Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mid-Week NaNoPost

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.


  1. I am having a blast! I've met each word goal (so far, it's early!) and I have tied up the internal editor. I did find it helpful to go over old manuscripts that I'm not currently working on due to nano and edit them. It seems to keep that hungry monster somewhat satisfied. :)

    Great advice on writing through our doubts. It's so true!

  2. I have ever done...

  3. So far I've worked on contracted work, and edits that came in. *g* My unofficial "NaNo" book is one that's already about 1/3 done so not worried about the time limit. I've been brainstorming it and know what I'm going to do next.

  4. I am so glad I came across your blog--- perfect timing for this piece you've just written, because my brain is trying to tell me something midway into the week. Now, I'm going to tell my brain ok and continue to write.

  5. Anonymous6:22 AM

    Great ideas! Thanks, I neede that. :)


  6. I don't know whether to be offended or cheer!

    I don't go back unless it's to check a fact - no editing at all, that can wait.

    I do think I can write this novel, I've written one before - it may not be brilliant, I don't think any of them are, but they're mine and no one can take that away from me.

    And I've had three 10,000 word days; but it is tiring, nay, exhausting.

    Having said that, you make good points, especially for the newbies who I think worry too much. It's about fun, it's about challenging yourself and setting simple goals. It's about setting your mind free and your creative juices loose on the page!

    Of course I'll never write like my favourite authors, I no longer have that impossible ambition. I write like... me; good, bad or indifferent. Everything I write can be improved on, but not this month. This month is all about getting the words down on paper, telling the story no matter how long it takes.

    But the habits developed during Nano are good ones, ones that will last a career.

    Hmm... word verification: chirdine. I could use that in a sentence...

  7. This is my first time doing NaNo, and I am a bit nervous. I have a decent start, but this week is going to be challenging with work. I do like how the story is already wandering away from the outline on it's own. I think it is a good thing. So far...

  8. This is the fifth year I am doing NaNo. The first year I didn't get close to finishing. Each year after that I finished but the experience was different each time. I am trying a consistent pace this year. Last year I wrote about 35,000 words on the last weekend, just making the word count with about 25 minutes to spare. Not gonna do that again but it's nice to know it can be done.

    I have to work on the editing and finishing part for when it is over.

    Wordless Wednesday - Cody's Help and Halloween

  9. Thanks for the awesome advice! I'm going to post a link on my regional Nano board for all my area writing pals to have a look.

    I love the idea of doing one editing pass. I've tried to avoid doing any, but then I get a niggling little idea that might turn into a huge plot thing later in the story if I'm not careful and always wonder if I should have gone back a tweaked the story when I first had the idea. I think I'll start doing one read through after I finish my words.

    I'm enjoying my story very much. It's been a while since I've written anything and it feels good to return to writing excited and happy to be typing away!

  10. I'm working on a book I'd already started, but NaNo is keeping my fingers on the keyboard. Also, I convinced my daughter to join the Young NaNo group. She's set a goal of 24K for herself, and she's finally writing the book she's been talking about for the past year. =o)

  11. This is my first year for NaNo and so far I'm having a blast. I doubled my word count on the first day so I've got a day "banked" for later in the month. I'm writing about 1000 words in the morning and the other 700 some in the evening after work. A prologue and two chapters in, I really like where it's going.

  12. This is my fifth year doing Nano, and so far it's going well. However, we are also in the process of selling our house (we did For Sale by Owner) and buying a new one (through a real estate agent). I can't believe how stressful and time consuming the selling-the-house portion of the process has been. It leaves me with very little energy at the end of the day to want to write.

    I don't edit my work at all during the month except for running a quick spell check from time to time. I have a hard enough time turning off Ms. Internal Editor without forcing her to read quickly-written raw prose.

    Good luck to everyone who's doing this!

  13. I waivered with indecision about NaNo until I saw a post from you several weeks ago. This was a good year for me to try it because I was between projects this month. Figured there was nothing to lose (except a month) if I didn't come up with something good, but great potential to change my writing habits (the backread/edit habit you mentioned) if I was willing to open myself to the process and plow ahead blindly.

    So far, so good. I'm ahead of the pace though, so will take your caution about burn-out to heart.

  14. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I'm having a great time so far. I'm using the month to knock out the rest of a draft of a project I've been working on for a little while--it should end up being about 70,000 words, and I had a couple of chapters done already (not counting those in my Nano word count, of course), so by the end of the month, I should have a completed draft.

    Since I'm a fast writer normally (not *this fast* though), I've been fairly successful at turning off the internal editor. I've also been just focusing on getting the ideas out there. Don't have a good transition from scene to scene? Keep writing. Don't have a name for a terciary character? Keep writing. Don't know what's going to happen next? Keep writing!

