This year, I’m participating in a sort of “team challenge” for NaNoWriMo. In late October, people signed up to be on teams based on the age range and genre they’re writing for. Our collective word count is averaged every week, and at the end of November, the team who wrote the most will win some prizes. We have a group chat where we talk about problems we’re having and try to motivate each other. In this discussion, there seem to be some common themes, so I thought I’d address those in case any of you are having the same issues.
- I started in the wrong place and I’m getting to the inciting incident too quickly/not quickly enough! Okay first things first, what you’re writing is a very, very rough first draft. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page, not writing The Perfect Novel™ on the first pass. Just keep going. When NaNoWriMo is over, you can always go back and add more before the inciting incident or remove some material before it.* Don’t get too caught up going back and revising before you’re done, or you’ll never move forward.
- I’m writing too much, and revisions are going to take forever! Wow you must be writing a lot if you’re having this issue – that’s awesome! Someone on my team had a great suggestion for this: if you feel like you’re over-writing, let it happen. It’s going to stunt your work if you try to edit as you’re writing. So, rather than going back and deleting words during NaNoWriMo (thus losing precious word count pennies), instead put things you think may be too much in [brackets]. Then, at the end of the month, or whenever you finish this draft, you can go back and easily delete these if you need to with a simple “find” function.* Again, don't worry about revisions until it's time to revise.
- The scenes are out of order! I’ve already written two scenes that I know are in the wrong place in the manuscript, but I made the decision not to adjust them yet. Why? Because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three weeks. Right now, it feels like things are happening out of order, but maybe next week it’ll turn out that those scenes are exactly where they need to be. So unless that one scene being a few chapters early is throwing your manuscript completely off the rails in an Unstoppable-style train wreck, at the very least, you’ve written the scenes, and that’s something.
- I feel like I’m already running out of things to write! Say it with me: That’s okay. Fifty thousand words is the approximate length of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Speak, and The Notebook, among many other popular books. Think about the size of those books in your hands. It’s a lot. It’s more words than a lot of us write in a year, and we’re trying to squeeeeeze out all those words in thirty days. It’s hard work, and it’s okay to get tired. Even if you had a perfect outline and character sheets to rival the most hardcore Dungeons and Dragons players, nothing compares to actually sitting down to write 1,700 words every day for thirty days. It’s okay to get tired, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to not hit fifty thousand words by the end of November. No matter how many words you wrote, you did something amazing.
*If you’re deleting scenes, remember to save them somewhere else in case you want them back later. I have a dedicated Word document just for tidbits of scenes and chapters I had to cut, and I highly recommend it.
I hope some of this has been helpful! Let us know if you have other NaNoWriMo successes or...un-successes. And don’t forget to back. that. draft. up.