Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo, and I actually won! Which means that I wrote 50,000 words in a 30-day period. That still boggles my mind. And as I have thought about it I have come to a few conclusions as to how it was possible that I could write so much in so short a time.
1. Write now, Fix it later! That became my mantra as I was writing. I knew as I was writing certain sentences and paragraphs and even whole scenes that what I was writing was terrible. The prose was poor, the action was lacking, the writing was boring, but I had to get through it. That’s the thing about NaNoWriMo – it’s National Novel Writing Mont, not National Good Novel Writing Month. Most people use NaNoWriMo to write a first draft of their novel, to get all of the ideas and characters and plot points down on paper, then go back and revise later.
2. Write every day! In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days you have to write 1667 words a day (well, 1666.67 words per day, but who’s counting?). So if you miss a day, you have to write 3333 words the next day, and it keeps adding up the more days you miss. I had a friend who had to write something like 10,000 words the last day of the month. That’s some serious cramming. Writing every day, at least for a little while, will help alleviate this burden.
3. Social pressure is a good thing! I think one of the greatest things that helped me get my 50,000 words written was the positive social pressure. I was tweeting and posting to Facebook, and to the NaNoWriMo website, updating my wordcount every day, so that others could see where I was. And I was following a couple of friends and got updates on their wordcounts. I felt bad when my friends wrote more than I did, and I felt guilty when I could only post that I had written just a few hundred words in a day. This being responsible and having other people keeping tabs on my work helped motivate me to make the time to write everyday. And at times when I just wanted to scrap the whole novel and quit NaNoWriMo, I thought about what my friends would think. They all knew that I was writing a novel in a month, and they followed up, regularly asking me how it was coming. So, on days when I did not have the desire to write, I wrote anyway to keep my friends happy.
So, what do I do with what I have learned from NaNoWriMo? I want to apply these principles to my professional writing as well as my personal writing. I am currently working on a capstone paper for my degree in German Linguistics. And by working on, I mean that I wrote about a third of it several months ago and haven’t looked at it since. I’m sorry.
But I want to have this paper written by the time Fall semester starts, so that I can show it to my faculty adviser and get feedback. She has also mentioned that once I write my capstone paper, by myself to get credit for it, she wants to help coauthor it and submit it to several conferences. That should be fun! But I need to get cracking and write this paper.
So, I will start applying NaNoWriMo principles. 1. Write now, fix later. 2. Write every day. 3. Social pressure.
I will write at least 15 minutes every day. I will write and go back to revise later. I will start posting my progress, asking my friends to hound me and make me feel guilty for not writing enough. And hopefully, I will have a presentable paper in a few months.