In some ways preparing for the write-a-thon that is NaNoWriMo is a bit like preparing for an important race, like a marathon. Not that you’d find me out running every day, but with a target number of words a day around 1,700, you do need to prepare for the race if you haven’t been doing it all along. And I haven’t.
I started trying to discipline myself to write every day and work on the word count. Let me start by saying, I do write every day, just not on my novel. I have written something just about every day of my life from age eight on. I’ve written short stories, poetry, newsletters, articles, training manuals, and business proposals. If you count getting paid to write manuals, regulations and training modules as professional writing, then I am a professional writer. It’s the creative writing that has lagged behind over the years.
When trying to write over a thousand words a day, the trick may be to turn off the internal editor that wants to polish the writing, choose just the right words and linger over the phrasing. It may be to allow the purely creative force to freely let the words flow to capture the framework of your story. So much easier said than done. Just for example, I paused and changed three words in what I just typed there before continuing to the next sentence. I stopped to re-read what I had just written, looking to see if it could be written better.
To try to unleash this creative process, I started trying to write every day on my current work in progress, O’Ceagan’s Legacy with an eye to getting as much done on it as I can before starting the new novel on November 1st. I also wanted to see if I can actually write 1,700 words in a day consistently over the month. So far, it’s been up and down. I have done and exceeded the word count several times in the last 10 days, but I have also missed dismally, clocking in with a paltry 368 words one day, but topping out with 3,299 on another day. The average is good overall and if I can do that while in the challenge, I should be able to make that 50,000 word count goal.
Are all the words good? No, of course not. Sometimes you just want to get down the thoughts and the flow of the scenes and not let that editor slide in to search for just the right phrasing. That will come in the second and third edits.
What you actually write during this kind of writing isn’t a polished novel, but a very rough first draft that will be refined over the next few months to one that will be worthy of being published. At least, that’s the goal.
If you’re like me and writing a novel has taken over a year for the first draft, then learning to give the creative side the freedom to flow for even 1,500 words a day is a big breakthrough in your writing.