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.