The other night, I collapsed with a cup of hot tea in a happy daze. I had finished my (fourth? fifth?) NaNoWriMo novel! It’s a common feeling for many writers near the end of November, but before that rush of victory comes, there’s always the sinking feeling that you won’t make it. Well, this is a site dedicating to finishing novels, so I think I owe it to the NaNo world to share some of the things I’ve learned as an experienced NaNoer about victory and why I think it is worthwhile. I’ve never lost a NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ve done Script Frenzy and Camp NaNoWriMo, and also several Book-in-a-Week challenges, and I’ve never failed. But I do know of many more people who aren’t as lucky, and every time I have to face a challenge, I always wonder if this will be my first loss.
1. It’s always possible to win NaNoWriMo. You might not have written a single word yet. You might not even have a starting idea or even signed up. But there are people who have managed to write 50,000 words in a single day. I’ve heard it takes about eighteen hours of mad typing and caffeine, but you can’t really say it’s too late until November 30th.
2. Writer’s block is just an illusion. It’s true. Every time you think you have writer’s block, force yourself to write one sentence. Then another. Then another, until you can write more easily. Ignore writer’s block and it will go away.
3. The story is never over. Okay, maybe if you have the universe implode into nothingness on the final page, the story might end then. But otherwise your characters will keep living their lives and things will keep happening to them. Where you cut it off can change dramatically. This is one tip that I didn’t get until just this year. I always used to throw more wild twists into my novels until they reached the magic word count goal, but this year I challenged myself not to introduce anything new past the halfway point. My writing material would simply follow from what I had already written. It was easier than I had expected, and my story was one of the tightest knit that I’ve ever written in November.
4. It actually doesn’t end on November 30. Way too many people think that it does. They try to write a good book in a single month, get completely overwhelmed, and in the end it turns into nothing but a forgotten lump of wordy trash. That’s not a good way to write a novel. It’s not even fun. I won’t say it can’t be done, but I do think that there are better alternatives. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing in November, but do worry about editing it in December. It isn’t December yet, so for now you should just try to finish it up and get some sleep.
5. It’s totally worth it. You will feel like a winner in the end. Your novel will be rough as anything. It won’t be well written and the best you can hope for is a diamond in the rough. But now you have something to work with. You can revise it and take it as far as you want, but you have a good start.
Hopefully you’re feeling a little more inspired about your writing journey, and I hope to see you in the winner’s circle soon! What are your tips to winning NaNoWriMo? How have you won in the past? Please comment, and I’d love to read what you have to say!