November is for novels | The Write Way to Celebrate National Novel Writing Month | Free sharing
This article is taken from our Land + Lake magazine, fall 2021 edition.
The novel as an art form may not be the cultural engine it once was, but it is far from a dead medium. According to Publishers Weekly, overall book sales increased 8.2% in 2020, much of which was fiction novels for young adults, juveniles and adults. Many people, even those who don’t consider themselves to be a writer, have often dreamed of writing a book someday. It is for these people, and these endlessly procrastinating future scribes, that National Novel Writing Month was created.
The challenge for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (Nan-oh-rye-moe) for short, is to have, by the end of November, written a 50,000 word novel, or at least have a beginning of 50. 000 words on a longer piece. This works out to about 1,677 words per day, which may seem like an impossible number if your current average is equal to or less than the number of words in your full name.
But that’s part of the supposed fun and beauty of NaNoWriMo. Your book doesn’t have to be good. In fact, it is almost guaranteed not to be. But a poorly written book is infinitely better than no book at all. You can rework, tweak, and revise a bad story, but not if it only exists in your head. NaNoWriMo is all about setting a goal and sprinting towards it as creatively and consistently as possible, with the only opponent being yourself.
If you’re up for the challenge, here are some helpful tips to get you started as well as some inspiration to keep you going:
1. Start planning now.
Hope you read this before November. Now is the time to start solidifying your favorite project from a single sprig of idea into a solid story. Even if you think of yourself as a “pants”, someone writing by the seat of their pants without any planning, due to the challenge ahead, an outline would more than likely be prudent. Having something to watch and to refer to can help you avoid the dreaded writer’s block and can still go where the story takes you on the path to your hopefully satisfying conclusion.
John Grisham, author of over 40 books, said: “A sketch is crucial. It saves so much time… you have to know where you are going because you have to leave little clues along the way. Another best-selling author, Stephen King, avoids outlines and prefers to jump into a story without knowing where it may end. “Sketches are the last resource for bad fiction writers who wish God would write master’s theses,” he said. However you go about it, the more fleshed out your story is up front, the easier it will be to stay on track.
2. Set a designated time and place to write each day.
“A writer who expects ideal conditions to work will die without putting a word on paper,” said EB White, author of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” He made sure to write at the time and place without any distractions, even the minor ones. Hunter S. Thompson, as the legend goes, wouldn’t start writing until midnight after a full day of using various narcotics and drugs (which is officially not recommended). King said he liked to write in the morning after a short walk. He doesn’t stop until he gets 2,000 on paper.
Most writers have a set schedule, and it’s usually early in the morning or late at night, when concentration is at an all-time high and distractions are minimal. Get up an hour early if you have to or forgo an episode of your nighttime TV show before bed and cast those 1,677 words in a quiet, preferably secluded place.
3. Deactivate the internal editor.
Don’t back down. It can be hard not to hit backspace or jot down a word when a typo is so glaring, especially when it has a wavy red line underneath. But to achieve that state of pure flow, where words seem to spring from you, you have to do your best to keep moving forward. Any pause, even a moment to fix a comma, can disrupt that precious momentum and make those 1,677 words last all day.
4. Find inspiration where you can get it.
“Water for Elephants”, by Sara Gruan, was a novel by NaNoWriMo. It has sold a lot of copies and has been adapted for cinema. And that’s not the only NaNoWriMo success story. While monetary gain is probably unlikely, you never know if you don’t try. If that isn’t enough to motivate you, you may need outside help.
Find inspiration in the books, TV or movies you love. Read a lot, if you can. King said if you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools you need to write. It can be difficult to set aside even more time for reading if you are already adjusting your schedule to accommodate everyday writing. But even a page or two can be helpful. Additionally, audiobooks are a good option for reading on the go.
“The person, whether it is a gentleman or a lady, who has no pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid. – Jane Austen
5. Get moral support and don’t give up! Whether this is your first time participating in NaNoWriMo or you are more experienced, chances are you will miss at least a day. In this case, it’s best to pick up where you left off and continue with 1,677 words the next day. If you try to overtake to make up for a missed day, you will burn out quickly. Remember, this is not about perfection.
Another reason NaNoWriMo was formalized was to create a community movement that everyone involved can benefit from. Ideally, the best support might be a writer friend or family member who also takes up the challenge or a local writers group, like Word Weavers Sand Mountain. In the absence of that, there are plenty of online communities devoted solely to the November writing challenge. Use others to keep you motivated as well as to keep you honest and on track with word count.
Hopefully these tips will help keep you motivated and on track during all the football weekends, campfires, and of course Thanksgiving with the family (remember there are no days leave).
Maybe you will find that you love to write and continue to work on this novel. Don’t be afraid to let others read it and give their opinion. Or maybe you won’t write another word until next November. But by the end of the challenge, even if you missed a few days, jumped into the story, didn’t stick to your plan, you’ll still have accomplished something worth being proud of.