November used to be one of my least favorite months. November is dull, dreary, gray, and, after a beautiful summer and fall, oh, so anti-climactic. And we all know what happens when the gales of November come early or the witch of November comes stealin’…
For me, all that has changed. I look forward to November all year long – not because of the bitter winds or the colorless landscape, but because I do NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, the time of year when writers young and old are issued a challenge to write 50,000 words (a short novel) in the month of November. This is accomplished by writing 1667 words a day for each of the 30 days in November, which is no small feat! Because it coincides with a slow time of year at my B&B and Tea House, it’s become my annual time of year to finish my work in progress. Because my novels average 95,000 or 100,000 words, that means I have the first 10 months of the year to write the first half of the book, and one short month to finish it.
The folks at NaNoWriMo recommend that for the month of November, you don’t take time to edit, rewrite or perfect. You just get the words on the paper, or in most cases, in your word processor. There’s plenty of time to get picky come December or January. Some people accomplish this mad blitz of writing by being highly organized and carefully plotting out each scene they intend to write. Others fly by the seat of their pants, dashing off anything that pops into their heads as it comes to them. Fresh, wild and unpredictable.
My own plan of attack when I start a book is to wing it for the first quarter of the book or however long it takes to give the characters a chance to talk to me about who they are and what they want. By the time I’m a quarter or a third of the way in, I know their stories, and have a clear idea of what needs to happen in the rest of the book. But as NaNoWriMo looms, I make out a list of scenes that need to be included and figure out what POV they will be in, so I know who the antagonist and protagonist are and what conflict will drive the scene. Then, when I have time to write, I can just pick a scene and go. A big part of NaNoWriMo is the discipline to write every day – a definite challenge for those of us with crazy or erratic schedules. My best writing time always used to be late at night, but lately, I find myself more alert and productive first thing in the morning. Then, if I can stay awake after whatever business the rest of my day holds, I try to write a little more at night. I always try to meet my daily word count, but there are days I just don’t have time because of other commitments. I write in larger chunks whenever I can to make up for those days.
As I said, for the past several years, I’ve attempted to have my next release half done by the time November rolls around in hopes of being finished with my rough draft by November 30. What a grand day of celebrating that is! I do my edits and rewrites in December-February so I can send the manuscript to my editor and publisher in March. They typically have it ready for release in June or July. For me, it’s a good rhythm. I wrote large portions of Love Notes, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet in November because of NaNoWriMo.
Some writers get involved with a local NaNo group that may meet at some public place or coffee shop for writing jags. Since I live in a small town / rural area and write at odd times of the night and day, often in my nightgown, I work alone. I do have some online NaNo buddies who act as cheerleaders and hold me accountable or inspire me if I get bogged down or discouraged. For me, the best part of NaNoWriMo is the little graph on my homepage that charts my progress. I love logging in to the NaNoWriMo website and entering my word count. I find the camaraderie, reminders and pep talks to be motivating.
I completed my task of writing 50K words for NaNoWriMo twice. Although I’ve fallen a little short of the word count the other times I’ve participated, I got way more written than I would have without NaNo, and thus, I feel like I accomplished my personal goals.
Whether you’re a new writer who’s always wanted to write a novel, or an experienced author who needs a jumpstart in your writing life, I urge you to give NaNoWriMo a try! You never know what might come from it… but it could be the next best-seller. Whatever the outcome, a little boost never hurts. Yes, this time of year can be a downer, but there’s no need to drown in the dismal seas of November. Let NaNoWriMo be your bright spot!