Updated: Jan 10, 2020
Have you ever heard of The Costco Connection?
Yeah. I hadn’t either until someone handed me a few pages torn from the November 2019 issue of said publication. Why should I have?
Yet, apparently, The Costco Connection doesn’t just include articles and items that would directly benefit it.
There aren’t just recipes and cruise deals to be found within its pages. Nope, that November 2019 issue also included an article titled, “So You Wanna Write a Novel?” about NaNoWriMo. Which is why my acquaintance thought to give it to me.
I truly appreciate the thought, particularly since it gave me the idea for this blog. And just as the year – and the decade – is still in its newborn stages too.
Barely being more than a week into the ‘20s is a good place to reflect on any writing accomplishments we made in 2019… and what we can do about them now.
“Writing a novel can take years of anguish and toil,” the previously mentioned article begins. “It’s a long and arduous process, and most days, you will be certain that you are incapable of writing anything worthwhile.”
If that depresses you, hold on. Written by Judi Ketteler, here’s how it continues:
Or you can make a game of it, skip all the second-guessing, not worry one bit if it’s good or not, and do the whole thing in a month. That’s the NaNoWriMo way.
Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo… is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year after being accidentally founded by Chris Baty in 1999, when he and a group of 20 friends tried something called “noveling,” where they each wrote a 50,000-word novel during the month of July. By the second year, they moved NaNoWriMo to November. It’s been a November tradition for two decades now, challenging and delighting writers all over the world, who sign up, track their progress and then “win” by submitting their final novel for word count verification.
“Chris’ approach was that what he was writing didn’t have to be good,” says Katharine Gripp, communications manager for NaNoWriMo. “The fear of it being no good had been stopping him. So instead, he just focused on writing a lot.” That is the spirit of NaNoWriMo: committing to a word count each day for 30 days without worrying about quality.
If you’ve ever done it before, you know it can be a lot of fun while it lasts.
But it only lasts through November. Then you’re stuck with a manuscript where you didn’t worry about quality.
And that can be a problem… potentially leaving us just as stuck as when we first realized we wanted to write.
The Pretty Raw Reality of NaNoWriMo
I’m not coming down on NaNowriMo, for the record. I’ve done it myself a time or two and really enjoyed myself as it unfolded.
The first time was even a smash hit. Believe it or not, I did manage to write a quality first draft… likely in large part because:
I did three months of research beforehand (it was historical fiction).
I had a dead-end job that afforded me plenty of room to write without stressing out about schedules.
You can buy that now-published novel, Maiden America, right here.
But the second one? The second one (also historical fiction) wasn’t well-researched beforehand. It was also more rushed. And so I’ll admit that, two calendar years later, it’s still not done.
Focusing on quantity instead of quality may have gotten me writing. But it didn’t help me keep writing, a common NaNoWriMo issue.
So here’s the big question for today: What do you do with a manuscript you want to finish turning into a proper first draft but feel overwhelmed by?
Here’s what I’ve been doing…
Last year, I made myself go back and reread every single word of it, editing as I went along. This year, I’m making myself go back to writing – forcing myself to pen at least one line every single day.
That’s it. Just one new line. Or, if I feel like it, one new paragraph. My hope is that I’ll find myself writing a whole page or two per day as this new era ages.
Basically then, that’s my advice: If you did NaNoWriMo and you want to finish your manuscript, then you just have to do it. I know that’s probably not the inspiring answer you want to hear, but think about it this way…
You didn’t let yourself have any excuses back in November. What's different about today?