It’s November, which for many of us means it’s … National Novel Writing Month.
Exactly what is National Novel Writing Month? “It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing at the start of November with the goal of writing a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, Nov. 30.” That’s roughly 1, 667 words daily, about 6 to 7 pages a day.
Writing that many words is challenging, even exhilarating, but, at the same time, for people like me, daunting.
There are lots of reasons not to attempt National Novel Writing Month. I play them in my head even as I type my manuscript, but I also have solutions.
Maybe you’re of the same mind and that little voice of doubt nags in your head. With some helpful advice from Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem let’s tackle those concerns.
Chris, incidentally, is the founder of National Novel Writing Month.
1. I don’t know how to begin. I don’t have it all planned out. That’s OK. Sit down at the keyboard and type. "It’s fine just to start.” Footnote: “Making it up as you go along does NOT require you to be a gifted novelist.”
2. I don’t know what I need to start. “What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline.”
3. How will a deadline help? “In the artistic realms, deadlines do much more than just get projects finished. They serve as creative midwives, as enthusiastic shepherds adept at plucking the timid inspirations that lurk in the wings of our imaginations and flinging them bodily into the bright light of day.”
4. Is the arduous journey worth the time and effort? "In the 30 or 31 days you spend under (the deadline’s “taskmastering” thumb, “you’ll discover wild, wonderful parts of yourself and tap into exciting realms of aptitude and achievement you didn't know existed.”
5. How will people react? “You’ll fly and soar and laugh and sing, and [yes] the people who love you will likely worry you've gone crazy.”
6. Oh, no! “Well, actually, that’s OK. The insanity only lasts a month, just long enough to get ‘Write a Novel’ checked off your to-do list.”
7. But I’m not sure I can write all that well, especially when I’m just getting my ideas down. “There is no pressure on you to write a brilliant first draft. No one ever writes a brilliant first draft.”
8. What are the special perils? “The first law of exuberant imperfection is essentially this: The quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.”
9. One reason NOT to try National Novel Writing Month is I’m busy and writing a novel takes a lot of time. It does, but what I’m planning is to discover what 1-2 hours a day for a month [can produce]. If I look at my daily routine, I probably can find activities I can forego for a while. And Chris Baty adds, “When I’m writing a novel, I stop Internet surfing entirely, limit my leisure reading, and spend much less weeknight time with (non-noveling) friends. Other writers use the opportunity to pare back conversations with their in-laws and stop doing yard work.” The point: These suggestions should work for you, too.
10. But what about the people I live with? Will they be able to do without me while I’m off creating this masterpiece? “It’s not so much that you’ll be totally absent for one month as it is that you’ll be exceptionally present for the other 11.”
11. But I like to be around others and I want to have some fun even if I’m working on a novel. Answer: If you’re feeling alone, try writing with buddies. “Writing with a partner (or three or four) helps all parties tap into the pool of competitive energy that forms when several people are working toward the same goal.”
12. Does the ‘team approach’ really work? Yes, indeed. “When ‘noveling’ with someone else, you have a pacer, a motivator and a sympathetic ear for sharing the triumphs and tragedies of your novel. It’s more productive and a lot more fun.”
13. But what if I don’t have a plot for my novel? “If you spend enough time with your characters, plot simply happens. This makes your novel writing, in essence, a literary trapeze act, one where you have to blindly trust that your imagination and intuition will catch you and fling you onward at each stage of your high-flying journey.”
Chris’ advice helps me keep turning out pages. It has me thinking about all the others who are taking the 50K challenge. How about you? What thoughts inspire you to keep writing, blogging or taking part in National Novel Writing Month? Please share with us.