November 1st in National Author’s Day!
Will you be able to celebrate yourself…or do you need to finish your first book? Some people have always dreamed of writing and others seem to fall into it. Regardless, we all must do the work and it’s not always pretty.
If you are an author or want to become one, this guest post by Christina Consolino is just for you! She has some great tips to help you along your journey whether this is your first book or your fifth. Keep reading, my friends!
You Can Do It, Duffy Moon!
By: Christina Consolino
For many writers, November is synonymous with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a world-wide creative writing project in which “participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.” Some folks gear up for NaNoWriMo early, prepping for much of the year by thinking about scenes, outlines, character sketches, and more. Others make a last-minute decision to join the herd, some without even a story premise. And some writers fall between those two extremes. No matter what sort of writer you are, you CAN be successful in the venture.
Yes. Having participated in and “won” five times, I can state—with confidence—that if I can do it, you can too. (Sometimes, it’s easier to think we can do something when we know that someone like us did.)
The first step in the game is to commit yourself to the project and make it a priority. But winning is also a lot easier if you have a list of tips to help you. What I’m sharing today are those tips that help me be successful in my quest for 50,000 words.
It’s good to go in with a plan. My story for one year, Rewrite the Stars (to be published in March 2021), started on paper in June of the year before on the way home from Walloon Lake. I scribbled a rough outline on notebook paper while Tim drove (and our four kids did who knows what in the rear of the minivan). When we got home, I put a few thoughts into what I will loosely call a document, and then I began to write a paragraph. I picked up that draft on November 1 and added just over 50,000 words to it well before November 30.
But here’s the thing: that scribbled start came a good year and a half before NaNoWriMo. And during those 17 months, my mind had the ability to think about what the story should say and where the story might go. I thought so much about what needed to be said that when the time came to write the story, the words flowed.
This sort of planning ahead can’t always happen but do give some time and thought to your story. Try to find a general outline of what you want to say—even if you don’t write it down—and think about your characters: who they are, how they might talk, what their views are, and more. The more ammunition you have, the better off you might be.
Set aside time to write every day. If you say you’re going to participate, then make sure you participate! Tell your family and friends and coworkers (heck, anyone who will listen!) that you’ll be busy for a month. Most people will support you, and some might even join you. So support yourself by making sure you find time to write.
For me, that means getting up at 5 a.m. or a little before (every morning!) so I can meet the minimum word count by 6:30 a.m., when the rest of the family begins to get up. Any words written after your designated time of the day will place you over par and give you incentive to keep going.
And don’t worry if your best time of day is at 1:23 a.m. If writing in the wee, dark hours of the morning gets you the daily word count, then go for it!
Do NOT revise your sentences. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Do NOT revise your sentences. Why? Let me explain. The days I sat down and wrote without worry—leaving the good and the not-so-good words on the page—were my most successful days.
But I had a handful of days where I sat down, wrote a sentence, and revised what I had written to make it better. I quickly trashed this idea because I got caught up in minutiae I didn’t need to worry about. Who cares if my grammar and punctuation work in this first draft? Who cares if I switch tenses within a sentence? Who cares if I choose the exact word I want? Revision comes after writing, so don’t do it while you’re trying to push to 50,000 words. Once the story is on paper (or out in cyberspace somewhere), you can revise what you wrote.
If you take this approach, you might ask yourself each day, “Is the story I’m writing the best I’ve ever produced?” Probably not. And if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll have hours of revision ahead of you. But at the end of the day, if you’ve reached your word-count goal, you’ve just dealt with half the battle.
Limit your time doing nonessential things. If someone had told me before NaNoWriMo that I waste a lot of time during the day, I would have laughed in their face. I mean, I get a lot accomplished during the day, whether I’m editing, subbing, or working around the house. But I realized that by taking a social media hiatus and only checking email for important messages, I had so much more time to write.
I also didn’t peruse my usual timewasters (you know, the time sucks that masquerade as news), news sites, or literary journals. (I’m certain none of them missed me.) And I cut out blogging. While I enjoy it, I didn’t want to have the pressure to write a good post on a daily basis. Nor did I want to take the time to do it. Less wasted time equals more time to work on the novel.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of time you find if you even cut out one nonessential item from that day. And if that item you choose happens to be laundry, who am I to judge?
Take your writing instrument with you everywhere. One year, I agreed to sub at the high school all day on November 2 and again on November 4. I took my computer with me to the school and lucked out big time: I had three 50-minute periods in which the kids were scheduled to watch a video lesson. Which meant 150 minutes of writing time for me. Score!
I also keep a pen and paper in the car and near my nightstand, and I’m grateful for my phone’s Notes app. Anytime I hear a conversation or think of an idea that could be used in my story, I write it down. And the next time I open the draft, I add my thoughts to it.
Believe in yourself. Yes, that statement sounds trite and corny, but there’s no room for self-doubt in NaNoWriMo. Each year, I go into the adventure knowing by the end of November, I’ll have a working draft of a novel.
So use what you need to get you where you need to go: wine, ice cream, Dr. Seuss, The Little Engine that Could, or my personal favorite, The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon from the old After School Specials. You can do it, Duffy Moon! is all you need to tell yourself every morning of November, and you, too, will have a finished draft in your hands.
Now, aren’t you excited to get started? I won’t expect to updates until after November as you should be reducing your social media time, but I would love to hear from my fellow authors about your NaNoWriMo experience. You can return and comment here or send me an e-mail.
Want to know a bit more about our guest blogger? Christina’s details are below and I encourage you to check her out!
Christina is a freelance editor and teacher and has had work featured in Brevity Blog, Flights: The Literary Journal of Sinclair Community College, HuffPost, Short Fiction Break, The Sunlight Press, Tribe Magazine, and Literary Mama, where she serves as senior editor. She is the coauthor of Historic Photos of University of Michigan and a founding member of The Plot Sisters a writing group that strives to offer compassionate writing critiques and promote literary citizenship. You can learn more about her and her work at christinaconsolino.com.