One of my favorite book bloggers, Cait @ Paper Fury, recently published a post titled “How to Win NaNoWriMo in Three Days”. It’s motivating and inspiring and is filled with so many little nuggets of wisdom that will make you want to sit your butt down and write. I love reading about authors who are #winning the NaNo game, so how could that post not speak to me? But unfortunately, that also means I’m prone to the feeling of flailing around, getting absolutely nothing accomplished. So with this weeks This or That Thursday theme being all about NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d lay out my own work in progress. An ever evolving strategy that I’m still at work perfecting. So without further ado…5 Ways Not to Fail at NaNoWriMo.
1.Perfection is Not Key
When I’m writing essays or papers for school, the term “first draft” is not in my vocabulary. Whatever you see that initial go around is exactly what the finished product will be. And that’s because I cannot walk away from a sentence, or a paragraph, or a page without feeling it 100% conveys what I want it to. As one would imagine, this can be problematic when writing an entire book. So something I’m trying very hard at is walking away from my fundamental story, and not revisiting it until the backbone is complete. Or, perhaps more effectively, I could just tape over my computer’s delete button. In any case, the message is the same. If you stop every time something doesn’t feel perfect, you’re going to get nowhere. Inevitable writer disillusionment will descend on you, and that will stop your burgeoning story faster than anything else. Take it from me, 50,000 terrible words are better than 100 excellent ones.
2.Planning for the Most Unorganized Person Alive
I am the most unorganized person alive. It’s a certifiable fact. This is only true in certain aspects of my life, of course, but book planning is most definitely one of them. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to unique ways to plot your story, but have I ever utilized any of those ideas? No, that would be way too easy. This one is definitely a work in progress. But as my many, many, many, many attempts at writing a novel can testify to- it’s an integral tool that’s often overlooked. Had I taken the time to write out the specific direction my story was going, I wouldn’t have floundered around wondering what I was doing for weeks on end. Likewise, I could have gotten excited for a specific scene I was writing, and pushed to get to the point where I could put pen to paper for it. I beg of you, don’t be like me. Use sticky notes, pretty bullet journals, or the outside of a Taco Bell bag if need be. Really, just write!
3.Keep Expectations Low
I would most certainly not encourage you to have low expectations in life. Heck, I wouldn’t even advise you to have sub zero confidence in this book. But when it comes time to pen a first draft, having too lofty of assumptions can cripple your progress. Every time I set out to write a book I envision it as a Noble Prize Winner, a New York Times Bestseller or, at the very least, having film rights optioned for it. And as great as that fantasy may seem, it also ties back to point numero uno on this list: you expect too much from yourself. The reality is that no first draft can ever be the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact, when you do finish this book it still might not be that caliber of writing. But still!!! You wrote something tangible, and you’re likely obsessed with it, and really what more can you ask for out of a piece of writing? Go in just trying to finish, and I guarantee something will come of it.
4.Tell People About It
Or maybe don’t. This is one that different writers have very strong, and very differing, opinions on. In the past I’ve always kept what I’m writing about very hush hush. In part because I’m not even 100% sure what I’m doing, and also because…the expectations. They’re crippling! But then again, that’s a poor reason not to do something. I definitely see the appeal in telling your mother, brother, sister, cat, and the entire twitterverse your plans. It holds you to actually carrying out all the delightfully writerly aspirations you hope to achieve. A little intimidating sure, but beneficial beyond belief. As I work on this one (always a work in progress) I want to know how you guys handle this matter. Do you tell everyone? No one? A select group of people? Likewise, do you use the NaNo groups as built in motivation?
5.Write a Book You Actually Love
Well duh. Why are you even writing if you aren’t in love with the story? But I know from experience this isn’t always the way things actually work out. Anyone with a Goodreads or Bookstagram feed can see what the hottest trends are, and can practically pick the future bestsellers out of a lineup. So with that knowledge it can be easy to construct a storyline you just know has the potential to resonate with current fads. Even if that isn’t the story you want to tell. But when you find yourself writing a book that appeals to everyone, does it actually matter to anyone? That is the question, and if you can find that perfect balance I’ll bless the ground you walk on. In the meantime I think I’ll just pen the words that get me excited (with a little investment in success), and wanting to write everyday. Afterall, that’s truly the recipe for a great book.
How do you win at NaNoWriMo? Do any of these tricks resonate with you? Let me know in the comments!