Thanksgiving is a few days away, which means more people will be focusing on what they are thankful for (at least on social media). Thanksgiving also marks the final stretch of NaNoWriMo—a week later is the deadline for participants to reach the 50,000-word goal.
The combination of these events makes me think about how I appreciate my accomplishments as a writer, and how other writers should too.
This past week, multiple major assignments kept me from reaching the NaNoWriMo goal a single day. Along with the stress of school, I watched the gap between my actual word count and my expected word count widen. I updated my word count every day, but sometimes I only managed around 200 words—far from the daily goal of 1,667 words. After keeping up with the goal for the first two weeks of NaNoWriMo, I was frustrated that I couldn’t manage to crank out those words along with my other responsibilities. I focused solely on where I needed to be, and not on the 20,000+ words I had written since November 1st.
I value the importance of keeping a goal in mind and working towards that goal, but sometimes you have to step back and appreciate what you have already accomplished. I applaud anyone who reaches that 50,000-word goal by November 30th, but I also applaud anyone who tried.
If I didn’t decide to participate in NaNoWriMo this month, I would not have added 31,000 words to my manuscript in the past 19 days. Maybe I will reach that 50k, and maybe I won’t. Regardless, I am thankful for the words I did manage, and you should be too. If you convinced yourself to write every day for the month of November, or if you used the chance to rack up more words than you can usually manage, be proud of yourself! No matter what your word count is on November 30th, I expect it’s more than it was on November 1st. You don’t need to go all the way to be successful or to be a winner. Appreciate what you managed to do, and then keep going.
This mindset applies on a wider scale for writers too. Recently I’ve seen a lot of talk on Twitter about the number of years, the number of manuscripts, and the sheer amount of time, effort, luck, and patience that goes into becoming a published author, and continuing to publish afterwards. It’s a constant battle.
If you focus too much on going big, you won’t appreciate what you have managed to do. Maybe you are on your fourth or fifth manuscript and have yet to find an agent. That does not mean those first three or four manuscripts are pointless garbage, or that you should give up. Those manuscripts helped you grow as a writer, and now you can apply better and better skills to each new manuscript you start. Besides, if you love writing, enjoy the process of writing and the stories you have created without singling in on the dream of publication.
Always keep your goals—no matter how large they are—in your mind, and work towards them. But don’t let those goals cloud out your accomplishments—no matter how small they are. Whether it’s NaNoWriMo or your dream of becoming a NYT bestseller, don’t give up if you don’t make it all the way on the first, second, or fifth try. Keep trying, and only go home to write some more.
What are your thoughts? What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, check out their website. It’s never too late to start writing.
We’re moving into the third week of NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Participants of NaNoWriMo attempt to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th, effectively completing the first draft of a novel within the span of a month. This event encourages writers to set goals and write every day, which will not only help them reach that glorious 50,000 words by the end of the month, but will also show them what can be possible if you do schedule in regular writing time.
It’s very important to remember that NaNoWriMo hopes to produce first drafts. If you start the month with 0 words and end it with a polished novel, I fully applaud you; but for most of us, that’s wholly unrealistic. For that reason, the key to success is embracing this truth and continuing full throttle towards the end of your first draft.
This advice holds true for any first draft, whether it’s written in the span of a month or over a much longer period. Chances are the first draft of your novel will not be clean, or concise, or sometimes remotely what you expected it to be. One character might take over the story while another falls flat. You might forget about a plot point halfway through and realize you never addressed it again. Your writing might lack the sensory detail required to fully immerse the reader—or it might have way too much of it. If you’re like me, you might have temporarily lost the creativity required to name anything, and hence your draft is now riddled with [ ] to fill the gaps.
Regardless of what is or isn't there, let it happen. Embrace the roughness of your first draft and focus on reaching the end. If you worry too much about the way your writing comes across, you could break the flow of ideas you were previously prepared to spill onto the page. If you spend too much time editing while writing, you lose precious time for more writing.
Write now, edit later.
Moving full throttle towards the end of a first draft does more than speed up the writing process—it should also limit the amount of time you consistently spend editing. Unless you are a hardcore planner that already has each and every character, plot point, and plot twist set in stone, chances are something will change along the way. You will decide you don’t like the idea for a character, or another character will claim the spotlight, or you realize the item your character has spent 30,000 words trying to locate actually has little significance, and perhaps an unexpected twist should lead them towards a new goal.
Let it happen.
If you continue through the first draft without pausing to edit, you will reach the end with a better understanding of what your manuscript should eventually be about. Some writers might have it planned to the last plot twist, but many of us have a lot to figure out along the road. So, what’s the point in taking time to go back and edit the description of the holy grail your character yearns to find if by the end you decide that holy grail might not be so crucial after all?
We all have different processes and preferences when it comes to writing, but if you are one of the daredevils attempting to log 50,000 words by November 30th, keep this advice in mind. It’s okay for your draft to have mistakes—you can fix them later. For now, focus on reaching the end.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, remember Wednesday marks the halfway point of 25,000 words—good luck! If you know nothing about NaNoWriMo but find yourself intrigued, check out their website. After all, it’s never too late to start writing.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.