Editor’s Note: Our apologies to Tom for the delay in getting this piece published. Holidays, they’re a killer!
Written by: Tom Leveen
It’s November, and that means Nanowrimo time. If you’ve not heard of it, Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and you can read all about it here: www.nanowrimo.org.
It’s a simple premise: Write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30. What do you win? Nothing. You wrote a novel, or a good chunk of one, in a month. That’s reward enough, the organizers say, and thousands of writers apparently agree. Nano gets bigger and bigger every year.
Me, you ask? Well, I’ve failed three attempts at completing the requisite word count in the allotted time. In my defense, one of those failures later was completed, submitted, and published (and eventually, against my wishes, entitled manicpixiedreamgirl, which you can and should look at here).
Why force yourself to crank out an average of 1,667 words each day? Why write a novel in a month?
Because that’s how you get the job done. Obviously you can set yourself a word count goal for as many days or months as you want. You don’t have to register with Nanowrimo.org to make that happen. But having a community of like-minded writers all chasing the same thing as you can be a powerful motivator.
And motivation is key.
You and I both know there are times when writing rocks. We get into a groove or to a really juicy scene and dive right in. We live for those moments.
Other times, it’s a slog. It’s pounding out one word after another, like it or not.
If you don’t know that sensation . . . if you’ve never been weary at the keyboard . . . then I have to ask: Have you ever finished a full first draft of novel? Because either you haven’t, and you only write when inspired to do so; or you’re some kind of magical novel-writing fairy, in which case you probably needn’t concern yourself with anything I have to say here at HNR.
But if you know the slog, if you know the agony of “What the hell happens next and shouldn’t I be doing laundry I wonder what’s happening on Facebook oh look a new movie trailer on YouTube!” then you’re in good company. We all know it. From bestselling authors to the lowliest mid-lister, we all know the slog.
The slog happens more often than not for many authors. But as Nanowrimo shows us, the work can be done. I’m getting ready to go crank out my 1,667 words this afternoon, and I don’t know if I’ll knock them out in an hour or if it’ll take me all day. But I do it because that’s what the job is: writing words, one after another, like it or not.
Your first published novel is a fun, breezy little summer fling. Your second published novel, the one your editor and publisher will be asking you for, is more like punching a clock. It’s light years better than punching a clock, yes. But it’s a job.
If you’re ready to make writing fiction a job, then you have to be ready for the slog. You have to be ready for 50,000 words in 30 days (give or take). Practicing now with a formal challenge like Nanowrimo can be a great educator. It can show you where there are places in your life you can create time to write. It gives you a taste of the time involved for a first draft while you’re on the clock and your editor keeps calling.
You can write 1,667 words a day. You can.
But if you’re sure you can’t, try for 250 words a day. That’s a novel-length manuscript in one year at a rate of about one double-spaced page per day.
Writing a novel isn’t hard. Sitting down and getting it done, that’s the hard part.
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For writers needing a boost or critique, Tom offers help on the first page of your manuscript over at FictionMentor.com.
He also has an outstanding, short primer on dialogue, HOW TO WRITE AWESOME DIALOGUE.