Whew! Last night I finished writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (which ends tonight at midnight). See www.nanowrimo.org for more about this challenging event. This is the third year in a row I’ve participated and “won” by hitting the 50K target, and it was a terrific experience.
In a celebratory chat with a writing buddy who finished up today, we agreed that going through the NaNoWriMo process taught us or reinforced at least three valuable lessons. Here they are:
- Nothing motivates like a deadline. (This is an especially powerful one for former journalists).
- If you get stuck and find yourself bored with the story, try writing a sex scene. This works, honestly, although we could come up with no good explanation for why. While this particular technique is perhaps more useful to novel writers than someone preparing a corporate PowerPoint, the more universal take-home here may be that venturing off the track from the main story (or your primary topic) and exploring the unexpected side paths gets the brain’s wheels unstuck from the rut.
- By devoting a set amount of time each day to the process or by hitting a target amount of daily writing output, you can complete a large, daunting project – whether it’s drafting a novel, putting together that how-to guide or writing a long article for a prestigious professional journal.
The end result of this November madness is not a great novel – or even a coherent one, not yet. What I do have is a draft manuscript that made me laugh while I was writing it, a treasure trove of quirky information gleaned during my on-the-fly research, and a mass of raw material that I can revise, add to, and polish into something readable. Perhaps more importantly, the month’s work has brought me a renewed appreciation for the writing process, and added to my storehouse of tips and tricks for getting writing projects done.
Congratulations to my fellow NaNoWriMo participants, wherever in the world you are!