At the end of November, you will have in your hands a 1st draft of your novel. This will not, WILL NOT, be a polished masterpiece. It will be partly great, with lots of middling bits and a few cool ideas, but there will be parts that really suck. It’s ok. That’s what first draft means. AND THAT’S WHAT WRITING MEANS–> getting words out of your head onto paper, and sometimes they come out bassackwards.
Now, IF you are already trundling along on a novel, with some consistency, then please just continue doing whatever you’re doing. You don’t need NaNoWriMo, and you certainly don’t need this post. If, on the other hand, you are perpetually edging around the battlefield, hollaring but not really getting into the fight – ie, not actually writing regularly – then this is for you.
You’re shooting for 50,000 words, and that is not that big of a deal, if you take those little bastards one at a time.
See, right there, that was about 25 of them, and it just took me a second. Times that by whatever, and that’s your novel – but yours will be better and will also be some kind of story.
Here are straightforward, non-fancy tips for powering thru NaNoWriMo like a berzerker – messy, bloody, but getting the job done – cuz sometimes you gotta get nuts to get going:
This is not NaNoRESEARCHMo. Do not research; you will only write. If you get to a sticky, technical bit where you really have to have some details precisely blah blah – fuck that – just make some shit up, and write “Check this” in the margins or wherever. Keep going, don’t bullshit yourself with a sidetrack into research (which, of course, we all love — but NOT. NOW.)
You may enjoy the trappings and ceremony of writing: making fresh coffee, sitting by that special window, going to a café, etc. – but that’s not the work. Type the words which are in your head. Do it again. And again. Now you’re working. It’s what Joe Hill is doing right now. Roxane Gay is doing it right now. Salman Rushdie is doing it right now. Writers are not coffee makers or window gazers or café sitters.
That said, if and only if you are continuously typing the words which are in your head, those other things are fine.
Now you’re about to say, “Look, my process is… blahdy blah”. Can we please just accept that the only reason you’re even doing NaNoWriMo is because your process has failed to get the words out of your head onto paper? Systems are only useful if they’re giving you what you need. This month is about getting past the stuckness; you are berzerking through the shield wall of your process. There is an idea in The Book of Five Rings, that boils down to something like “Don’t have a favorite weapon.” In other words, don’t get stuck thinking there’s your special way to do this. The only thing is to put your story on paper, however. That’s it.
Don’t refine; do keep typing. Idea? Question? Quandry? Make a margin note, “He has a funny hat?” and keep typing. You are berzerking for this one month. You can clean up the body parts later.
50,000 words divided by 30 days is 1,666.66667 words per day. It’s inevitable that you’ll miss a day, like maybe Thanksgiving. So do 2000 words a day; it won’t be as hard as you think. That’s four high school essays. You’ve gotten way better at writing than you were in high school, right? You can make up 2000 words worth of story way easier than you can write 4 well-supported essays.
The crux of the entire battle is just this: put your ass in a chair, your fingers on the keyboard, and start punching the letters in the face. Put all your blood-rage into making it one smooth movement: ass–>chair—>fingers—>keyboard—>punching the letters in the face. There’s something about that, too, in The Book of Five Rings, but no, NO – Do Not Go And Read It Now. WRITE. Ass—>chair->punching.
Don’t think about 30 days or 50,000 words.
Look at the white, blank space in front of you. Your only job is to cover it in little black marks. YOU ARE UNBEATABLE.
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