Happy NaNoWriMo Day! First day of the marathon. This is my tenth NaNo. By now I’ve gotten the hang of it. Two thousand words a day is my goal. And a daily writing habit. Actually, the daily writing habit is more important than the book, I think.
Anyone else taking the challenge? One of my Writing Sisters is taking the challenge this year with me, using the “forced” writing to work on a scene she’s redoing for her novel. I think one of the mistakes writers make with the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days challenge is that it has to be a novel. It doesn’t. It just has to be 50,000 words.
And if a writer expects anything they write during NaNo to be polished, well, you’re going to be disappointed. NaNo is an exercise in many things: discipline, putting words on paper (either tangibly or electronically), and ignoring that inner editor that always wants you to go back and polish what you just wrote. It is not an exercise in producing awe-inspiring prose. You have to plant the seeds and get dirt under your fingernails before you can even think about how the flowers will look.
The main reason I started doing NaNo was for the discipline. I figured, in order to actually write 50,000 words, I had to write every day, otherwise I’d never make it. One of the most proclaimed pieces of writing advice is: Write Every Day. Period. And I think that’s one of the toughest things to do for writers who have full-time jobs (not writing jobs), and kids at home, and housework, and a garden or yard, and– Well, you get the picture. And it works, at least for a while, until real life starts yanking my chain around again. Once it’s a habit, it’s pretty easy to do, especially if you have a project to work on.
Which is the next benefit, in my opinion, of NaNo. I’ve had story and book ideas flailing around in my head since I was in elementary school. I think a lot of people do, especially creative people. But those stories aren’t doing any good in your head. If you don’t let them out, they just keep using your mind like a lottery ball machine, bouncing around and colliding with each other. You need to pick a number and let them out. And NaNo is the perfect opportunity to do so. Once you commit to writing 50,000 words in a month (or 1,667 words a day), you can let those stories out. Get them on paper and give them a voice. They’ll stop bothering you, or at least bother you less. Just get the words out.
And don’t edit as you go. I know, there’s that little figure that sits on your shoulder with a stubby pencil behind her ear who corrects your writing as you go. Been there. The problem is, you spend time revising what you’ve just written, and that means you don’t get anything additional put on paper. Your inner editor slows your progress to the speed of a lava flow on the Big Island (Hawaii). Guess what? If your inner editor has her way, you’ll never reach 50,000 words. You might revise the same scene 50,000 times, but that doesn’t get you any closer to the end. Flick that editor off your shoulder, open the sluice gates to your mind, and let the story flow out. Just write. Leave notes for yourself along the way. And remind yourself you’ll fix it later, after the holidays.
Got it? You’ll finish NaNo with a rough draft, one that’s likely crap-tastic, but it’s a FIRST DRAFT. They’re supposed to be crappy. But you developed the habit of writing every day. You got that story on paper after thinking about it for months, maybe even years. And after the holidays you can let your inner editor out of his cage and let him help you revise your draft to his heart’s content.