How I NaNoWriMo Differently (and you can, too!)

How I NaNoWriMo Differently (and you can, too!)

I won’t be doing National November Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, and I’ll tell you why. But first, let me give a quick definition of NaNoWriMo for those who are wondering.

NaNoWriMo is a free program for writers that encourages them to write a novel in a month. If you visit their website, you’ll find ways to track your writing progress as well as make connections with other writers. You’ll also receive words of encouragement throughout the month, articles about writing, and more. What started as just a few writers saying, “Hey, let’s set a goal of writing 2,000 words a day and see what happens,” has become a national program and international phenomenon.

That being said, NaNoWriMo can be discouraging, since it’s rather difficult to pump out even 1,000 words a day. It works for some, and not for others. So here’s two ways that I NaNoWriMo differently.

1) I don’t hold myself to just doing it in the month of November.

In August, I began the month by pitching the idea for my Anna Katharine Green book to my agent, stating up front that this was a brand new idea so I hadn’t written anything yet. She ended the conversation telling me I should write my idea as quickly as possible because it was awesome—just what every writer wants to hear! So I did. I sat down and wrote the first draft of A Woman’s Intuitions in three weeks, after spending one week compiling my research and making a brief outline. That’s writing a book in one month.

Let me clarify that this was a very odd thing for me. I had attempted NaNoWriMo before, but I’ve never completed it because it’s just not in my wheelhouse to sit down and write straight through. I’m much more of a planner, outliner, researcher type, so I’d given up on NaNoWriMo as just not being the style of writing that works for me.

And that’s okay. Everyone writes differently!

That being said, the point of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers to sit butts in chairs and get something on the page. What author was it who said you get so much more written if you just sit down and write? Pretty sure every author has said it at some point!

However, for me, November has never worked for attempting this type of writing. It’s the beginning of the holidays the day after Halloween around here. It’d be much better if it was National Writers Month in January or February. You know, when nothing else is going on. November for me is far too full with fall happenings, Thanksgiving, and preparations for Christmas. With two kids at home, it’s a priority for me that they have a memorable holiday season every year, so it’s not the time for closing myself up in a room and writing. 😉

2) If you don’t feel up to writing a book in a month, instead set yourself the goal of editing a book over the course of the month.

Perhaps it’s a book you wrote last NaNoWriMo, or something you wrote back in college, or something you just finished this summer. No matter when you wrote it, every book deserves an editing pass.

The last couple years November has turned out to be a bad month for writing, but a good month for editing for me. In between the holiday preparations, I can usually find a moment or two to double-check some research, read my book aloud to myself or someone else, or make some revisions suggested by beta readers.

Editing is one of the most important parts of the writing process. Ask any professional author and they’ll tell you, editors are the ones who make their good books awesome. I can’t think of a single author who has published their first draft. If they did, I bet you’d notice it in a second because there are bound to be numerous errors. And I’m not just talking punctuation.

So this year, I’m proactively deciding not to do NaNoWriMo, though I do hope to get some editing done, some research, and some promotion for my short story, “Mary, Did You Know.” And let’s be honest, that’s all writing work for me, so in the end, every month is writers month around here! 😉

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for some more encouragement during NaNoWriMo, or just want to learn more about what the editing process means, please join me THIS Saturday, November 9 at 2:00 at the South Hill branch of the Spokane Public Library. I’ll be talking more about what my background as an editor has taught me and why editors, beta readers, and expert readers are so crucial.

Hope to see you there, and happy writing!

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