Can YOU write a novel this November?
It’s almost time for NaNoWriMo again.
If you’re writing fiction, I hope these success tips will help you, whether or not you’re participating in NaNoWriMo.
Let’s start with the most vital activity for any author…
Write a novel one word and one minute at a time
Here’s what I know after almost 40 years of writing. (Wince.) You write a novel one word at a time. The operative word is write.
Please be aware that… “Write” means words on your computer screen, NOT in your head.
Of course you can muse and think about your novel as you go about your daily activities. However, when it’s your scheduled writing time: WRITE. Write words. One after another. On the computer screen—or on the page, if you’re writing by hand.
So, our tips begin with your writing schedule.
1. Schedule your writing time: establish a time and place to write, and stick to it
Novelists lead boring lives, by intention. Yes, they take vacations, and socialize, but they know that novels are written alone, in solitude.
Don’t despair if solitude is impossible. Even if you have a full-time job, three kids, and many commitments, you can complete NaNoWriMo if you set a writing routine, and stick to it.
You’ll need to write 1600 words a day to complete 50,000 words in a month. It takes me an hour to write 1000 first-draft words when I’m starting a novel. Once I’ve written the novel’s setup — the first three chapters — I know the people and the situation, and my writing speed increases.
Try setting your alarm clock and getting up earlier so that you can write in peace. Or write as soon as the kids are in bed. Whichever you choose, stick to that routine. Within a few days, you’ll have trained your body and brain so that when it’s time to write, you’ll write.
2. Forget writing a novel: write ONE scene (or even just a paragraph)
You’ve written 1600 words, and you’re proud of your achievement. Well done! Then you realize how many words you still have to write.
When I start a novel, whether it’s for myself, or a ghostwriting client, I avoid thinking of all the words I’ll need to complete by my deadline, because it’s pointless.
I like to focus on one scene at a time. I make a list of who’ll be in the scene, what each character’s goal is, what they’re scared of, and where the scene takes place. Then I write the scene.
My scenes average 1500 words. Some are shorter, many are longer. Just like a novel, your scenes need a setup, and a climax. Focus on that scene, only.
On slow writing days you may need to focus on a paragraph at a time. That’s OK. Writing a novel is frustrating, because a super-fast writing day may be immediately followed by a day in which the words won’t come.
My creativity seems to run in four-day cycles. I have four good writing days, followed by two very slow writing days; then two “burst” days. On burst days, inspiration arrives then evaporates again. On slow days, focus on your paragraphs. 🙂
3. When you’re writing a novel, write first, socialize later
NaNoWriMo offers many activities and social groups. This can be a blessing because it makes writing easier. There are endless writing groups you can join, so you never need to feel alone.
Unfortunately, 1001 social groups can also be a curse. How many times have you opened Facebook “for five minutes”, then realize than an hour has passed, and you didn’t notice?
Write first each day. Socialize when it’s done.
4. Forget all the rules: let yourself WRITE
You’ve prepared yourself to write a novel. Now it’s November. Your head is stuffed with writing rules, and hopes and fears about your characters and your plot.
Forget that. Forget it all. The creative side of your brain hates rules. It’s basically non-verbal. It “thinks” in feelings and images.
Relax. Accept the words which pop into your head, and write them down. You can worry about writing rules and whether you’ve done justice to your characters after you’ve written 50K words.
Can you have fun when you write a novel?
You must. Otherwise your creative self (which is childlike) packs up its toys and refuses to cooperate.
No matter how grim your novel’s story: tell yourself that it’s fun and it will be. Every author who gives up a novel does it because they’re not having fun.
Happy writing: enjoy NaNoWriMo.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.