Guest post by ERICA ROOT
Writing a book is an overwhelming endeavor. Writing your FIRST novel, even more so.
So what’s an aspiring author to do? What’s the best way to overcome that insurmountable hurdle?
My answer: Sign up for NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is exactly what it sounds like. A one-month period dedicated to intensive writing. If you keep up with the daily word count — 1,667 WORDS A DAY, to be exact – you will have a 50,000-word novel at the end of the month.
It’s exactly that little push needed to put pen to paper, or more likely fingers to keyboard, and get writing.
If you have dabbled with the idea of writing a book, NaNoWriMo might be a good option to jumpstart the process.
Here are a few things you should know:
- NaNoWriMo values quantity over quality. I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times, and only once hit that 50,000-word mark. My first two failed attempts I spent a significant time going back and rereading what I had already written. If you are writing every day, you should know where you’ve left off. Rereading is a time suck. Get to the writing, get those words in. The time for editing is not now.
- There is a community of authors and other writers to support you. Writing is an isolating endeavor. Knowing that there is a community of friends, neighbors, and strangers all working toward a common goal is a powerful motivator. When you go to the website you have a wealth of information and inspiration at your fingertips. While you might have a lot of enthusiasm on day one, you might hit a slump come day 10. Utilize these resources and figure out a way to build them into your writing time. Are you going to spend 5 minutes readying the latest email from a popular author and then dive into your daily writing? Will you post your accomplishments on a community board? Will you be a lurker? Reading and not partaking in the discussion boards? Because that’s OK too. Figure out how to make the site work for you.
- Getting ahead is easier than catching up. If you have a two-day conference in LA scheduled during November then you have a few options available to you: you could say you will make the time to write while you are at the conference (but we ALL know you won’t), you could get ahead and write more in the days leading up to the conference, or you could play catch up once you are safe and sound when you get back home. I recommend getting ahead, because feeling like you need to play catch up is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to staying on track during NaNoWriMo. Suddenly 1,667 words a day turns into 3,334 words you need to write to be on track. As that number grows, your confidence in getting the project done plummets. So, stay ahead, stay above water, because you are treading ALL month long.
My top 3 tips for hitting your goal:
- Create a network of accountability. You are more likely to succeed in an endeavor if you have a plan and share that plan with others. Me, writing this article, will give me a much better chance of success this November. The first and only time I completed NaNoWriMo I actually emailed my daily writing to a few trusted people. This tactic worked great for me. People expected the writing, gave positive feedback (that’s the only kind of feedback allowed at this stage), and placed the requisite amount of pressure on me to get those 1,667 words down.
- Create a Space to Write. A few years ago, I bought this beautiful tiffany-blue desk from Cost Plus World Market. This is my writing space. I only use the desk to get work done and writing a novel in a month is – obviously – a whole lot of work. But I know when I go to the desk that I need to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by shiny objects or squirrels. A sound track is helpful in creating your space as well. I’m partial to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack, the Kiera Knightly version, which is available on YouTube. Yes, I listen to music on YouTube, but that’s a discussion for another day.
- Plan What You Are Going to Write. You don’t need to have the whole story map written out before you get started on this journey. In fact, that’s not really recommended. However, spending the first 5-10 minutes of the day mapping out what you are going to write about THAT DAY is immensely helpful. Of course, you can always begin the planning process in October or earlier.
Things that don’t work:
- Editing instead of reading. Didn’t I tell you not to edit? See above.
- Saying you will just “browse the internet for a few minutes” before you start writing. The internet is a tempting siren, desperately trying to lure you away from writing. So turn off your internet access, go to your designated writing space, or a coffee shop without free Wi-Fi, and get to work.
- Maintaining a Social Life. Maintaining a social life is hard to do if you take on this challenge. If you really want to be successfully and hit the target 50,000 words, you have two options: become a recluse or surround yourself with friends who are also participating in NaNoWriMo. The latter works really well for me.
Whether you are a professional writer or are just curious about what it would be like to write a book, this month-long challenge is great option to kick start those creative juices.
Compressing the book writing process into a one-month period suddenly makes it feel much more manageable.
So, if you are serious about taking on NaNoWriMo, do yourself a favor, figure out how you are going to build it into your life and make it happen.
Erica Root is a Sacramento-based public affairs professional who spends her free time reading, writing and chasing her perpetually energetic puppy, Teddy. You can read more about Erica’s thoughts on travel, reading, and her worldly stuffed panda at: asquarerootinaroundworld.com