Should a book be written in a slow burn, or one focused burst?
That’s one question many writers mull over this time every year. In two weeks NaNoWriMo begins (National Novel Writer’s Month), a one month race to 50,000 words. For many writers this is more than they write in a year, and yet it’s a tempting goal, especially for someone just starting out.
I’ve tried NaNo three times technically, though I only ever met the goal last year. In addition to thanksgiving, my anniversary and my wife’s birthday are in that month. I won’t be participating this year, in large part because I’ve been doing a sprint on another book throughout the last six months and could use the breather. But for those who are considering it I thought I’d offer a few brief tips:
1) Word counts don’t increase overnight – NaNo requires you be able to write an average of 1667 words a day (in my case I needed 2000 since I was losing a number of days). Even if you blog every day, that’s probably only 500-600 words. You need to build up to 1667 slowly, writing for a month at 800 words a day, then kicking it up another 100 words or so. That’s why October isn’t the best month to decide if you’re doing NaNo this year or not. It’s like running a marathon without any training.
2) Make it as easy as possible to write – For me this means giving up the romantic notion of writing a novel on paper. Typing is simply faster, and with a small laptop computer or a tablet you can write pretty much wherever you are.
3) Do it in an hour – It may seem crazy to write 1667 words in only an hour, but unless you have the ability to take a lot of time away from friends, family or work, this is the longest reasonable period of time you can add to each day of a month. Again, it’s certainly possible to write at this pace, but it takes training.
4) Use NaNo for whatever you want – It doesn’t have to be a fresh project, it can just be a burst of drafting on a current project. NaNo is a great kick in the shorts for getting a first draft done. Just make sure you take on board that it is a draft, one that will need revising before sending it anywhere.
5) You don’t have to do it in November – In fact in the long run you shouldn’t. Writing at a sustained, steady, yet prolific pace is something that is valuable any time of year. With self-publishing and eBooks a lot of the secret to success seems to be getting a lot out there (as long as it’s good). If November doesn’t work for you, try April or June.
6) Writing in Groups is fun but slower – Get whatever you want out of socializing with other writers. NaNo is a great time to encourage this communication. But realize that this time is either adding to the amount of time you’re taking away from each day, or cutting your writing time even shorter. Choose a few focused events rather than always trolling the forums.
7) If at first you don’t succeed – You guessed it.
Good luck to anyone who tries this year. I have a feeling I’ll be joining you soon.