So you hit 50,000 words in November — or maybe not quite so many. Now what?
Once you’ve got your first draft down — or at least gotten a good start on one! — what should you do now?
- Put the blasted thing away – you heard me. Put it into a drawer and forget it for a few weeks. Close the file (remember to save your work!) and start something else. You need a bit of time before you can start editing your draft, so you’ll see it with fresh eyes instead of overlooking things because it’s old and tired to you right now.
- Start something new – edit an older draft. Start a new project. Do something completely different. You’ve been cooped up with that draft for 30 days now, and both of you need some space. Shake things up and do something else for a bit.
- Focus on the holidays – did you forget it’s December? You’ve got decorating to do and gifts to buy and traditions to uphold!
I’ve finished a day early – 50,000 words in 29 days.
Here’s how to do it:
- Write every day – this isn’t an option during November. Even if you don’t make the 1667 words a day goal, you need to get something down daily.
- 1667 words per day is more of a guideline, not a rule – aim for over 2000 words a day on days when you have more time. That way, when you’re busy, you can slack off a bit and only write a few hundred words.
- Don’t wait for the muse – this is a first draft, after all. Write crap. Write anything. If you’re stuck, have your characters make out your grocery list for you, or give one of them a newspaper article to compose. Just write.
- Turn off your editor – during November you cannot edit your work until you’ve hit your daily goal. This is also not an option. If you start erasing and changing things, you’re never going to get to 50,000.
Did you try NaNoWriMo this year? Did you win?
No, not the holiday season – though it is getting to that point as well.
No, I mean it’s National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo!
NaNoWriMo is an event where you pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s a website, local live chapters, and lots of inspiration and help.
If you manage to reach your goal, not only do you have what’s technically a novel (even though mine run more to 90-100K), but you get some nice virtual prizes as well.
So if you don’t see me as often this month, it’s because I’m trying desperately to reach my 1667 daily word goal.
As you know, I committed to NaNoWriMo again this year. I finally hit the 50K mark last night around 11pm.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo over the years:
- I can crack down on myself and write every day – it’s not always easy, especially working 12 hour days, but I can scribble something down during lunch or get up early or stay up later
- 50,000 words isn’t really a novel – mine run about 100K, I’ve learned, so completing NaNoWriMo is a great head-start, but it’s not the end of my journey
- There’s still editing – even once I get those 100K words down, I’m going to have to set it aside for awhile to rest, then get to work editing the thing, which is the hard part for me
- A certificate is a nice thing to have – even if I don’t have a completed novel yet, it’s nice to have that “Winner” certificate to hang on my cork board and remind me that I can do it
With NaNoWriMo upon us, many of you are thinking seriously about your daily word count. Here are some tips to maximize that total.
- Get an early start – If you wait until the end of the day, you’ll be racing your clock to get those words down, and that can pile more stress on an already stressed writer. Set your clock half an hour early and sit down to put some words onto your pages.
- Carve out some time – keep a notebook and pen with you at all times. Waiting for that latte? Get a few words down. Does that roast take half an hour to cook? Write! You can transcribe to the computer on your day off. Just get those words onto the paper.
- Be a little Type-A – schedule your writing time. Yes, I mean actually make out a daily schedule and put “writing” on your calendar! If it’s written down, you’re less likely to blow it off or find other things to do with that time.
- Ask and ye shall receive – let your friends and family know that you’re trying to finish that book. Ask them to respect your schedule and give you the time you need.
- Silence your internal editor – this should go without saying during NaNoWriMo, but it’s good advice any time at all. When you’re trying to get the words out, ignore that Doubting Thomas voice in your head that says it’s all crap, that it has to be perfect, that you’ll never finish. Just keep plugging away. Edit later!
And here’s a Bonus Tip: everything that comes into your head is fair game for a NaNoWriMo word count! If you’re plugging along, and suddenly realize that you need to know more about rattlesnake milking for your character’s new hobby, then write down “I need to know more about rattlesnake milking – do some research here!” Bold that section and come back to it later, when you’re not busy writing.
HERE’S a whole page full of tips and tricks to help you survive NaNoWriMo!
National Novel Writing Month is a yearly tradition urging writers to complete 50,000 words during the 30 days of November.
I encourage writers to participate for several reasons:
- You learn that you actually can complete a novel
- You learn that you can write quickly and get a lot done in one day
- You learn that you can write to a deadline
- You learn that you can write without stopping to edit
- You get a good head-start on that first draft
Especially if you’re a beginning writer, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Even experienced writers can use the challenge to crank out most of the first draft to a new novel.
If you’ve never tried NaNoWriMo, I urge you to hop over to their website and sign up! Every word you write is that much more toward that novel you’ve been meaning to finish.
Draft #2 is off to the editor for the last check-up before I start on the query letters. This is someone who’s never read anything by me before, so it should be illuminating to get her take on the book.
Getting started on Book 2 in November for NaNoWriMo. The working title is Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid: The Hawaiian Affair. That’ll change as soon as I think of something better — it’s too much like a Sherlock Holmes title (or something from Man From U.N.C.L.E.). The lads will be involved in treaties between the U.S. and the Republic of Hawai’i … not gonna give you any more hints!
I’m spending the next 10 days doing research, then it’s 1667 words a day for the entire month. By Christmas, I’ll have half the book finished!
NaNoWriMo approaches, so here are some quick tips to get you started on those 50,000 words.
- Stretch your writing muscles: if you’re short of ideas, find one of those writing prompt websites (or my Twitter account) and start with some short bursts and flash fiction
- Write down your observations: carry a notebook with you everywhere, and write down everything you observe. You’ll soon find an idea!
- Find a time: figure out when you’re most creative, and try to write during that time.
- Write every day: that works out to 1,667 words per day. Not even a short story. You can do it!
- Don’t agonize over “getting it right”: just get the words down. Edit later.
- Remember that writing is fun: just play around with words, without worrying so much about writing the “Great American Novel.”
How many of you are going to participate this year?