NaNoWriMo and Beyond!
If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, chances are you’ve just hit the “what was I thinking” mode. Here are five survival tips to keep you going:
1) The mnemonic reminds us that “Thirty days has November.” At this point, only eighteen. Surely your family (or your single self) can survive a few more days on frozen dinners, fast food drive-thru fare, and canned soup. Don’t waste your precious writing time on the mundane.
2) Claim your space and your time. To quote Gandolf, “None shall pass!” If you were running marathons or inventing something noxious smelling in your basement, those annoying people in your life wouldn’t be bothering you right now. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. There will be plenty of time for socializing and family life in December.
3) Sometimes the words flow, and you’re in the zone. Other times each word must be yanked out of your brain with a rusty pair of pliers. This is normal. Keep writing, and the words will eventually flow again. Remember that that this is the roughest draft imaginable. Resist the urge to polish. Send your internal editor on vacation for the month. Your NaNo idea will seem stupid at some point, and a dozen better ideas will present themselves. Jot those ideas on a Post-It note, but finish this story.
4) Don’t set your expectations too high. It is more likely that a chimpanzee with recreate the works of Shakespeare on a typewriter (to borrow from the Infinite Monkey theory) than it is that this month will reward you with a publishable novel. More likely you will just be getting closer to the million words, or ten thousand hours, depending on the philosophy you follow, that are required before you become a good writer.
5) There is no failure. If you don’t hit the 50,000 words, you still did more writing than typical. Don’t beat yourself up.
And if you survive NaNoWriMo? According to David Eddings, “A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.” How long does it take? If you only write during NaNoWriMo, and assuming you hit the goal of 50,000 words every year, it will take you twenty years to reach the million word goal. And assuming you could write 24 hours a day for the entire 30 days, you would only be 720 hours toward Malcolm Gladwell’s “magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Obviously, National Novel Writing Month is just a jumping off point. You have some momentum going now. Keep writing!
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