Years ago, a friend of mine innocently asked if I had heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I told him I had, and that I thought the idea was pretty ludicrous because it encouraged people to believe that they could write a ready-to-go novel in 30 days, without giving much thought to craft, research, editing, or any number of crucial aspects of the writing process I assumed were being ignored. I would love to be able to take that reply back because I completely missed the point of NaNoWriMo then. Thankfully I have a better head on my shoulders now and can see the benefits of this annual contest which takes place every November.
So why on earth am I bringing this up in now in the middle of January? Because despite the creative kick in the butt it can give you, the invaluable practice it affords, and the time management skills it allows you to hone, there is one thing about NaNoWriMo which still doesn’t work for me: the idea that you have to wait until November to take the bull by the horns and get to work on your novel. If you want to do this, do it now!
Full disclosure: I tried to do NaNoWriMo two years ago, got sick at the start of the month, then became swamped with “life” after I got better, and by the time the dust had settled, it was halfway through the month and I hadn’t written a single word. So I didn’t try. I quit. I wish I hadn’t because I was in a creative malaise at the time and probably could have used that experience to simply get my creative streak out of neutral.
Fast forward to this past July and I was talking with my wife about writing and how I just wanted to be able to take a month to work on my WIP, even if it was just for a couple hours a day. Come August 1, that is exactly what I did. I was splitting time between doing temporary work and freelance writing, so we chose to cut back on the freelance writing for that whole month so I could have time to work on the novel, and it was a glorious month. The novel was somewhere in the low 50,000s by the time the month came to an end, and that was with taking Sundays off. I was ecstatic!
It took me almost four more months to get to the end of the first draft just because my life is far busier and more hectic than I would like, and I can’t always write for large chunks of time in one sitting. I am about to start round one of the editing process and I have a sneaking suspicion that this 50,000-word or so stretch of the story is going to be the most cohesive part because I lived and breathed it consistently, deeply, for a month straight. There is something to be said for that. The more time you spend in your story, with your characters, in their world, the better your writing is going to become because you will become more familiar with your characters’ habits, their “voices,” their circumstances, to the point that your writing will flow more naturally simply because you are immersing yourself in the life of your story. No one knows the story better than you, and after you’ve spent some concentrated time there, you will gleefully own this fact.
I know it’s obvious that you don’t have to wait until November to do something like this, but it’s worth a reminder that you can start tackling your story anytime, and you should do it now, and do it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. Don’t wait for an excuse to get creative in the dead of fall when it’s cold and gloomy outside and you have nothing better to do; buckle down and get started now because you want to and because you can’t wait to get started!