National Novel Writing Month takes place every year in November. The idea is to write at least 50,000 words of an original novel, which can be tracked on the NaNoWriMo website. Once you hit the 50,000 words, you “win.” Winning mostly means bragging rights, but also discounts on some cool writer tools. More than anything, NaNoWriMo is about getting a pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to a keyboard) and just writing.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well… I’ve had a NaNoWriMo account for 8 years according to their website. This is the first year I’ve actually completed a novel. Actually, I was so excited about hitting the 50,000 word mark for the first time that I wrote two. That’s 100,000 words in one month. The crazy thing about this, after so many years of barely hitting 20,000? 100,000 felt easy this time.
So, since I’ve tried and failed on this journey so many times and finally, finally succeeded… I thought I would write a few pieces of advice for accomplishing your writing (or creating in general) goals.
1. Make time, but don’t force it.
Write when you’re inspired. If you’re sitting down watching TV and have a great idea, just open up your laptop and get to it. Conversely, if you have a deadline for work, or have had a really long day, don’t force yourself to write. There were days that I wrote nothing, and then days that I wrote upwards of 7,000 words.
2. Don’t over plan.
Now, this might not apply to everyone, because we all work differently. I found that in years that I attempted to hit that 50,000 word mark and failed, I was over planning what I was going to write. I went in with too specific of an idea, too many outlines, and not enough inspiration. This year I had no plan at all, and for some reason the words just kept coming.
3. What rules?
The beauty of a program like NaNoWriMo is that it’s really about inspiring people to write rather than dictating what they write. While it’s certainly called “National Novel Writing Month,” you could certainly use it as an excuse to write something else that’s been on your mind. My first 50,000 words this year were for a novel, but my second 50,000 were for a memoir that I’ve been wanting to write for years. (Shoutout to my friend Angela Sauer, a fellow NaNoWriMo winner, for inspiring the memoir idea!)
4. Forget Perfection.
One thing I love about NaNoWriMo’s setup is that once you finish your novel during the month, you then make a “promise” to edit it. This is a great thing to remember. You’re not writing a finished piece of work, you’re just getting your story on paper. You can always go back and edit later.
5. Community will pull you through.
There are so many groups who organize “speed writing” evenings, and parties dedicated to supporting people who are trying to hit their 50,000 words. This is a good reminder of how important community can be when working on a project. Just to know that many others have the same goal and are supporting you, whether by using a hashtag on Twitter or meeting as a group to write in a coffee shop.
I think these concepts can be applied to almost any project, and I’m hoping to implement them myself on my “to do list” projects coming up. Also? In true actress “plan something and you’ll book something” fashion, I also shot a film this month. A good reminder that having multiple things on your plate usually entices the universe to give you even more!
Did any of your participate in NaNoWriMo 2015? I’d love to hear about what you wrote!