I was chatting with a friend who’s entered NaNoWriMo several times, and has an excellent question. She asked how to achieve her goals this year. She’s never published any of the novels she wrote in November, even though that was always her goal.
Her challenge: “Every time I do NaNoWriMo, I tell myself that this year will be great. But even though I finish, I never do anything with my novels. What’s your advice?”
How to achieve your NaNoWriMo goals
Writing a NaNoWriMo novel is just like writing any other novel. Every novel you ever write will have irritating problems. Often those problems involve editing and revision. Or something else.
For example, I’m working on a novel right now, and am within 2000 words of finishing it — but I’m not happy.
I’d like to add more scenes. I won’t. I’ll just tell my inner editor to shut up. If I start adding more scenes this late stage, I’ll unbalance the structure of the novel, for no reason other than feelings.
So managing your feelings is our first tip.
1. Be aware that your feelings always change
If you’re feeling depressed about your NaNoWriMo novel at any time, take a moment (five minutes, no more) to review your goals for the novel, as well as what you’ve done so far.
In my “we need more scenes!” novel, I’ve written 60,500 words when I aimed for 55,000. I structured the novel for 55K words. Since I’m at the deadline for this novel, adding more scenes would be madness.
Any feeling that something’s wrong with your novel is just uncertainty. Like all feelings, it will change.
When you review your progress, your feelings won’t change immediately. But they will change. Tell your inner editor “thanks for sharing”, and keep writing.
My friend reported that she hadn’t reread any of her previous novels because she felt that they were a disaster — feelings, again.
We’ve created an editing schedule she can begin after NaNoWriMo so that she can knock all of her novels into shape, and get them published.
2. Edit as you go, to avoid depression on December 1
Most of my friend’s feelings about her novel stem from post-novel depression. It’s normal to feel bereft and disoriented when you’ve worked hard on something, and it’s done.
Editing as you write helps with that. Generally speaking, I’m against editing while writing because too many authors keep reworking chapter one until they stall on their novel completely. They’ve lost their inspiration and their vision. Editing is a completely different mind state from writing.
However, if you suspect that you might feel overwhelmed when your first draft is done, edit as you go. Wait until you’ve completed a chapter of three scenes (or however many scenes you choose) then edit that chapter.
By the way, I’m talking about editing as revision, not editing as tinkering with word choices. Macro editing, rather than micro twiddling, if you like.
3. Schedule revision and editing — and publication day, if self-publishing is your goal
Writing 50,000 words in November is a wonderful effort, and kudos to you when you finish. It’s a huge achievement.
If your goal is to self-publish your NaNoWriMo novel, there’s one important thing you need to do before you start writing — create a schedule for revision, editing, and publishing. Yes, create that schedule now, and stick to it.
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