National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is approaching, and most of us partaking in this event are probably stressed out about how on earth we are going to get anywhere close to producing a draft of a novel in just thirty days. As the countdown to November whittles down, I am exploring various methods to use. This will be a three part series, so stay tuned! Please be aware that I am providing multiple methods because some methods aren’t right for everyone. My hope is that at least one of my suggestions will help ease the stress of writing approximately 50,000 words during the month of November.
A Word Target, or Word Goal
What is it? Set a word count goal for each day. Don’t stop until you’ve hit your goal.
Some writers swear by this method because it’s a way to push yourself to keep writing. If you see your word count is at 1,600 and your goal is 2,000, you know you have to keep going. For people like me, this method is good because goals are what keep us going. If we know what is at the end of the road, we are able to move closer to that goal, step by step, knowing that any break from a pattern can potentially hinder the success of reaching your end goal.
What can go wrong? It’s possible that in pushing yourself to hit your word goal, you will write things that don’t make much sense; perhaps your story plot has not been thought out well enough to write a certain amount of words each day. You may come to hate your story if you write something you’re not proud of, yet you invested so much of your time into it. This may cause you to push your story aside and give up.
What is it? Drink alcohol while writing.
Ernest Hemingway said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” We know this worked for him, as well as many other well-known and respected authors, so why wouldn’t it work for you, too? I’ve written academic papers while drinking and found that I was quite good at it. Alcohol combined with an evening alone and a blank notebook can be very good (for some people). Your emotions somehow become stronger and your creativity can be heightened immensely. I don’t know how this works, or if there is any science behind it, but who cares? If it works, it works. Sometimes you don’t need to question it.
What can go wrong? If you’ve had a long day, drinking is likely to make you want to go to sleep. Stay away from your bed or you will not get anything written. (You should probably stay off social media outlets, too. Distraction is easy whilst intoxicated).
What is it? Figure out what your book is about. Write it down in fewer than 15 words.
This catch can be your reference point; if you experience writer’s block, go back to that short summary. Knowing what your book is about is important so that you do not stray from your novel’s original intent(s). When you get caught up in writing, you may take your book in a direction you never meant it to, so a catchy sentence about your book might bring you back on track. This is also good for the future of your book. A short sentence about your book will be beneficial in your publishing efforts. Think about how it would be written on the New York Times Bestseller list. Try writing the catch and putting it above your writing station, or on a post-it note on a computer screen. Memorize it and stand by it. If it doesn’t work, try replacing a word or two.
What can go wrong? Maybe your book does go a different direction. I don’t know if that’s so wrong though. You might actually like it.
What is it? Plan before you write. Know your characters, your plot, your conflict and resolution, and possibly even your chapter outlines.
It’s nice to be romantic about writing and think anyone can just sit down to a blank page and write a beautiful novel, but let us be realistic: that is not going to happen. Outlining your novel is beneficial to your writing process because you have a map to follow. If you aren’t excited to write one part of your novel, push it aside for the day and write another part. You can stray from the outline now and then, but the outline is likely going to help you stay on track.
What can go wrong? I don’t know if I agree with this, but it’s possible you will get bored of your story. You may avoid writing certain scenes because they don’t excite you. (If this is the case, you may want to make it more exciting if you can).
That is all I have for today. Read my next post for the next installment of the various approaches to writing a novel!
– Allison Bellows