Itchy Bitesized 19: How Not To Commit Writerly Adultery
Itchy Bitesized 21: Three Thoughts About "Breaking the Fourth Wall"

Itchy Bitesized 20: Make it to the NaNoWriMo Finish Line

Today is 1st November, and all round the globe writers of every kind and every degree of experience and talent are embarking on National Novel Writing Month. The general idea - as explained on the NaNoWriMo website - is to spend November writing a novel of 50,000 words. (OK, for most genres that's a bit short, but the whole idea of NaNo is not to get stuck in the nitpicks). The website has articles and blogs full of advice, and forums offering support, fellowship and more advice from fellow-NaNoers. There are places to log your wordcount if that's your thing, and if it is and you make it over the finishing line, you can download a certificate.

I have writing friends who use NaNo, rather as others use #100daysofwriting, as an extra push-cum-support for any kind of writing project, but this post is about the classic NaNo goal of first-drafting a new novel.

PublicDomainPictures abstract-164329 Pixabay1) Remember "don't get it right, get it written". 1,670 words a day (all right, 1,666.66 recurring) really isn't so much, if the only quality standard those words need to meet is that they'll do as placeholders now for the right words later. If a writing evening is two and a half hours, that's less that 670 words an hour. A shade under a minute is plenty of time for thinking up one good-enough-for-now word, I'd say. 

2) It doesn't have to be a "good" draft, let alone a good novel, because the value of this approach is to "build up, rather than tearing down", as the website puts it. Tearing bits down and rebuilding them can wait till December, when you know what kind of novel this crazy first draft needs to be. This first draft is what you write for yourself, to find out what the story actually is.

3) Microplanning is your friend even if planning beforehand isn't. This is one of several ideas I've taken from Rachel Aaron's entirely brilliant blog* about how she went from a "mere" 2,000 words a day to 10,000. Microplanning is about working out exactly what happens in just the next few pages, and you can do it while pushing the pram, swimming lengths, waiting for the bus, or in the first five minutes of a writing session. Having worked out the next couple of links in your causally-related chain of events, actually clothing them in good-enough words is relatively quick work.

4) Don't be afraid to go off-piste. Whether it's just that halfway through the evening that you realise the microplan you made while cooking the supper is the wrong ending for the scene, or that on 15th November you realise that your main character's best friend is the real MC of your story, the momentum of writing NaNo-style has a way of leaving space for your intuitive sense of story to speak its truth to you. If that happens, because it's NaNo and you don't want to go into reverse, I'd suggest spending a little time thinking what that means for where the story's headed, making a few notes about what you would need to change in the already-written sections, and then keeping going as if you had actually made those changes.

5) It's only a month. When you've chose to stay in the mode of crazy first drafts and planning by the seat of your pants, it's easier to shut up your mental censor. OK, so the new idea seems silly or the way it's playing out could land you in trouble - but it's only a month. Why not just run with it?

6) It's also only a month's delay on gym sessions, departmental pub crawls, Christmas shopping, highlights growing out, car maintenance and dental check-ups. And ironing, of course. 

7) If you're really mired in stuckness, take a writing session or two to try some of my remedies for writer's block.

8) Whatever happens you'll learn something, if only that NaNoWriMo is so not your thing (which at leasts gives you an answer when helpful friends say, "Have you tried NaNo?".). More usefully, you could spend the 1st December journalling about what you've learnt from doing NaNo about

  1. this story
  2. writing this story
  3. storytelling
  4. your writing self
  5. your writing process.

That's a lot of learning. Why not give it a go?


I blogged in more detail about Rachel Aaron's blog here.

Image credit: Public Domain Images at Pixabay