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Monday, 11 November 2013

Write a novel in November?

November is National Novel Writing Month. You know, NaNoWriMo – which doesn’t really trip off the tongue. Still, it isn’t a speaking competition, it’s a writing competition – write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. And those days are calendar days – 1 to 30 November. You sign up and aim for that goal.

Prolific author Kristine Kathryn Rusch
has something to say about it, and it’s very valid: see her excellent blog

My take on it is very much along Kristine’s lines. The competition is useful for budding writers, in that it sets them a goal, with a target of writing 1,665 or so words per day (no tempting fate with 666, unless it’s a horror novel).

Broken down like that, it isn't a lot of words for a full working day (which is understood to be 8 hours), so it should be a doddle. Of course many who enter NaNoWriMo happen to have day jobs, a family, commitments, a life, so squeezing that word target into each 24-hour day can be problematical.

Discipline is the answer. Set a time slot for each day. Use a spreadsheet, if necessary, to keep track. As I advocate in Write a western in 30 Days, log in on the spreadsheet the time you begin each writing session, and log out the time when you conclude that session. If you commit to more than one session per day, fine, maybe you’re ahead of the game. For my ‘30 Days’ I didn’t stipulate calendar days but 30 x 8-hour sessions (though the sessions can be broken down into smaller time slices, to allow for life getting in the way).

If you don’t employ discipline, forget it. And that’s what happens with many who begin this competition – they fall by the wayside. Life intrudes. Writing isn’t all that important, the story doesn’t grip them, the characters are not speaking inside their heads. The writers who don’t finish might have good reasons or, quite simply,  they might not be driven.

Successful writers are driven to write – not only in November, but every month of the year. They might even produce a book – or half a book – every month, too. Because they exert discipline.

What NaNoWriMo can do is provide the groundwork for the future; the discipline to finish . Yes, shout from the rooftops when you’ve completed a novel (in the competition or not), because that is an excellent achievement. There are thousands who start but never quite finish. You’re not one of those.

When you’ve completed the NaNoWriMo novel, go over it again and again, self-editing, being a stern critic before even considering sending it off or getting it self-published. Of course by the time you’ve completed the novel, shouted it from the rooftops, you’re plotting the next one… and so it goes. Because, as Kristine says, writing a novel isn’t a once-a-year event, it’s a part of your daily life.



Pat Dilloway said...

I've got 25,500 words so far.

Nik said...

That's great, Pat - halfway in words, well ahead of the game in time! Keep going - and I know you will!