National Novel Writers Month #NaNoWriMo advice

Writing and editing are two separate acts. The old joke goes that you ought to write drunk and edit sober for a reason. One is about discovery and the other is an exercise in concision.

One reason I like the idea of National Novel Writers Month, which takes place each November, is that it is a clear call for writers to write now, and edit later. Since 1999, thousands of writers have written 50,000 words of a novel draft — about 1,600 words daily. With a simple novel concept, I participated back in November.

Since then, I’ve had a few discussions with friends about the process. I thought I’d share those simple thoughts here.

To be clear, though I’m a journalist and professional writer, I am not a novelist. I am not a published author. I write fiction for love and do so with friends. This was my first attempt. I am sharing tips that worked for me.

  • Have a realistic goal in mind. You won’t write something great. That’s not the point. You have a draft. You’ll work from there.
  • Get an outline together beforehand. It’ll help to have a skeleton, even though you’ll go lots of unexpected places.
  • 100 words is better than 0 words. Some nights I wrote nothing of real quality. It was a journey.
  • Build a habit during the month. I wrote at least 100 each morning and strived for at least 1,500 in the evening. Find your own.
  • Keep a “spark” file. More than usual, during the day I found small ideas coming to mind. I kept these in a Note file on my phone to use later during my evening writing time.
  • Peruse your favorite writing about writing beforehand. I spent a lot of October returning to some of my most valued writing advice to bring top of mind during the sprint. It won’t suddenly crystallize but I found it helpful as a kind of warmup. (Lots of essays like this)
  • Consider space to think. During my bicycle commute and my shower, I let myself stretch more than I normally might into thinking through an upcoming scene I was due to write.
  • Write with friends! Both in-person or even over video chat, write alongside someone else and use each other to be held accountable. I wrote Tuesday nights with a friend, so we made them cram sessions.
  • Don’t edit. Save that for later.

Tell Me How to Write a novel (advice)
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