How To Finish Writing A Novel In 30 Days, According To NaNoWriMo Executive Director Grant Faulkner
Every November, thousands of aspiring writers take part in a unique challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you are struggling to meet your manuscript goal length, I've got 5 NaNoWriMo tips from Executive Director Grant Faulkner, whose new book, Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo, is out now from Chronicle Books.
Anyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo knows that there is nothing like it in the world. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a grueling demand, one that requires writers — known as "Wrimos" in National Novel Writing Month's jargon — to put down 1,667 words per day, on average. That amounts to roughly seven, double-spaced pages every single day during the month of November, and it's no easy feat for even the most-disciplined participants.
Of course, you'll have plenty of help with your NaNoWriMo draft. National Novel Writing Month has one of the most engaged, committed communities out there, and no Wrimo who desires camaraderie and commiseration will want for it. NaNoWriMo Executive Director Grant Faulkner says that the willingness of community members to help one another has been a critical factor in its success:
"NaNoWriMo is different than other writing communities, which tend to focus on critiques and publishing," he tells Bustle. "The NaNoWriMo community is all about encouragement and empowerment—helping people realize themselves as writers and prodding them on to accomplish audacious goals."
Faulkner believes that those "audacious goals" make up another key component to National Novel Writing Month's 18 years of success stories. "NaNoWriMo helps everyone be an artist," he says. "The practicalities of life tend to push creativity down our to-do lists when we become adults, or maybe even earlier. The “shoulds” of our lives tend to rule us. NaNoWriMo’s gift is to make creativity a priority for the month of November—and hopefully longer."
There's something to be said for National Novel Writing Month's capacity to instill new habits in its participants. A number of best-selling novels were first drafted during NaNoWriMo, including Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Renegades author Marissa Meyer's breakout hit, Cinder, was also a NaNoWriMo novel. Meyer wrote rough drafts of what would later become three Lunar Chronicles books — Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress — during NaNoWriMo 2008, totaling more than 150,000 words.
If anyone can write 150,000 words during the month of November — That's 5,000 words a day, folks! — then I'm sure we can all use Faulkner's NaNoWriMo tips to win this year's novel-writing event.
Know When You Can Devote Time To Writing
"To plan for success—to really think about what you need to do in your life to write 1,667 words per day. For example, before National Novel Writing Month starts, I advise people to go on a “time hunt”—to keep track of the way you spend your time for a week and see what you can cut out for a month to give you enough time to write. It’s important to have a strategy for success," Faulkner says.
Don't Get Bogged Down In Negative Thinking About Your Manuscript
"Accept that you’re writing a crappy rough draft because every writer in history has written a crappy rough draft," he says. "Keep going — because the rough draft is just an experiment. Karen Russell said that 90% of her rough draft doesn’t make it into her final version, and that once you accept that, you can enjoy writing “badly.” It’s important to experiment, explore, and test new ideas, so don’t get hung up on what’s crappy or not. Just write."
Engage With The NaNoWriMo Community To Prevent Writer's Block
"NaNoWriMo is famous for its “word sprints.” Over the years, I’ve led scores of word sprints during NaNoWriMo—challenges to write as fast as possible in a set time, often with a prompt to get started—and I’ve never seen anyone who is unable to write. People tend to write at least 100 words in a simple five-minute sprint—and sometimes as many as 500. If you put pen to paper and write one sentence, another sentence is likely to follow," he says. "Word sprints are effective because they invite you to turn off judgments by entering the flow of intuition that high-velocity writing taps into. As the clock is ticking, it’s important not to hesitate. Let thoughts race through your mind, catapult over your inhibitions, and just drench your page with ink. You can do word sprints with a group during NaNoWriMo every November (just follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter or join in a local write-in) or on your own."
Be Kind To Yourself
"If you’ve started to write, you haven’t failed. You’ve only failed if you didn’t put words on the page. So often a writer will apologize to me for only writing 10,000 words. Writing 10,000 words in a month is a big achievement, though. If you do that every month of the year, you’ll end up with 120,000 words," he says. "That’s one huge novel!"
Remember Why You're Doing NaNoWriMo
"Remember that you’re a writer. Don’t listen to anyone’s naysaying voices—including your own! Write toward that higher purpose, toward the creator and person you want to be. NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing a novel, after all; it’s about living a creative life," Faulkner says.