In just over two days, NaNoWriMo will be here. No, I’m not ready yet! I have stuff to do, people to see one last time and places I need to go before locking myself away for a month, oh, and a body I should probably stockpile with vitamins to make up for the large intake of sugar that’s coming my way. But panic aside, what should we really spend the last 48 hours of non-writing freedom doing before NaNo commences?
I’ve read blogs of people who are planning their novels so precisely they have split their works of fiction into 30 separate chapters, starting with arranging the bare skeleton of their plot into three acts, then ten chapters for each. The problem with this is that it assumes you’ll be able to not only write every single day (yes, I know we’re supposed to), but that you’re able to write roughly the same amount every day. Realistically, weekends will probably see me mopping up the word count I dropped during the week and I’ll get a lot more done on Sunday afternoons than I will, say, on Monday nights after work.
I’ve also read that NaNo is not about producing a quality novel, and no, of course it’s not, you’re writing it in a month and probably don’t have a publisher waving a big motivational cheque at you. But nor is it just about word count. Some people say all that matters is hitting 50k by the end of the month and claiming you have won. I haven’t managed it in the last two years and I’m not sure I’ll do it this year. What I am confident in having is a good start on a piece of work I want to keep going back to post-November. If I write the first words that come to mind and fill my sentences with as many adverbs as possible, I’ll hate it, and I won’t want to look at it again once the month is up. I’ll have wasted the month, in other words.
The novel I began in November 2012 was 17k words long when that year’s NaNo was up. Now it’s about 23k. It’s still nowhere near done, but neither is it anywhere near being binned. I produced a good word count that I would never have had the focus to produce without participating, but I’ve also got work I’m proud of, and will keep adding to over time. If I finish it one day, it will be much more workable than anything I’ve rushed out in the space of the month.
So the lesson here is to ask yourself why you’ve signed up to NaNoWriMo. Do you have a vague idea for a story and think it might be fun to write it, or do you want to take your writing a little more seriously and see what can be made of it? Either is fine, but knowing what you want is important.
And if anyone has any advice for not stumbling at the first hurdle on 1st November and still being able to go to the Halloween party I have planned, please let me know.