Saturday, October 11, 2008

From Zero to Novel in One Month

Writers, start revving those keyboards now. November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, just a few weeks away. The month to write by the seat of your pants starting November 1 and not stop until the end of the day on November 30 (yes, it’s a Sunday, that’s beside the point). To participate, just set your brain to stream-of-consciousness mode, place your fingers on your keyboard (I sometimes like a paper first draft, but not this month) and write. Silence the inner critic and save the editing for later. The objective of this month is to get as much down in your first draft as possible, like a monthlong timed writing session. As the NaNoWriMo site cautions: “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing.”
Why is it a good thing? Because writing without over-planning can unlock some new story lines you might not have anticipated. Because in truth, all first drafts suck – the real story comes out in revision. So plan on using December to revise. After a short break, of course, to lend perspective. And to allow you time to recover from the post-NaNoWriMo party.
According to the NaNoWriMo site, 101,510 writers participated in 2007, with 15,333 “winners,” or writers who uploaded at least 50K to the site for verification.
But the goal is not to “win” (although they do send a certificate and Web badge). The writer’s goal is much more personal. At the end of the month, you’ll have enough words toward a good start of a novel, if not a full 50,000-word draft. (What publishers are looking for 50k novel, I wonder?) And even if you only end up with half that, it’s still a good start. It’s 25,000 words you didn’t have down before. When you break it down by day, it seems much less daunting. To reach 50,000, you need only write 1667 words a day for 30 days. Less than 2k a day! Hey, that’s not so scary.
In past years, I had many excuses not to participate – my kids were too needy, my job sucked between 40-60 hours a week from my life, I had no story ideas. This year, my kids are old enough to fend for themselves (in theory, at least), I count myself among the nation’s jobless, and my only remaining problem is: which story idea do I choose? So 2008 will be my first year.
Or, if you’d rather perfect the fine art of procrastination, check out Leigh Michaels’ article, The Top 11 Ways Not to Write Your Book.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

Hi Cate! I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago and ended up with the first story of a planned series. It was both one of the hardest and best things I ever did. I won't be doing NaNo this year as I need to concentrate on finishing the WIP I'm doing now, but I plan to let NaNo drive my pace as though I were doing it for real.

Cate Masters said...

That's great, Julia! That's the only goal, really - to end up with more words than you might have otherwise. I've never been good with setting goals, so I'm hoping it'll keep me on task!

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Cate, thanks for visiting the Vixens blog! I'm so glad you're doing NaNo, and yes, please add me as a writing buddy -- my ID is Helen Hardt. Anyone else out there reading Cate's blog and doing NaNo, please add me. The more buddies you have tracking your progress, the more motivated you'll be. My CP and I did NaNo last year and we both made the 50K goal, so it is doable!