In 2016, I wrote eight weekly short essays about writing for my National Novel Writing Month region. They focus on practical advice for the aspiring novelist during November, with topics like attitude, time management, writing scenes, and finding the end.
Over the next eight weeks I’ll republish the essays to my blog, for everyone to enjoy (or not, whatever the case might be). After that, I have even more weekly topics in store for the Friday Morning Pages.
This week is about attitude.
Nano is not for everyone. Most people need more than a month to write a novel. Others just flat don’t see the appeal of writing fast. And then there are folks who think writing is stupid and an utter waste of time. For the most part, you can safely ignore the detractors and those who “don’t get it,” though you may have to find ways to appease family and friends during Nano.
Those who return to Nano year after year, do so for their own reasons—for fun, to socialize with like-minded writers, for the challenge—but there are common attitudes among wrimos.
- I don’t know if I can do this, but why the heck not? If you enjoy intellectual challenges, Nano is certainly for you. Writing a novel quickly is a tall order, and 50,000 words seems like a long stretch when you’re at word number one, especially if you’ve never written anything longer than a school report.
The key to taking on a challenge is diving into the task head first. How do you know you can’t do it, until you’ve tried? Develop a positive attitude before heading into Nano. Yes, you can write everyday if you focus. You can write 1,667 words per day. And if you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Climb back on. Keep working towards finishing your novel. Because you can do it.
- Writing 50,000 words in 30 days will be fun. Just as important is remembering to have fun with Nano. Writing does not need to be a drudgery, like a day job or a doctor appointment. If you’ve never written a novel before, perhaps you can’t see this yet, but writing is enormous fun.
Now, when I talk about writing being fun, I’m not referring to the semester papers they made you write in school. I’m talking about sitting alone in a room and making stuff up. You get to play make-believe for a whole month!
Nano is the perfect time to make up stories for fun. Whatever the story is, wherever it takes you, November is the month to write the story. So have fun letting your imagination run wild!
- Your novel doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be your novel. Perfection is the bane to novel writing. No story is ever perfect, no how many times it’s rewritten or polished. Trying to be perfect—spending hours or days finding the right phrase, flipping through the thesaurus for the right word—will stop you cold.
Writers are people who write. Be a writer.
Take risks. Create art. Doesn’t have to be good. Your novel just has to be written.
The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know, especially early on in your writing life. And the learning never ends. On your first novel, you’ll be just cutting your teeth to scrape together a readable manuscript. You’ll get better the next go-around, on the next novel. But you have to write the first novel first.
Abandon any thought of perfection. Perfection is drudgery.
Have fun instead. And write the novel only you can write.
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