What I Wish I’d Known for my First Nano

It’s November 2nd, and all around the world writers and their families have divided emotions.  On the one hand, they’re sure to feel excitement, the thrill of the adventure in writing tingling through their veins.  The clean white pages await, and the month’s potential is limitless.

On the other hand, they may feel a sense of impending doom, even dread.  Will the dishes reach the ceiling, this year?  Will the children (of all ages) be reduced to scrounging week old pizza from the back of the fridge?  Will the writer be caught sneaking word counts in while pretending to work, drive, and socialize?  What will be the price of this Nano?

As savvy readers are sure to know, November is also National Novel Writing Month, and thousands (hundreds of thousands) of writers use Nano each year to write a fresh new draft, or, if not officially nanoing, edit and rewrite an existing manuscript.  It may seem a bit crazy…and that seeming may be a bit accurate, but it’s also great fun and an excellent way to tap into the larger writing community, to help a writer get the boost they need to get the words on paper and the book written.  So, here’s my helpful hints, or the things I wish I’d known before my first Nano:

  • Embrace the principle of ‘first get it down, then get it right’ with the understanding that ‘get it right’ will come after November is over.  If this is your first draft–and especially if this is your first novel–your goal should be to let the words flow onto the paper, without editing and certainly without critiquing.  The spirit of Nano is one which embraces creative leaping and cavorting rather than careful precision.
  • It’s also okay to go slow, or back up a bit and take a second run at a scene or plot point.  Yes, this appears to be a direct opposite of the tip above–but it really isn’t!  Some writers write slowly, and that’s okay!  If you’re the kind that needs to muse on the words a bit, don’t compare yourself to the writers who fly through the words.  Your pace is your pace just as your novel is your novel, and anyone who finishes, wins.  Embrace your way of writing–it’s just right for your novel and you.
  • Get up, move around, hug a friend or family member, and sneak a slice of pie.  In the obsession of the moment, these things may feel like distractions that you haven’t got time for.  You may even find yourself calculating all the words you could be writing, or feeling distracted during get togethers or non-writing activities.  A little distraction is okay–and I’ll get to why in a minute–but living in the moment and truly participating in the walk, the pie, etc. will help you come back to your writing with a brain and body refreshed.
  • If you’re going to have to spend the day away from your keyboard, look at where you’re going in your novel and what you’ve written.  Is there a scene which will call for a lot of description (and slow you down) that you could think about?  Is there a plot snarl building that you haven’t figured out yet?  Write down–on a sticky note, or bit of notepaper–what your question is.  For example, you might write: why does the king trust the conniving duke?  Then, carry the question around with you in your pocket.  Don’t actively try to think about it–just let your subconscious work, in the back of your brain, and see what it comes up with.  I guarantee that if you stay open to the idea and pose it to your brain as a question its supposed to answer, you’ll be further along with the solution when you come back to your book.
  • Enlist your family and friends, and don’t apologize for your mess.  This is your goal.  This is your dream.  It’s only one month.  Sit down with family and friends and tell them that your month is going to be crazy.  Figure out which commitments you can reasonably keep, and which you’re going to let slide or bail on.  Ask for their support, and let them be your team.  You might be surprised at how helpful even young children or distant co-workers can be.  And while yes, apologizing if you drop the ball on something you’ve said you’ll do is a good thing, you’re not apologizing for doing Nano.  You’re not apologizing for writing a book.  Embrace it, and odds are very good they’ll embrace it with you!

Have you ever done Nano?  What works for you, and what doesn’t work?  Do you think it’s an awesome idea and love it, or find the whole thing crazy?  I must confess…which camp I fall in to shifts around a bit.  It also may be directly correlated to the size of my dishes pile.

Happy Nanowrimo to all my writing friends out there, heading into the trenches, and a hug of solidarity to their friends and family!  It’s going to be a month to remember. 😀


3 comments to What I Wish I’d Known for my First Nano

  • Great tips. My favorite is sneaking a piece of pie. I’ve never done NaNo. It never worked with my schedule, and I don’t write fast enough.

  • Best of luck, Suzanne! I’ve never attempted NaNo, although my older son succeeded in his first attempt, while a senior in college and going through chemo at the same time. He achieved his 50K and was justifiably proud of the fact that he’d written a novel, but later admitted there were a lot of “filler” words (blah, blah, blah, etc).

    I’m one of those slow writers who need to muse a bit before moving on. That’s why I’m doing PiBoIdMo this year instead!

  • I hear you guys! I have come to the conclusion that the slower writers often get to the end goal of having a polished novel just as quickly, since their novels may require fewer drafts. So Natalie, I think that means you get to sneak a piece of pie, anyway. 😉

    Joanne tell your son I’m sending a very belated high five, as that is an impressive feat no matter how many ‘blah blahs’ he included! lol

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