Not only are you officially allowed to stop shaving today (if you’re a man, of course), but today marks the first day of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Long-time participant Amy wrote about it last year, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been eleven months since that hurried and intense writing session ended. If you’re unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo participants challenge themselves – and others – to write a 50,000 novel (or novella, in that range). How intense is it? Pretty intense.
I made a big mistake in trying NaNoWriMo out in 2009. At the time, I was in the midst of editing our film, so I jotted 4,500 words before giving up in the first few days. In 2010, I buckled down and, armed with a job that had a regular schedule, I was able to write the first half of my very first novel (the second half took about seven times longer, giggle). Last year was just madness.
To keep at pace for NaNoWriMo, you need to write about 1,600 words a day, something the site allows you to track in graph form, which is perfect for me. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you consider that our articles fall between 300-500 words each and even our longest ones top out between 5,000-8,000 words, it becomes daunting quick. The best way to handle the novel writing is three fold:
Have someone to write with. Even if you don’t meet with them in person or join in on local NaNoWriMo writing groups at your local Panera Bread (or wherever, I’m not being judgmental (I love Panera Bread!)), knowing a fellow participant or having a muse to guide out helps a lot. Like any big task, going alone is dangerous.
Outline. Outline. Outline. I’m actually not a huge note-taking guy, but when I completed NaNoWriMo in 2010, I’d had a two year old draft of my outline hiding in my e-mail to guide me. I’d brushed it up slightly, but even the lightest framework will help you build ideas and keep you going, which is super important, because…
You need to keep writing. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get to 50,000 words. They don’t have to be good words, they just need to be words. Any writer is going to sit there and attempt to revise and nitpick, but I honestly spent more than a few sessions blindfolded, just typing what came out of my brain right onto the page. It sounds crazy, but you’ll have infinite time to refine your work, you’ll only have thirty days to get it on paper.
For all those participating, best of luck, and if you’re just hearing about it for the first time, it’s not too late to start!