Before starting NaNoWriMo, I’d been chewing over what I wanted to get out of the challenge. As it was my first time it was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to use it to have some fun with a new project and to kick-start my writing again after Possession by Dissertation. The pragmatic part of me also wanted my chosen project to be something potentially viable, something which would sustain my interest to the point of completion. On the whole it was a good experience for me. I learnt that I can first draft a lot more than 1,000 words a day if I have my plot and scenes in my head, and that I can get a lot written in 25 minute stints, I don’t have to put off writing until I have a clear couple of hours. Let’s be honest though: this is a rough, thin first draft. It doesn’t have subtlety, texture, detail. All these things I add in as I re-write.
Now the challenge is over it would be very easy to think, ‘Ah, I’ll have a little rest now’ but I don’t want to do that. However, I don’t want the external pressure of having to write 1666 words a day either, seven days a week for the next month, and clocking in to a website. And I don’t need it: I am determined to write the other 50k and build on that NaNo momentum. Knowing that I can draft up to 5k in a day if I need to, and 2k comfortably, gives me more flexibility. What I found hard with NaNo was that I had a couple of days where I had a bug and I made myself write through a foggy brain and a blobby body. Ordinarily I would probably have let myself rest for a day or two and then done catch-up, but with NaNo I didn’t want to do this as I was worried it would affect my average daily word count.
These are my top tips for getting that first draft finished.
1. Finish the first draft right to the end
Avoid the temptation to re-write and edit the 50k you’ve written as you may never get to the end of your draft. I am going to read through my first 50k to review my plot and structure and then crack on with my plot. At the moment I know that my chapters don’t link, they just proceed in a vague chronological order but that is something I can fix when I re-write. In actual fact, I don’t have a chronological plot – it has two time-frames – and this was another reason why I wasn’t fussed about my chapters. Oh. And the fact I have about five chapter sixes. Oopsy.
2. Decide how you are going to do this
I think that half the success of NaNo lies in the fact that you are told that all (ALL?) you have to do is write 1666 words a day for 30 days and you’re there. To me this is like not having to think about whether I want to go to the gym. If my routine is planned, I trog off like an obedient girl. If I begin to think about whether I want to go, or whether I could go later, it’s fatal. My sneaky, self-sabotaging mind talks me out of it and I’m on the sofa with the puppy and a Snickers Duo bar.
So, I have decided: I want to write the remaining 50k (or the rest of that first draft, however long that turns out to be) in December and am going to aim for 2,500 words a day, five days a week. That means that I will get a bit of time off but will still meet my target. This may not work for you. You may want to write more slowly, or less over a greater number of days per week. I don’t think it matters (within reason) as long as you have a plan in mind and stick to it.
3. Do it.
Yup. No excuses.
Just do it.
Of course I could be completely misguided and it may all go badly wrong. In which case I shall go back to the drawing board and start again.
To all my fellow WriMos, good luck with whatever you decide to do. And let’s share our experiences in six months time.
Now, where’s that Snickers bar?
If you would like to see my NaNo project, it is here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/vicky-newham/novels/the-exchange-633635
© Vicky Newham 2014