In just over a month, I will be participating for the fifth time in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during November. I wrote the entirety of Herald of Change during my first NaNoWriMo, and half of Those Who Favor Fire in my second (both books are looking for publishing homes). I completed the rough draft of Dahlia last year as well. Many published authors, such as Mary Robinette Kowal, participate, and the website posts pep talks by other prominent authors encouraging participants to finish.
Saying it’s a challenge to the new writer is a colossal understatement. To finish, you need to write, on average, 1,667 words each day. If you’ve never written that much in one sitting, doing it for thirty days straight seems an impossible task. But many novice writers complete NaNoWriMo each year for the first time.
What can NaNoWriMo teach you about writing?
- Write first; edit later. You won’t have time to polish those last few pages you wrote at 1 AM. Just leave notes for things to fix and soldier on.
- Discipline yourself. As many writers have pointed out, consistent writing habits are vital to your success. Writing the same amount, every day, during the same hours, can lead you to work magic.
- Value your passions. Do you like ninjas? You’d better, if your book is about ninjas and you want to finish. Write about what you love.
- Learn to think on your feet. You have to solve problems quickly when you write during NaNoWriMo. Remember that well-known anecdote from the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark: if Indy is too tired to fight the swordsman, he can always just shoot him.
- You need a writing community. Your NaNoWriMo regional buddies can give you a boost when you’re falling behind, provide inspiration for that difficult chapter, and provide companionship when you don’t want to write alone. And science has shown that people are more productive in the company of others.
If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo, give it a shot. Pull out that dusty manuscript (or drag that ancient .doc file to your Desktop) and give it new life. I’ll be writing as well; my NaNo username is erikgern.