to enter #NaNoWriMo, I wrote recklessly. Thirty days later, I found the partial novel draft full of life, and for the last year I’ve fleshed it out.
NaNoWriMo for Pantsers
If you’re an outline-averse writer like me, the idea of entering a force writing march with a precise outline of who, what, when, where, why feels like closing the door to inspiration. Charts like that shoo away any muse I have wooed close. So what can I use as a guide, other than my vague idea that my sisters would be like those in Sense and Sensibility (did I mention that I have two complete sets of Jane Austen novels, one for upstairs, and one for downstairs?).
Here’s what I did, sans outline, sans character and scene cards, sans any clear idea of how to cut my path through the forest. I signed up on NaNo and found my thermometer of daily word counts. And I soon discovered that I love a race with myself! I loved writing wildly and without knowing where the words and characters were taking me. I loved exceeding my daily goal. And when I couldn’t, I loved cheating. I’d grab research notes about the Ligurian coast and dump them in as placeholders for scenes. And add them to the count. I’ve always been a happy rebel.
Thriving National Novel Writing Month – Writing Tips
If you’re a writer who believes in letting the characters and situation take you where they will, never planning too much where they’ll end up, preparing for National Novel Writing Month can seem hopeless. But it’s for us too! Here are some of my writing tips for NaNo prep:
- Set a daily writing schedule. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. This year, instead of 50K words, I set my goal as 2 hours of daily writing.
- Write your hook (also known as short pitch). Yes, I know that’s the hard part, but if you can write a good one, it will carry you.
- Write one character’s problem and goal a day. Include that in your word count.
- Research your setting and count the notes in your daily word count. Place it somewhere in your manuscript, or if you keep a manuscript in chapter files, make a file for research notes. Every time you add to that, count it in your word count.
- Then begin at the beginning and write as far as you can in 30 days.
- If you’re like me, you’ll begin obsessively checking your word count and pushing yourself farther at the end of the day if you’re not quite there.
This NOvember? I’m in, using the marathon for a full revision of last November’s book. Two chapters a day (I write short ones), plus a few days to go over the opening and closing chapters again, and I should have finished revising my next book, The Romantics.
What do you think of writing schedules and disciplines? What are yours, if you work that way? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.