NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins Saturday and I’m stoked. I love diving into a new manuscript. If you are participating for the first time this year, here are a few roadblocks that tripped me up in the past.
Roadblock #1: Lack of Community
Without having others to cheer me on, it was difficult to write 1, 667 words every day after I’d already written and/or edited other projects all day in isolation. You’ll find my solution over on the Authors’ and Editors’ blog this morning in my guest post. This year I’ll be attending three write-ins per week with a group of six writers.
Roadblock #2: Lack of Scheduling
I lived my life during November like I did any other month – trying to keep up on my laundry and other household chores, going on social outings with friends, watching my favorite television programs and following my favorite sports teams. As such, I tried to fit my novel writing time between my normal routines and that didn’t work.
If I didn’t take my novel more serious than that, then I had no chance of actually finishing it. Writing the first draft of a novel in a month isn’t something you do when everything else is done. It’s something you commit to for blocks of time every day, regardless of the laundry, fancy meals, social gatherings or television.
So, last year I told everyone I would not be available in November, but I was looking forward to re-engaging in December. This freed me up to write every night and I finally “won” NaNoWriMo for the first time.
Roadblock #3: Lack of Understanding
I didn’t understand that some writers are plotters and some are pantsers (seat of the pants), and I certainly didn’t understand that you don’t choose one process or the other rather than it choosing you.
I ended up listening to plotters who told me to buy index cards (to map out major plot points and scenes) or to create character bios and a full synopsis before I started. I could never fully develop a story arc using this method though. I wasn’t deep enough in the story. And I didn’t know my characters well enough yet. As a result, I ran out of ideas, became frustrated and quit.
Years later, I learned we aren’t all wired to be plotters. Some of us are pantsers. I prefer the phrase “discovery writer” because it makes me feel less disorganized and it is more accurate. I discover my story as I get to know my characters better. Once I learned who I was, I embraced it. For NaNoWriMo last year, I started with just an idea and the story unfolded as I wrote it. Whichever type of writer you are, embrace it.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.