This post appeared several years ago. As I, and many, many others, are trying again this November, I am reposting it with a few updates. Haven’t tried it yet? Why not this year? It’s fun!
Kate Flora: Permission to suck? A pretty provocative statement, yes? But an important one. Because in November, writers everywhere are trying to write 50,000 words in a month. This means facing perhaps the greatest writer’s challenge of all: turning off the critical head on your shoulder that is constantly criticizing, correcting, and getting in the way, and just letting the story rip no matter what. No matter how crazy it gets. No matter how far your characters stray from what you’ve planned. No matter that the story veers away from what you envisioned and heads in new and different directions. Whatever wants to happen, just go with it.
No one is looking.
In case there is a soul somewhere on the planet who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writers Month. Every November, writers sign up to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. Signing up means you’ll probably be put into a group where you can go to meetings if you want that for support, and you will be able to log in to chart your word counts and your progress, and get encouraging e-mails throughout the month.
Sisters in Crime sistersincrime.org is offering a month of advice and daily write-ins for writers who need the support of a group, or the structure and fun of writing with a group.
Tips for NaNoWriMo
The internet is absolutely full of advice about how to prep for NaNoWriMo, how to do NaNoWriMo. So much advice, in short, that you could probably write a novel using the tips as prompts or just aggregate the advice into a short book. Or is that aggravate? Because with so much advice out there, it can be aggravating. Confusing. Overwhelming. And pretty often, those who are offering the advice are quite certain that they are right.
Should you outline in advance? Have the plot of the work all sketched out? Perhaps have it all storyboarded and taped to your office wall?
The possibilities are endless. And the bottom line, in my opinion, depends entirely on what kind of a writer you are. Or, if this is an early foray into the world of writing, what kind of person you otherwise are. Do you like to do a lot of prepping or do you like sail into an adventure and wing it and see what life brings?
On your behalf, I went out and waded through a bunch of those advicely blogs. And like a retriever, I have brought back the wisdom that speaks to me. You can snap up my thoughts and make them your own, or go atrolling for yourself.
So here, in no particular order, are the bits of advice that I think are most useful if you are going to have fun with NaNoWriMo.
Embrace a new mindset.
Just start and keep going.
Silence your editor, that picky little voice that tells you you’re doing it wrong. If necessary, draw a picture of your editor and stick pins in it. Be silly if you need to be. This is your adventure. Own it.
Write “TK” for missing facts. Don’t stop to look things up. Don’t obsess over what you can’t remember. You can fix all that later.
Embrace Anne Lamott’s advice: it’s okay to write a shitty first draft. You can edit a draft and make it better. You can’t edit a blank page.
Embrace the word discipline.
For once, elevate quantity above quality. Don’t edit. Just keep going. Do keep track of your word count. It’s part of the game.
Keep telling yourself: The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
Remember that you’re not trying to win, you’re trying to be
Don’t let the risk of obsession scare you off
You have permission to suck. Who cares. You may make amazing discoveries in the process.
Unplug. No phone calls. No checking e-mail. No selfies.
Exception: You can make yourself, or your story, or your protagonist, a playlist. It can become part of the ritual.
Write in the same place if you can, because the ritual of place can become part of the ritual of writing.
Finally, a bit of heretical advice. The rules say you’re supposed to write something new. But you are writing for you, not for them. If you’ve got the half-finished story in the drawer you’ve never had time to get back to…you are allowed to take it out and finish it. (Don’t tell them I said this.) If you’ve been stuck in a novel for years, maybe this is your chance to finish it.
November. Your month. You’re the writer. The only thing you have to do is honor your desire to write by giving it the time it deserves. And see where story takes you.
A lot of advice is about prepping…but hey, you’re out of time, and about not bothering agents or editors with your unedited glop at the end. But you wouldn’t do that anyway.
Here are a couple of blogs I used to compile the above.