Wednesday, November 04, 2009
If you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year, you've probably already gotten started with writing your novel. If you haven't and you want to, no worries, there's still 26 days left to write. If you start today. Which means, you should start today.
You're starting today, right? Don't make me get my writer whip.
The first week you spend writing a novel is usually terrific. The idea for your story is new and bright and shiny. You've got all sorts of cool characters to play with on the page. Your energy level is as high as your enthusiasm. This is a wonderful stage in writing a novel, one most of us love because the work doesn't feel like work. It feels like fun.
Next week it's probably going to feel very different, so enjoy these golden days.
This is also the week you can establish some good writing habits to follow for the rest of November. I think the most important one is to resist the urge to repeatedly backread and revise. While I know you want your story to be perfect, this is not National Novel Buffing and Polishing Month. You're doing this to write 50,000 words, and you're going to need the majority of your time to make that happen.
To combat the backreading/revising heebie jeebies, after you finish writing your new words for the day, take a break, do one quick editing pass, and put away the pages (I tuck mine in my novel notebook.) Then make a vow not to look at them again until NaNoWriMo is over -- and stick to that vow.
Another habit I think is important is to avoid thinking too much about what you're doing. If you've never written a novel before, at some point during this month you're probably going to have an insecure moment and think "I can't write this novel." It might be because you've noticed that your writing isn't setting the page on fire; it may be because the words aren't coming as easily as you thought they would. It might even happen because you sat down with a great book last night and realized you will never, ever be able to write like that author.
Whatever is making you doubt yourself, I have a very simple solution: don't fight it. When your brain says "I can't write this novel," just agree with it. If you can't prevail over your doubts, don't even try. Accept that you absolutely cannot and will not ever write this novel. Then go and write your words for the day.
I'm serious. You don't have to call what you write a novel. You can call it writing practice, or typing practice, or a keyboard test. Just sit down and write. What's your brain going to do, throw a fit because you're typing? For those of you who think this sounds ridiculous, guess how many novels I was convinced that I couldn't write, and wrote them anyway? About a third of the 44 I've published, plus the one I'm working on right now.
The third good habit to develop is to relax and pace yourself. I know how exciting is feels when you start writing your novel. You want to lock yourself in your writing space and hammer out 10,000 words in one day; some of you may even do it. The problem is if you haven't consistently written at that speed for some time it's probably going to result in some serious writing burn-out. To avoid that, set your daily wordcount goal to a reasonable amount that you can produce without physically and mentally exhausting yourself, and stick to that goal.
So far I've done pretty well with my NaNoNovel (of course, I've had lots of practice, but every book is different, and this one is already proving to be a decent challenge.) I'm working at a steady pace, avoiding impulse writing and sticking to my plan. I'm also keeping a daily NaNo journal over on the stories blog with a short summary of how my sessions go and what my stats are. Updating that along with the counter on the sidebar over there is fun, and helps keep me motivated.
I don't have any expectations with this book; if I really like what I get I may decide to do something more with it. For now I'm focused on stretching myself, experimenting and seeing what I can do with my vision of this story. I think having that kind of freedom is important for pros because we spend most of our time knocking out contracted work. If all you do is write for money, all you end up caring about is the money, and that's no good for the work or you.
I'll have another NaNoPost on Saturday, and continue with updates on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the rest of November. Now it's your turn: how are things going with your NaNoNovel? Are you having fun, or arguing with your brain, or having a different NaNo experience? Let us know in comments.