It’s December – and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is over for another year. Having written 50,000 words in November, the mind and body are in need a bit of a break.
I’ve taken part in Nanowrimo a number of times and found it an incredibly rigorous, inspiring, exhausting and valuable experience. Here are my key learnings following this year’s competition:
1. The more you write, the easier it gets. After you’ve written a few novels, you know what it takes in terms of getting from A to B. After you’ve written a few novel-in-a-months, you know where the pain points and dry spells are. 20k to 35k is frankly agony. Once you’re past 40k, you’re into the home stretch.
2. The mind and the body need to alternate workload. With Nano, you’ve got eleven months to think up as much of your novel as possible in advance (you’re not allowed to start actually writing it until 1st November). You can plan, outline, devise dialogue in your head. Do this, and you’ll probably sail through the first 10-15k words. After that, the well runs a bit dry. It gets tougher. My advice is to stop writing, go for a walk without headphones and your brain will hopefully start “writing” for you again.
3. A book won’t write itself. This may sound facile, but as writers we tend to think and sometimes discuss our books quite a bit – for example, sharing excerpts at book group, or doing a bit of research. The problem is that this kind of tricks the brain into thinking that the book is still “developing”. It’s not. It’s sitting there, at the same word count you left it at, and that word count is not increasing. You have to physically sit down and write to increase your word count. Unless you’re a famous writer who can lie back on a couch and hire an amanuensis to dictate to (or better still, a mind-reader so you can snooze while they transcribe your dreams – I keenly await “thought-to-text” technology!) it’s up to you and your fingers.
My novel this year still isn’t finished, but I did get past 50,000 words. This month I finally get to sleep more than four hours a night again. Just eleven more months, and it all starts again…