It’s almost November 1st, and for thousands of writers across the world that only means one thing: it’s time for NaNoWriMo! Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo challenges authors to try and finish an entire novel throughout November. The goal is to produce 50,000 words by the end of the month, kick-starting the writing process in an organized and immersive way.
Writing a book is never easy, and it’s certainly not any easier to cram it all into just 4 weeks. But NaNoWriMo isn’t necessarily about creating a perfect draft – it’s about making your writing a priority and finally diving headlong into a big project. The month-long event has only grown and grown over the years, swelling up to almost 400,000 participants in 2016. And big publications have come out of the project too, with novels like Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Sarah Gruen’s Water for Elephants both starting out as NaNoWriMo books.
Whether you’re planning on starting NaNoWriMo this year, or you just want to find out more about it, we’ve got you covered. Here are 5 must-follow tips for people tackling the writing challenge for the first time:
In order to complete NaNoWriMo on time, it’s recommended that you write 1,667 words a day – or close to 6 double-spaced pages. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot, but it can add up pretty quickly, especially when you start to miss a day or two here and there. If you can stick to a very strict writing schedule, then working a little bit every day should be no problem. But if you struggle with time management (as so many writers do), then try and organize your writing schedule ahead of time. If you know you won’t have time to write one day, make sure you set aside enough time the next day so that you can catch up. If you write better in big blocks of time, then plan on spending a full Saturday cranking out the words you need. There’s no right way to tackle NaNoWriMo, but the more you plan ahead, the more you’ll stay on task.
Join a Community
Part of what makes NaNoWriMo so much fun is that you don’t have to do it alone. Often times, writing involves sitting in a room by yourself, staring at a screen. NaNoWriMo is a great way to connect with more writers and to help them inspire you. The official website has a ton of ways to participate, including virtual write-ins, ways to find local community events near you, and profiles where you can connect with friends. Writers can also come together on Twitter, with hashtag related events, or speed-writing sessions hosted by different authors and participants. If you find yourself losing steam, look to your community to keep you motivated.
Keep Moving Forward
If you’re one of those very few talented people who can write a perfect first draft every time, then you’re already one step ahead of the game. But for the rest of us normal people, we often need to go back and revise multiple times before we’re happy with a story. Because of how fast NaNoWriMo moves, there’s usually not much time to dwell on revisions or to go back and rewrite chunks of your project. This is about getting the words down on the page as quickly and efficiently as you can, which means constantly moving forward in your book and not looking back (or at least, not yet). So save the revising for December 1st, and take this month to simply get your first draft onto the page.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by NaNoWriMo, especially when it’s week three and you’re 10,000 words behind and you can’t see how you’re possibly going to finish in time. This is the point where most people quit, deciding that it’s better to just give up and binge the new season of Stranger Things than trying at something they know they’re going to fail. And we get it – we love Stranger Things too, and, honestly, sometimes writing is super hard. But don’t freak out! The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get your butt in the chair and write. Even if you stare at a blank screen for an hour, you’re still doing more work than you would otherwise. Keep plugging along and we guarantee that you won’t regret it.
It’s Also About the Journey
It’s important to recognize that not everyone finishes NaNoWriMo successfully. In fact, we’d say that the majority of people don’t actually get to 50,000 words by the end of November. And that’s okay! Sure, it would be great to emerge triumphantly with a perfectly finished novel. But the end word count isn’t always the point. Even if you officially ‘fail’ NaNoWriMo, you’ve probably written way more than you would have otherwise. Or maybe you’ve finally figured out how you want to structure a novel that you’ve been mulling over for years. Maybe you’re simply inspired in a way that will carry over into December and January, until you finally have finished your project. Yes, it would be wonderful to complete all of NaNoWriMo (and we certainly believe you can do it!), but don’t forget that sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination.
Are you thinking of participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know how you’re planning on tackling the challenge!