I have a lot to learn about writing books. I’ve written two of them, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Each book has its own unique challenges, and learning how to write is an ongoing process. Speaking of which, I’ve learned a lot from this November writing journey. Some of it new, some of it familiar but easily ignored.
* Write Every Day. I don’t usually write every day, but Nanowrimo is an exception. It helped me stay connected to my project and maintained my momentum. Even if you only get 50 words down—that’s 50 words closer to your goal. Taking little nibbles on a regular basis is a more low-impact approach to writing a first draft.
* Beware of Writing Yourself Out. Do you have a long, luxurious stretch of time this weekend that you plan to spend hunched over your computer? Tread carefully. I’ve fallen into this trap: forcing myself to work on something for long stretches, I squeezed a lot of the fun out of it and made myself sick of the project by putting so much pressure on these writing binges. Also, it’s good to stop writing for the day when you still know what might happen next.
* Indulge. Writing your novel while sitting on the couch under a blanket is not a lazy thing to do. No one will judge you.
* Do stuff. Raking leaves first thing in the morning (or other exercise) is a good precursor to writing. Get a little fresh air in your lungs and sunshine on your face before you hole yourself up in your office to write.
* Goals. A word count goal is motivating. Having people know about your writing goal is also motivating. Especially if these are people who will shame you if you fail. Even better: get a friend of yours to offer you a prize if you meet a particular goal. You love prizes. You know you do.
* Deadlines. The deadline is also motivating. Don’t look back. Don’t second-guess. Don’t waste time worrying about transitions or setting. Just write. Forge ahead.
* Don’t go it alone. Having other people around you also engaged in noveling was hugely motivating. A solitary experience was suddenly communal; a private lunacy suddenly shared by others.
* Expectations. The goal is not “I am going to write a publishable manuscript…the best thing I’ve ever written…every word perfectly chosen.” The goal is simply 50,000 words. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.
* Don’t whine. Not to say that you whine, but I do: “I’m not inspired. I don’t know where this is going. I don’t know if it’s any good…” There’s no time to whine. Write.
I’m hoping to employ what I learned here toward future first drafts, even if they don’t happen take place during the month of November. And I’m already looking forward—with some trepidation—to NanoEDmo in March!