    I'm really interested in seeing how much of the draft is usable by the end of the month, or is my normal slower process a better way to get the writing I need.

    P.S. I can't sign in 'cause I'm at work, but this is Jay Montville.

  15. These are great, great tips. I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. I was planning to start a new novel anyway, so the timing was perfect. I thought I was a pretty productive writer before, but just meeting the daily goal day in and day out is more challenging than I thought! I'm in awe of your productivity and organization. :-)

  16. I have a question! Word count for Nano. Are you plugging in the computer word count? Or are you calculating 250 or 300 multiplied by the number of pages?

  17. My goal is to write every day. I'm a binge writer, so I'm the one who pounds out 10,000 words in a day for a few days, then goes two weeks without a single word on paper. My goal is to write something new every single day.

    I've come up with a plan to keep myself from the habit of over-editing stuff I've already written. At the end of a scene, I read through it with a blank document open. I write down all the "facts" - bits of information - in the scene, then use those bits to type up a scene summary. I delete the list of facts unless they are details important for continuity (ex: so-and-so has blue eyes). I'm vowing not to go back over the scene again until the book is done. And I can use the scene summaries to get a big picture look at how the story is flowing.

  18. So far, my MC has gotten away from me and turned into a completely different person, I have a secondary character that walked into the story out of left field, and I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next anymore. I know where I need to go... but I think I'll just have to let my Muse take me there. So far so good for word count, though... what a relief :)

  19. I'm just the opposite. The first week of working on something new is the worst part for me. I'm surfing blogs and such to get motivated by those of you who are thriving on this part. Next week, I'll be the cheerleader. :)

  20. Anonymous5:57 PM

    @ Trace,

    Nano will have a word count verification tool at the end of the month. So far, it has always matched my Microsoft wordcount, but some people have said you should have a few buffer lines in case there is a discrepency. But it is based on a word count, not an extimated 250 words per page count.


  21. I am having a blast...and maybe there is a little pain involved as well. I have met my goals for the first three days, but today I have only written about 600 words so far. Good thing I am going to a write-in today or I am pretty sure I would just give up for the day! This is my first year doing Nano and so far its been a great experience. I hope it will give me my very first finished rough draft of a story. I have the tendency not to finish what I start but I am sticking with this!

  22. I am writing every day and I am keeping to my goal. I would like to get a little ahead, just in case work gets busy. I try to write 1000 words during the day and 700 words after the kids are in bed.

    Having a good friend doing NaNo also is helping,too. I don't want him to be too far ahead (he is currently between jobs) and today at 7070 I am ahead!

    Fortunately, I am pretty good at the "just keep going". I figure I will be rewriting and copy editing for months after this.

    Thanks for the encouraging words, Lynn. Oh, and I recently read StarDoc and posted a nice review on my blog. Good book, thank you.

  23. Oh my goodness, I hate the first week! Every year I have to talk myself down and then just throw words at the page. By the end of the week I usually have enough random foreshadowing, unexplained phenomena and unattached characters wandering randomly through to keep me happy piecing a plot together from them for the rest of the month.

  24. 2nd year doing nano. I finished last year but hated the novel by the end. Behind this year (on 5700)but have weekend plans to catchup. If you find huge plot whole what do you do? Try to fix them of just keep digging deeper?

  25. Hi, great blog, and when I’m finished Nanaowrimo-ing I’ll get to read it in more detail.

    I’ve just got to 18,832 words for my nanowrimo, but it’s a struggle. I’m off sick right now with work-related stress, but am determined the damn job isn’t going to rob me of this ambition, like it has all the others in my crummy life. So, I’m sat here every day, and apart from two, where nothing got written, and ahead on 1600-a-day base line to be on target, so if I can keep that buffer healthy to soak up the days I can’t get it together, then I should make it.

    I wish I could go back to when I was young, and made the bad decisions that led me here, work-wise. Your job, and who you marry…………. Boy so important, but how often the decisions are taken lightly eh? :o)

    Anyway, great blog, and it sure is nice to see that someone is winning in life. ;o)

    Take care,
    K.x :o)

  26. This is my third book but first time doing it Nano style. I've got to say it's really fun! Yesterday was my hardest day when I actually had the most time to write (I think sometimes too much time can backfire). But it really does feel marathon-esque, just when I think I can't go on, I take a little breather, and then another and another, but then I do it, I reach my word goal and man is it an adrenaline rush. I think NaNo is teaching me so far, you really can do anything if you want it bad enough!