Or, National Novel Writing Month.
Yes, I dove into the world of quick and dirty writing last year. A world where it doesn’t matter what you write so much as reaching your word count. 50k words in a month is intimidating. It was almost enough to deterr this late-comer from her plans of participating (I decided to in mid-October), but I’m so glad I went through with it. Not only did I have a blast, I walked away with the beginnings of a novel I love and tips and techniques for writing that I’m going to share with you.
1. Do your research
Ok, this seems like a no-brainer. Everyone knows that is you’re writing a story based in Paris you better learn something about the culture, including a few words if French. Sure, I knew it was important to plan and research ahead of time too. Did I do it? Not usually. My writing technique consisted more of getting that first draft down and researching later.
My advice: don’t do it. Just don’t. No matter how much of a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person you are, do a little research beforehand. Not only will it make the first draft smoother (thus making revisions easier), you won’t have to constantly be looking things up on Google. And then getting distracted by Facebook.
2. Set aside regular time to write
And I do mean every day. We’ve all heard this advice a million times, but again, if you’re like me, you don’t always listen. Not only does writing every day keep your creative juices flowing, thus making it easier to solve the problems that will inevitably come up in your story, it gets things done. Gasp! I shall repeat myself. You will get that first draft done.
Don’t think you can? Quit being a negative Nancy. Or Nathan. Whatever your case may be.
Don’t have time? I read somewhere that this is sometimes code for: “Its not a priority”. I mean, how often do we find ourselves procrastinating or scrolling through the endless Facebook feed? Make writing a priority and I guarantee you’ll find time.
3. No, your first draft is not publisher-ready.
No matter how brilliant or how caffeine fueled that first draft is, it will need to be revised. And revised. And revised. But not right away. When you finish that first draft, you’re on a writer’s high. You’re in love. That draft can do no wrong. Asking you to tear it up with that red pen would be like asking you to point out your lover’s faults.
So set it aside for a couple of weeks. I actually stepped away from mine for a month before coming back to revise. The result? I had a much more critical eye when reviewing the mess I spewed onto the pages in November. The “in love” feeling had faded enough to let my inner editor do it’s job. Plus I was able to relax through the hectic Christmas holiday.
4. That being said, sometimes you need to turn off your inner editor
I have a strong inner editor, meaning during the whole NaNo experience I had to ignore it’s screams to fix things. If I listened to it, I probably wouldn’t have completed the challenge. I would have got stuck revising, which is my downfall. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve started only to get stuck editing and then get discouraged, because if it was good, I wouldn’t have to edit it this much, right?
Editing is a part of writing, but it comes later. First, get those words in all of their imperfect brilliance onto the page. Then, work on finding the diamonds in those words. They’re in there, I promise. Be patient with yourself. Perfection doesn’t happen over night. I found that this approach is super helpful in allowing me to relax and finish that first draft.
5. Don’t give up
If you love what you’re writing, don’t quit. Not only will no one else ever be able to love it like you do, but then you won’t have that experience of pushing through the tough stuff. Its like an athlete. They have to train and push in order to get better.
Has a plot thread got you stuck? Try brainstorming with a supportive friend. Characters not behaving like you want? Try letting them go and see what happens. Got writer’s block? Go for a walk and clear your head.
Trust yourself. You’re writing because of a burning passion you can’t ignore. Don’t let the tough stuff stop you. Where would we be if Suzanne Collins stopped because she didn’t know how to get Katniss and Peeta out together?
In a world without The Hunger Games. That’s where. And that would be a sad, sad place.