As soon as the clock strikes twelve on the 31st October, it can mean a number of things. The beginning of the countdown to Christmas, the time to throw out pumpkins that are beginning to smell just a little bit off, but mainly, the dawn of NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) is an opportunity to pick up your pen, if you’re old fashioned like I am, or pull up a fresh Word document and start typing. Nothing says happy November like starting a fresh novel or picking up an unfinished draft and continuing where you left off. Although its rare to actually finish a novel from the first to final chapter during November, I’m a firm believer that NaNoWriMo provides you with the perfect toolbelt for when you finally do finish your first novel.
Getting the story from your brain to the page is what really matters.
The Perfect Routine
After taking part in National Novel Writing Month a couple of times, when I finally sat down with the intention of finishing my first novel, I had my writing routine nailed down. Whether it’s a nine am start with minimal work breaks, or a coffee fuelled energy burst that has you writing during all hours of the early am, you’re bound to find a writing routine that produces your best content. Writing every day for thirty days straight is an ideal way of realising that no, you do not work best during the evening, when your siblings or flatmates are talking your ear off.
Like most men in their early twenties, writers have to be trained in the art of one thing: commitment. Remember the amount of emotional stress that it took you to smash out that one 1500-word essay? Times that by about fifty and you have the average word count for a novel. It’s the most rewarding thing in the world, but it is not easy to have faith in your story the whole way through writing your first draft. NaNoWriMo will keep you chipping away at the same plotline until you emerge out of the ‘oh my god this is utter crap’ stage and start to believe in yourself again.
That sometimes its just about getting words onto a page
One of the easiest traps to fall into when writing a book is trying to make every chapter the shiny, sparkly version that you imagined in your head before moving on to the next one. In reality, you’re most likely to write the phrase ‘the end’ if you leave perfectionism behind and accept that when you come back to edit your first draft, it will reek of inconsistencies, grammar errors and plot holes. Without the mess of a first draft, there would be no point in editors, or an editing process. Terry Pratchett once said that the first draft “is just you telling yourself the story”; it doesn’t have to be ready to hit Waterstone’s shelves at the end of NaNoWriMo. Getting the story from your brain to the page is what really matters.
If you’re considering ticking a novel off your bucket list this month, do it. Fresh starts are scary, but they carry potential. And that’s all an idea really needs to get going.