The third week flew by and the daunting task of NaNoWriMo feels ominously close now. The old NaNoWriMo groups are active again and most writers are talking about taking part in it. There’s an even bigger pool of advice this year – everyone from veterans to newbies seem to be tweeting and blogging about it. However, most of them seem to be addressing only outlining or aspects of planning. In this post, I’m going to direct you to something a lot of people tend to neglect.
Remember how we fleshed out a few details of our stories last week? It might feel like too much for some and too little for others. For those who think that was insufficient, this week’s agenda is something you’ll really enjoy, I promise. For those who are more natural pantsers, I’d advise you to keep a host of prompts handy – be it a website, an idea generator or a book of writing prompts.
This idea came to me when I was trying to pinpoint what I felt was lacking in my preparation. I find it very easy to write when I’m in the mood, but otherwise, not so much. However, November isn’t any better than January or June to write. You don’t magically feel like everything is falling into place. You will hit roadblocks, some days you’ll be too tired to write, sometimes writer’s block will cripple your normally nimble fingers. The key to having the best NaNoWriMo experience is learning the art of writing every day, even on those days you feel like staying in bed and letting your main character write their own autobiographies (we all know that’s not going to happen).
There is such a thing as too much planning. When you’re planning, unfortunately, you’re not writing. Most people seem to believe that outlining their novel, getting to know their characters and straightening out the plot is all that you can do in October. But stop and think about it – is November about getting every detail of your story perfect? No, it’s about writing. Then it logically follows that you should try to get your brain into the habit of writing and worry about perfection later. After all, this is your first draft. It is supposed to be a diamond in the rough.
Most people who take part in NaNoWriMo are juggling writing with a day job or school. These are the kind who have a story to tell but have lost touch with their writing selves. At the very best, they write sporadically when they can snatch a little free time from their busy lives. Suddenly, NaNoWriMo happens. It seems impossible to write that much on a daily basis when they actually get to it. Are you one of those people?
If you’ve followed my series, you will have the time to write and a fair idea about your story in November. The only problem will be getting those words out of your head and on to the screen or paper. This week’s exercise is designed to help you get through that. It’s common knowledge that practice makes perfect. Starting from today, begin writing every day. If you’re a planner, write the backstories of your characters so you can be satisfied with your planning for the month ahead. If you’re a pantser, pick any prompt and just start writing. You might want to write in the same genre that your novel is about to get familiar with it. Some might find that restrictive and write about diverse topics. The choice is ultimately yours. Start with 500 words a day. If that feels like too much and you’ve not written in years, scale it down to 100 and gradually increase it from there. When 500 begins to feel familiar, aim for 1000. Ideally, by the end of October, writing 1667 words a day should feel like a breeze. It should take lesser time than you would have taken if you’d started November without doing this. But I wouldn’t worry too much about the speed. Since your November schedule (hopefully) has accommodated the worst-case scenario, if you stick to it, time shouldn’t be a constraint.
There is one catch, however. Whatever it is that you write every day, don’t go back and read it. Try writing about unrelated things if you can’t resist the urge to peek. Delete the document (don’t tear up the paper though, the trees will thank you) if you must. Let the typos be (Pro tip: Turn off spell check). Leave those pesky grammatical errors alone. Don’t send it out to friends so they can give constructive criticism. This is an exercise, so don’t get too attached to your creations. NaNoWriMo will seem that much easier if you can get your inner editor to shut up – a thing even the most experienced writers have a problem with. This is also where most first-timers trip up. Follow this simple rule and you’re good to go. Honestly.
Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Have you tried this before November in any year? Do you think this exercise would be of help? I’d love to know what you think in the comments section below.