Tomorrow begins National Novel Writing Month, a time-honored tradition for hundreds of thousands of writers. Last week I dealt with preparations; this week, goals shift to the forefront.
The scariest part of embarking on writing 50,000 words in a month (1600+ a day) is the stress you force on yourself and the guilt if you do not meet those self-imposed goals.
Forget the Word-Count-Goal
The best possible result engineered during the month of November is this: Write Every Day.
Writers discuss the importance of writing every day, debate whether the premise is necessary or just another self-imposed stress builder. I set up my tent in the camp that writing each day is imperative. Of course, take a day off occasionally, take a vacation; no problem, but other than those rare instances, create each day—it helps keep the muse busy producing, and that’s exactly what you want. The caveat of writing each day is not necessarily the number of words produced, but the improvement that is the natural outpouring of daily creation.
If you currently write every day, TERRIFIC—set your goals at increasing your daily output. Sadly, many writers do not even schedule the necessary time for writing.
For those who do not write every day, make doing so your only goal. It doesn’t matter if you write 300 words, 500, or a 1,000 words a day—just sit at the keyboard and pound out words each day in November. Do not beat yourself up that you only dredged up 212 words; it’s okay as long as you write something other than a grocery list each of November’s 30 days.
A Word of Warning
Much of your writing will be crap. That’s okay, and expected. Do Not be concerned, and most importantly, DO NOT EDIT during November—that will come later. I believe that revision is the key to producing publishable copy, whether a novel or short story, or anything for that matter. I also believe that the first draft’s purpose is to draw from your head the ideas, characters, and plot of the story, and turn those into something tangible, either on paper or a file on the computer. You cannot make writing better until it is in story-form that you can see.
So, during November, just write. While I’m in my first draft and I come to a problem or question, I type
and keep typing. This tells me I need something here (often a transition between scenes), or I will type **Research** if I need to look up information to add credibility to a particular facet of the novel. In the same way, I use underlines ( _________ ) if a character appears that does not have a name; each of these markings are easily identifiable when I sit down to revise.
I promise this: If you develop the habit of writing each day during November, you will improve your skills while producing a body of work you would not have ordinarily completed. If you love writing (and you better because it is hard work), this is the best gift you can give yourself, and don’t let anybody discourage you.
Tomorrow, begin anew and start the habit—a hundred stories await your telling.
See you on the next page,
This Week’s Writing Quote:
“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” Zadie Smith