It’s Opening Day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it’s a day that usually fills agents with dread. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write an entire novel in a month. It’s basically a month-long cram session, only there is no final exam. The reason agents get antsy about it is because once November is over, December queries pile up with hastily written novels from hundreds of eager writers. And right in the middle of the holiday season when we’re all trying to clean out our inboxes, no less!
Personally, I think NaNoWriMo is great. It’s completely unnecessary and necessary at the same time. In my head, it’s no different than holidays like Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving. Sure, we should always show the person we love that we appreciate them and yes, we should always be thankful for what we have. And how many of us have used “but it’s my birthday!” to have an excuse to do something out of character or take an expensive trip or just get all of your friends in one place when life interrupts other plans?
Just like writers should always be working on their next novel, sometimes we need something like NaNoWriMo to get us to just sit down and write. It’s easy to take time for granted (it is infinite, after all), so creating days to specifically set aside for what we should be doing year-round is a good way to make sure nothing else can get in the way.
To have a successful NaNoWriMo, remember these things:
1) Take it seriously. This is your excuse to finally finish that novel you’ve been “meaning to get to.” Don’t waste it. Set a word count goal for each day, and don’t go to sleep until you reach that goal.
2) Don’t expect what you write to be brilliant. See above. As long as you reach your goal, then you’re golden. Don’t worry about plot holes, character continuity, or whether the prose is even pleasing to read. Just write.
3) Push yourself to go further. One of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to have a “50,000 word novel by the end of the month.” That is not a long novel. If you’re writing a YA or adult novel, you’ll need to add 10K-30K to that amount. Don’t do the bare minimum just to reach the goal of the project. Reach your own goal.
4) Be smart with revisions. You just ran a marathon. Rest before you start over again. Try not to even think about whatever it is you just wrote in November (you were probably blacked out half the time anyway). Sometime in the first two weeks of December, read it from start to finish and see which parts need revising. Try not to do more than simple copy-editing while reading it over. Then once you get a feel for the entire scope of the novel, take another month, or longer, to go into heavier revisions.
5) Have a life. Eat, sleep, go out, play with your kids, be a normal functioning human. As we already established, the Great American Novel will not be ready by December 1st. NaNoWriMo is just your way of getting it all down on paper. So enjoy your life and don’t let it consume you.
And finally, Be Smart About Querying. This is a race to get your novel written, not a race to get it published. Treat it the way you would anything else you’ve written. Research which agents would like your genre, what their guidelines are, and which agents are open to submission (remember holidays seasons and even early January are typical “closed to queries” months for many agents).
Are any of my readers participating in NaNoWriMo this month? What are your plans for reaching your goals?
Happy writing, everyone!