National Novel Writing Month

Have you heard of National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo for short? It is an approach to writing a novel in 30 days.

From November 1 to November 30, the goal is to have written a 50,000 words novel. (You can, of course just write a single word and copy it up 50,000 times in the document and then verify it at their website, but I doubt anyone’d call it a novel…)

50,000 words in 30 days is 1666-1667 words each day. It’s entirely do-able.

I’ve done it a couple of times, but I’ve only been successful once.

Here is why. 

1) Getting a good start in. 

The year I was successful, I was way over my needed word count by the end of week one. I started writing on November 1, and I think I had about 3,000 words by November 2. It doesn’t have to be that much, but the fact that I produced more than estimated that first day, really helped spur me on for the rest of that week. And by that time, even as I was having major time interruptions (family visit), I could afford to take some time off for other stuff, since I had exceeded the word count estimation.

2) Don’t edit. 

Seriously, even if things start to get a bit weird (such as a mass invasion of an island nation in the middle of a peaceful troubadour’s flirtation with a peasant girl)- go with it. The point is to write. Editing comes afterwards. Looking back at the times I didn’t finish, my problems started when I looked at one paragraph for too long and started editing that paragraph, and deleting… To reach the word count, every word counts.

3) Short and pithy only works if there is a lot of it.

In a setting, nanowrimo, where every word counts, a short sentence is not your friend. Unless you have a gazillion of them. The more you can describe something, the longer names a character has – the longer your story gets. Those things can be edited later, if they don’t work. In the creative process when the word count matters, the more description, the better.

4) Set aside time. 

Maybe you can crank out 1667 words a day  in no time. The year I succeeded, I was lucky. My exams were in January, the major assignments that were due was handed in by late October, I had no job alongside my studies – and a limited number of lectures a week. The years after that, when I tried my hand at nanowrimo, I always had at least one major paper due in December, or I’d started a full-time job.

This point actually corresponds a bit with #1. If you can set aside the time the first week to get enough writing in, the second, third and fourth week will be much more bearable.

5) Writer’s block

The great thing about writing and writing and writing is usually that the words are flowing. If you have writer’s block during nanowrimo, that sucks. One way of dealing with it is to reread what you’ve already written, and then throw in a major invasion, a sudden new character (possibly an old flame of your hero/heroine for some conflict – and to write the flashback scenes for a more word-filled story), a fight… you get the gist.

 

Why am I posting this on November 14 and not November 1? If you think the concept of writing a story in a month sounds interesting – you have half a month to try to reach 50,000 words now (at about 2900-3000 words a day, you should make it), or you can start plotting if you want to participate next year.

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