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Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Win National Novel Writing Month

November is, among other things, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. I've been participating this year and I'm 21,500 words into a 50,000 word novel. The goal is less about creating high-quality work and more about establishing the discipline of writing. It's not terribly difficult to write 50,000 words in a month. It breaks down to 1,667 words a day, which you could do in just over an hour if you type 25 words per minute.

A novel in 30 hours. It doesn't sound too rough. Most jobs are 40 hours in a week - you can do 30 hours in a month. But there's something intimidating about the act of writing. Pulling a world out of nothing is thrilling at the same time that it's terrifying. A cadre of what-ifs plague you as you slog through the task of writing. Put them aside and just write.

So, here's how I plan to win at NaNoWriMo this year:
- No editing allowed - I do not go back and re-read what I've written. I don't edit as I'm typing. I just keep going. If the sentence is terrible, it'll just have to stay that way until December. November is for writing not editing.
- Rough outlines are helpful. I took an idea from a friend and wrote a title for each of 30 chapters. The title gives me an idea of where the story is going, but it doesn't constrain me. So far I'm only on chapter 8 since I had more than 1,667 words in the earlier chapters.
- Shut up and listen to your characters. They have a lot to say about how the story progresses. The attitude and history that you create for the characters should inform how they respond to a situation which will drive your story forward naturally.
- Sit and write. Set a schedule, make a routine. Do whatever it takes to make that hour for writing your novel. That time is sacred. It's on your schedule and cannot be interrupted. This is what you do.

What tips do you have for winning at NaNoWriMo (or just for writing or being creative)?

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