NaNoWriMo: Week 1 Retrospective

by Tom Ingram

Sorry I’ve been so quiet here of late. I’ve been hard at work writing for National Novel Writing Month. I know technically week 2 started on Sunday, but I didn’t want to write anything here until I was back on track word count-wise.

On day 1, I easily met my word count for the day and went a little over just to have a buffer. Immediately after that things went downhill. I really had to push myself to meet my goal the next few days, and I flirted with the idea of giving up on a few occasions. One day, something came up that cut into my writing time, causing me to fall behind, and some days I just couldn’t do any more than stare at the screen and tap out a word or two now and then. But I didn’t give up, and so far I’m glad.

A few things I’ve learned that I want to pass on:

Your mantra for the month should be that immortal Hollywood dictum, “we’ll fix it in post”. Does a scene not work? Can you only think of a really terrible analogy to describe something? Work your way out of the scene in the most contrived way possible, and throw in the bad analogy. Right now, you want to get it done. Remember that no one other than you ever has to see this draft. Don’t be embarrassed about being bad.

If you can read the first few chapters and have a decent idea of what the hell’s happening in your novel, you’re writing too slow. Personally, I wrote the same scene with only slight changes in three different spots because I kept changing my mind as to how the novel should open. As you go along, you’ll change your mind a lot, tweak details, and decide to excise things. Make sure to note these changes of heart so you don’t forget, but don’t fix it now. Right now you just want to get from “Once upon a time” to “The End”. Anything else is hindering you.

Get some music while you’re writing. If it’s quiet, you’ll be tempted to think. That’ll get in the way of quick writing. On Sunday, I had a Matrix marathon playing in the background while I wrote. I got a ton of work done that night. Much of it is terrible, but see the above point. The type of music probably doesn’t matter, but you don’t want to get to distracted. Don’t pick something you’ll want to sing along to, for instance (unless you can sing and write at the same time). I’ve mostly been listening to jazz music, both my jazz playlist and a couple of albums I acquired legally.

Don’t procrastinate. Whenever you get a chance, sit down and write. Don’t research, and avoid the Internet. I spent ten minutes or so off on a tangent researching the standard size for a door. That was completely pointless, adding nothing to the story and wasting a lot of time. If there’s something you don’t know, make it up. Either it’s too minor a detail to worry about, or you can fix it in post.

Procrastinate. Once you’ve written a big pile of words, reward yourself with a few minutes online. Check your wordcount and update it at the NaNoWriMo site. Get a drink, and maybe if you’re really feeling good about your work take a bathroom break. Eventually you need recharging. I have Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant next to my bed at the moment. Any time I feel I need to recollect my muse, I lie down and read a few pages.

I’m feeling really good about NaNoWriMo, and I think I have a good shot at hitting the 50000 goal. Anyway, back to work.

PS: Canadian readers, remember that tomorrow is Remembrance Day. Don’t forget to tune in to CBC around eleven for the moment of silence.