It’s that time of year again for writers. NaFuNoWriMo, or National Fucking Novel Writing Month.
After hitting over 52k last year, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack this time around, and instead of a 50k novel, I’m just planning to bust out a 30k novella (though if I hit 30k and the story isn’t told, I’m going to be annoyed. If I finish the novella before the end of the month though? Hey, bonus editing time!).
So, here are some hints for my fellow NaNoers.
- Planning. I know it’s a bit late for this ’cause the month has already started, but for future reference outline. Outline as little or as loosely as you want, but have something there, some skeleton of a story for you to stitch wordmeat onto. Trust me. ‘Cause writing 50k words in a month isn’t really that hard, but writing 50k words in a month that form a good story that you’re mostly proud of? That either requires a fluke, or a lot of planning.
- Goddamnit, stop! Unless you need to bank some words ’cause you know you need to take a day off in the near future, always stop soon after hitting your wordcount for the day. I know this seems counter-intuitive ’cause you’re aiming for LOTS of words, but if you keep writing until you hit the end of the chapter or some other natural break, you’re going to find it so much harder to pick up tomorrow. Stop a couple of sentences into a scene, so the next day you already know what scene you’re working on, and hopefully by the time you’ve finished that scene, your brain is in gear and ready for the next.
- It’s not the end of the world. Seriously, if you don’t hit your word limit one day, or every damn day of November, it’s not the end of the world. If you hit your wordcount every day, but at the end of the month you’re pretty sure the story is an unpolishable turd, it’s not the end of the world. The great thing about NaNo is that a month really isn’t very much time. If you’ve got a project that you’re not sure about – dedicate a month of your life to it, and if it turns out to have not been worth it, so what? You only lost a month, it’s no big deal (unless you’ve got a terminal medical condition, in which case, fuck, I’m really sorry).
Plenty of us writer types deal with depression and anxiety, and it’s really not worth damaging your mental health for the sake of this little festival of words. Look after yourself.
- Have fun, experiment. David Foster Wallace certainly didn’t write Infinite Jest in a month, but Philip K. Dick probably churned out plenty of great novels in less than thirty days. So, maybe this isn’t the best time to start on the literary opus you’ve had in mind for the past three decades, but you could sure as hell write that book about a Werewolf… detective… tracking a missing… heirloom potato farmer… IN SPACE. Do something you normally wouldn’t do. Experiment with genres, experiment with styles. And yeah, have fun with it, otherwise, what’s the point?
- Make your own rules. Finish something you already started. Re-write something that desperately needs it. Edit the everlasting stupid out of last year’s NaNo manuscript. Don’t feel like you need to write 1,667 words a day to take part. If you want to take advantage of this month-long wordfest, do it, get involved, and get involved in whatever way suits you.
And I think I’m done…
3 thoughts on “The Dread Month November”
Excellent tips! I think ‘make your own rules’ is really important – do what’s best for you and for your work, just make sure it pushes you a bit past what you’re comfortable with. And like you say, if it doesn’t work out, who really cares? You may have missed watching some test cricket, but you’ll probably be OK. Also, I am ditching my trans-dimensional octopus embodied via a shipwreck narrative and writing your werewolf detective instead: much better idea.
I feel like making any story happen IN SPACE instantly improves it. Imagine if Cloudstreet was actually the name of the space station they lived on… Or what if Oscar & Lucinda’s bet was over a glass spaceship that had to be moved between galaxies?
(I’m at least half-serious.)
I’ve never had the guts to put a story in space – the technology! the physics! – but I can feel it in my bones that I’m getting closer…