By Rachel Dacus, author of The Invisibles, The Renaissance Club and Arabesque
I’m a born rebel, so when I set goals as a NaNoWriMo rebel, I pick the ones that fit with my writing habits. These are habits born of observing my best writing periods and replicating what worked, forgetting what didn’t. For me, as a National Novel Writing Month fan, word counts don’t work. For me, daily writing works. But you may be a different kind of writer.
How can you use NaNo to your advantage? One of the benefits of National Novel Writing Month is finding my best writing strategies. I discovered a lot about my process through NaNoWriMo three years ago.
Word counts don’t work for me. But they might for you! What a strict word count can do:
* Force you to set aside daily time for writing (or give yourself a month-long, DIY writing retreat
* Focus you on drafting without revising as you go
* Give you the courage to believe you can write fast and well
What I learned from a word-count, 50K NaNoWriMo was that early morning is my best writing time — by far. I tried evening sprints, all-day marathons, writing in small chunks of time, and the very best for me is an hour or two as soon as I wake up and have something hot to drink. For me, being half-awake is to be near my inspiration source.
Another thing I found out was that NOT revising much as I go, but writing slowly and carefully, thinking a lot between sentences and paragraphs, works well. Revising to some extent is necessary for me, because I notice awkward sentence structure and gaps in action and setting. But sometimes I will do best if I put a placeholder note where a full setting description is needed, or where I’ve leaped a character to somewhere else without explaining 1) passage of time or 2) action. Placeholders allow me to keep following my inspiration while noting things I need to come back and fill out later.
I gained all that from my first and second NaNo experiences. I learned I can’t write both fast and well. But I have learned to draft a better quality of prose. I’ve also learned that going into a book without a one-line hook (premise) and at least a rough outline, is a guarantee of years of revising. I love revising, but it’s different than drafting, at least for me. I can’t do both at once, so having an outline allows me to skip around in the plot. I get ideas out of the blue, and want to draft them as they arrive, even if they don’t fit chronologically in my story. I get ideas for the end, the opening chapter, an event in the middle. I use notes and placeholders to be sure I don’t lose those.
That means my NaNo Rebel goals in 2019 are:
* Daily writing hours
* Total month’s writing hours
* Final total word count (starting with an existing manuscript)
* Connecting weekly with other NaNo buddies – sharing the journey gives me confidence and helps others, one of the concepts of NaNo
The Invisibles started as a NaNo project three years ago. It’s published now, in November 2019. When I finished that first NaNoWriMo — an experiment — I barely made the 50,000-word goal. I cheated a bit (rebel that I am) by including some descriptions cribbed from research sources, which I later made my own by rewriting and tailoring to my scenes. It was only useful to reach for a “complete book” (in my view, a book isn’t complete at 50K) to develop a strong daily writing habit. The daily word count goals just kept me at it longer than I might have been.
So if you’re a NaNoWriMo rebel, use the month to focus on what works for you. Maybe you’re revising and want to count pages revised. Or possibly you’re outlining, and want to outline a chapter a day. Perhaps like me, you just know good things happen if you show up and give the Muse your attention every day.