As the clock clicks over into November 1st, writers around the world will embark on the NaNoWriMo challenge.
No doubt, some of you are wondering what NaNoWriMo is. Well, as a writer, you commit yourself to writing 50,000 words in one month — you commit to writing a complete first draft of a novel. For some, it is a daunting goal, but as someone who has taken part in every NaNoWriMo and CampNaNoWriMo event since 2014, I can tell you that it's worth the challenge and effort.
Every year, without fail, there will be a few who work at insane rates, pumping out 50,000 words within the first few days. Some even achieve this within the first 24 hours. No, I'm not exaggerating. Within my home region, there is always at least one, frequently two or three, with another two or three who hit 50,000 words within the first week. However, I actually feel sad for the ones who rush to pump out those 50,000 words in such a short time, because in my opinion they have totally missed the point behind NaNoWriMo.
The real goal of NaNoWriMo is to spend an entire month writing your novel, aiming to complete it. If you finish early, you go back and flesh out some of the scenes. And if hit 50,000 words early but still haven't finished the novel, you keep going until you've written the words The End. You write every day, forming a habit for writing that will carry you through into December and beyond.
During this NaNoWriMo cycle, pace yourself. Don't be in such a rush to finish your 50,000-word-count goal that you forget what NaNoWriMo is really about — writing a story and forming a habit for writing.
I will grant you that I, myself, typically have the 50,000 words finished within the first two weeks, three weeks at most; however, I'm a full-time writer and editor. This is what I do for a living (a very poor meager living, but still...). After the number of years that I've been at this game, writing 50,000 words within a month is no longer a challenge. However, even though I've been writing for nearly 10 years, completing a novel within a month is still a huge task and something that even I struggle to complete.
Some will argue that those insane ones who have pumped out their 50,000 words the first day have actually finished their novels by the end of the month, but have they really? How much of what they have written is pure backstory or exposition that is actually irrelevant to the story.
Now, I know some will argue that this isn't the point behind NaNoWriMo, that it's to go blah onto paper. Well, no actually. According to Chris Baty, the creator of NaNoWriMo, it was about writing a novel in one month — a completed first draft and something that you could build on for the second draft. The 50,000 word count came from the average number of words that Chris and his fellow writing buddies were able to produce within 1-2 hours.
That was the point. It was meant to be 1-2 hours a day, something that you could add into your daily routine that doesn't impact on your ability to pay the bills, feed yourselves, or get sleep (and a shower). Most writers are able to produce in the order of 1,000 to 2,000 words in that time frame. Across 30 days, that's 30,000 - 60,000 words.
For those who are writing more than that, I have one question for you: what else do you do?
Remember that I'm a full-time writer and editor, but I still have a family that requires clothes on their backs and food in their bellies. Even then, on a good day, I only write in the order of 4,000 words.
Guys, I'm not trying to disparage those who actually have the genuine ability to write fast, but for the rest of the normal population of writers, don't even try to compete with those who are determined to pump out 50,000 words as fast as they can.
Take your time to let your stories form. Relish in the moment of writing as the words flow through you. Enjoy this drafting phase of the writing process.
Don't focus on the word counts. Instead, develop a routine that you can easily incorporate into your everyday life. Turn writing into a habit that you never want to give up.