I was going to call this post, "Coming from behind," but my twelve year old brain wouldn’t let me type that without a lot of giggling. Thesaurus.com is a lifesaver.
It’s the close of the first full week of National Novel Writing Month. All good little NaNo’ers have 10,000 words under their belt and are moving on to tackle their next 1,700 words.
And then, there are the rest of us. Those who aren’t starting the day with 10,000 words in the bank. Maybe you have 1,000 or 9,684 or anything in between. For one reason or another, you haven’t made the word count.
You know what?
A lot of people treat NaNoWriMo like a me against the world race. Who will cross the finish line first? Who can write the most in November, beyond 50,000 words?
I’m not sure how the sense of competition started. Probably because there are a hell of a lot of people like me out there who start going, glimpse someone elses word count and think they can do better.
That’s not what NaNoWriMo is about.
I’ve been that marathon writer, doing 200,000 words in a month. You know what it got me? Nothing of value. I haven’t published a word I wrote that year, and I have tons of hate mail for making others look bad. I’m serious about the hate mail. It was a big to-do with ML’s and other lovely staffers who were equally appalled by some individual’s behavior.
Last year I didn’t hit the magical 50,000 words, and I walked away with a book that will be published early next year.
I share all of this to make a simple point: NaNoWriMo isn’t a race. It’s a challenge.
The only thing you’ll get out of it is what you put into it. If you want quality output, you have to put in good things. And sometimes that’s not always 50,000 words. But it’s too early to throw in that towel. There’s still time to meet the challenge and get something awesome out of it.
How do you make up the difference once you’re behind?
I started NaNoWriMo floundering. From Day 1 I was behind. I didn’t click with my outline. The characters I’d created felt like strangers. I just wasn’t getting it. I think my pre-surgery meds played a role in this as well as the daunting fact I’m facing my first ever surgery. For the last week I haven’t wanted to — or I physically haven’t been able — to write. I’ve had to do some serious making up my words!
Here’s some things I’ve done…
1) Don’t delete anything.
A lot of people say this one, but here’s what I do: I create a NaNoWriMo 2012 file and anything I write that I would otherwise delete gets copied into this file. Ultimately the book I write will be dumped into it as well for the final validation, but this helps me both keep up my biggest possible word count and have a clean file.
This NaNoWriMo I’ve started two books. I have about five or six false starts that add up to about 4,000 words total. It stinks that I’ve spent so much time writing them, but sometimes you have to fall before you can run.
2) Don’t be afraid to delete anything.
Okay, so you wouldn’t really delete it, just move it to your other file, but don’t be afraid to drop words. Sometimes not everything you write is worth reading. There are times when you took a right when you should have taken a left and you need to backtrack. Move those words. Get rid of them and restart. Maybe you can get to somewhere even cooler!
3) Write more than the daily minimum.
There are days when it’s all I can do to eek out a few hundred words. Earlier this week, for example, my meds were making me so tired I was sleeping about twelve hours of the day, working eight and the remaining four were spent trying to simply take care of essential tasks. Writing was beyond me. Now, I didn’t have a cushion of words established how I’d like to have, but this was at the beginning of NaNoWriMo.
Push yourself to write 2,000 words a day. Just 300 more than the minimum. If you can do more, do it. It’s not a lot, but in the long run that cushion will build until you can have a lazy day or maybe work and family conspire to keep you from writing.
Okay, I said above to not compete, but there are some areas where it’s useful.
Sprints are timed challenges where you race to see who can write the most in a give span of time. That extra pressure to perform can really amp up your output. It’s one of the things that make me get a lot of words in when I really need it.
Sometimes you’ll benefit more from turning in early, foregoing some writing in favor of relaxing. You can’t win a sprint when you haven’t recovered from the marathon. Take time for yourself.
These are just some things that I’m trying to remind myself. I’m not just telling you, my dear reader, I’m telling myself, because I need to hear them as well.