I learned about National Novel Writing Month through my creative writing professor, Randon Noble, during my freshman year at American University in Washington, D.C. In October of 2006, almost everyone in my creative writing class decided to give NaNoWriMo a try, including me. Most people mentioned writing about home, dating, or other personal and realistic topics.
On the night of November 1, Edward P. Jones visited American University to read from his book, The Known World. During the Q&A, a student in the crowd told him that this was the first day of NaNoWriMo. When the student asked Mr. Jones if he thought someone could write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, Mr. Jones said absolutely not and if someone did, it wouldn’t be worth reading. After that book reading, I think half of my creative writing class decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo.
But I did participate.
<snip> I started writing my novel longhand, but within the first week, I decided to write exclusively on the computer because I found that I typed quicker....Writing a novel in a month was still difficult and when I faced a problem (how to organize disembodied scenes or what to do when the writing wasn’t flowing), I had to create new solutions to get me through the month.
Here’s my advice for completing a 50,000-word novel within 30 days:
- Be confident, not critical. NaNoWriMo is about word count, not about perfection or style. Think of this as a first draft. Just produce, produce, produce.
- Write about an idea you’re obsessed with and can’t get out of your mind. Remember, your novel can always change tracks.
- When you’re tired of writing about that main idea, create subplots to fill pages. When I was sick of writing about the influence of a death machine, I wrote a love story subplot.
- Write scenes. Scenes with narration, dialogue, action, and description take up more space than expository information.
- Set a word minimum EVERY DAY. NaNoWriMo recommends 1667, but if you’ve fallen behind, increase that. Do not set a daily hour minimum because some days you’ll write more quickly than others. Tell yourself that you can’t go to bed until you reach that minimum number of words. Keep track of your word count by checking the number of words in your document at the beginning and end of each day.
- If you miss a day, then make up those words as soon as possible. Some people prefer to make up those missing words on the weekend when they have more time. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the end of the month.
- Don’t write linearly. Bounce around, writing scenes that occur at different points in the novel. During one week, for example, write a scene that takes place at the end of your story, then one that takes place in the middle, and one that takes place in the beginning. This keeps you interested in the material and prevents you from feeling stuck. Leave markers for areas that you want to come back to and fill in. On days when you feel uninspired, go to these markers and start writing those missing scenes.
- At some point, it doesn’t really matter when, create an outline to organize your scenes.
- Don’t delete anything unless it’s 100% necessary to make the novel seem cohesive or coherent. Erasure will move you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Temporarily cut scenes instead and save them in a different file. You never know when an extraneous scene might become useful. If you do delete a scene, then replace it.
- Find a quiet writing space that you can regularly use like a public library or a bedroom. One of my colleagues even writes in a closet. Try not to piss off your roommates.