National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, has come along once again. Many people all over the world are taking part, writing a bit of their novel every day and aiming for a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. If you’re participating then you’ll already know that all you need to do to ‘win’ is finish that first draft of a minimum of 50,000 words… But many fail, as their projects fall by the wayside. How can you make sure this won’t happen to you?
One excellent tool to use is Scrivener, a piece of software available for Windows and Mac that helps you lay out your plotlines and keep track of everything you need to remember. It’s okay if you haven’t downloaded this tool yet; despite the fact that we’re now on day 4, it can still help you get your book organised. What’s more; you get a free trial that won’t run out until December 7th, allowing you to keep it working throughout NaNoWriMo. If you’re a winner this year, you get 50% off its already-reasonable price, but even if you’re ‘just’ a participant there’s a 20% discount with voucher code ‘NaNoWriMo’! So you’re sitting pretty no matter what the outcome.
A good way to make sure you do complete your NaNovel is by realising what you’re writing. A lot of people fail when they realise that their novel is not perfect on the first go; this is, however, no reason to lose hope. For whatever reason, people seem unaware that novelists write several drafts, and it is common for the first draft to be a far cry from the perfect manuscript you had in mind. Many writers write at least two, and often even three or four drafts. On top of those various drafts, there is a large amount of editing and tweaking to do, and by the time a book hits the shelves it has also been edited by a professional editor, and proofread for errors in spelling and grammar. The point of the first draft is generally to get the story out, rather than to get a polished final manuscript that’s ready for publication – or even to be read by friends and family.
Setting aside a specific time frame daily to write is a good idea. The daily word count required for a 50,000 word manuscript to be written over 30 days is somewhere just below the 1700-word mark. But if you aim for 2000, you’ll be able to pull ahead and may be able to fit in a few days off when you really aren’t capable of fitting it in. By fitting the writing into the same hour or two each day, you’ll make writing into a habit which may continue into the rest of 2011 and perhaps become a lifetime habit. Alternatively, it will make it easier for you to make sure you hit your target word count over the course of NaNoWriMo 2011.
Finally, remember not to stress too much about it. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a fun exercise, but if writing a novel is really important to you you’ll write it in your own time. Writing is a dream for many, however you aren’t constrained to November. Even if you can’t manage 2000 words per day, aim for 1000 or even 500 instead. Over time it will evolve into more (and at times, fewer). One way or another, writing a successful manuscript is going to take more than a month’s worth of commitment, and you can do it… But winning NaNoWriMo is neither a requirement nor an obstacle to your finishing the manuscript you really want to write. Enjoy!