Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
National Novel Writing Month starts in one week. For those who don’t know what this is, you can go to the NaNoWriMo site here and learn all about it. The point is to write 50,000 words between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. I think it’s great for discipline and for getting that first draft out. A terrific way to stop procrastinating and just do it!
Of course, in many cases, 50,000 words isn’t going to be an entire book. If you’re planning a longer book, it’s okay. This is still a terrific discipline for getting 50k words down.
So let’s talk about writing a first draft.
Today I want to address a couple of things I think are pretty important when you’re sitting down to a blank screen. Keep in mind we’re all different and we have unique strategies that work for us; these are general tips meant to be helpful. If they don’t work for you, throw them out.
1. Now is NOT the time to self-edit.
Don’t worry about all those writing tips you’ve been taught. Just write. Let the words flow. If you’ve been studying the craft, you’ll naturally be inclined to show more than tell, write snappy dialogue, and be aware of how much backstory you’re allowing in. That’s great. But don’t let yourself get caught up in those details. Keep the forward momentum going. Your best writing will happen in the revision process.
2. Provide yourself uninterrupted time to write.
This is a tough one, with jobs and families. But honestly, I think your biggest challenge is going to be staying off the Internet when you’re writing. I was recently re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he talks about having a quiet space to write, turning off the telephone, even closing the window shades to avoid distractions. How EASY it would be, if that’s all we had to worry about! King wrote it before the era of online social networking. The difficult truth is this: If you’re going to be a writer, you must set aside writing time and hold it as sacred. Turn off your Internet connection.
3. Get your family involved.
If you live with other people who depend on you for things like bringing home the bacon and/or frying it up in the pan, you’re not going to be able to accomplish this alone. I’ve said this all before so forgive me if it sounds familiar, but I think it’s important, when writing a first draft or writing on a deadline, to consider various ways to call in the reinforcements. Get more help with cooking, grocery shopping, housecleaning or lawn-mowing if possible (delegate!) Set up a schedule for each week (it can be different each week, just as long as you make one) where you have protected writing times.
4. Remember this is a first draft.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of ranting online from agents reminding writers: Do not submit in December whatever you wrote in November! Anyone who writes a first draft in a month is going to need several months to revise and polish. Revisions are when the real crafting happens. So don’t proudly start querying on December 1st with your NaNoWriMo project! (Unless it was last’s year’s NaNoWriMo project.)