by Terri J. Huck
It’s that time again! November is right around the corner, and that means National Novel Writing Month is about to begin.
This is your once-a-year chance to draft a novel without feeling so alone. Knowing there are thousands of other people toiling away can be a great motivator. So if you need a little kick in the butt to get writing, NaNoWriMo is for you.
You don’t have to sign up for anything—you can just jump in on your own. Or you can take advantage of the various resources NaNoWriMo offers.
Most people use the time to bang out a first (rough) draft of a book. But if you already have a draft, there’s no reason you couldn’t do a rewrite in November.
The key to success either way is preparing ahead of time. You need to have a plan. And I say that as a writer and a project manager. You will have a much better chance of finishing the month with a solid piece of writing if you have a plan. And that means a plan for your book and for your time.
Your time: Mark up your calendar or day planner with a schedule for how much time you’ll carve out for writing each day and what you’ll accomplish. If you have a word count you want to hit, think in terms of having a quarter of the book written each week. Or divide that count by 30 to figure out how many words you need to write each day.
The word count is roughly 80,000 for mainstream and literary fiction, mysteries, thrillers, memoirs, and romance (although that often trends shorter, too). Science fiction and fantasy can be longer—say, 110,000 words. If you’re writing for young adults, shoot for 55,000-70,000 words.
Your book: Although your goal can be a specific word count, you will need at least a rough outline of the story so that you don’t end up writing 50,000 words before anything has even happened to your character. Figure out the key scenes, the narrative arc, the main character’s journey internally and externally. Spend some time now thinking about and mapping your story so that November is all about writing. You will change your mind and new ideas will come to you as you write, but your writing time will go much more smoothly if you puzzle out the gist of your story ahead of time.
For more, see our post for last year’s NaNoWriMo. And get ready to write your heart out!
Terri J. Huck is an editor and managing partner at Possibilities Publishing Company. She blogs about researching and writing historical fiction at TheSmellOfGunsmoke.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @TJHuck.