First and foremost, if you are reading this when you should be writing and have become distracted, stop reading right away, and get on with your novel.
If, however, you’ve arrived here because #NaNoWriMo is not quite working for you so far and you need a little nudge or an almighty shove, then read on.
Today is the 3rd of November. The 3rd day of NaNoWriMo. Yep, we’ve already started. I must admit I have not prepared in any way for it (aside from the endless stories that swim around my head all day) and to be honest have never participated before. However, as I’m really loving the idea behind this story, I thought that I’d join the buzz and see how I got on. Why not?
So, at the end of day three I have written 10,800 words. I’m pretty pleased with that. But, I’m not here to gloat I’m here to offer a little advice which might just help someone out. This advice will certainly not be for everybody but has worked for me over the last four novels. Here goes:
Heat and Light, Heat and Light
Get the room warm. Or cold, depending on what you like. Get the lights right. Make it comforting – a place you’d like to be. For me, I get it toasty warm and I set low lights. As soon as I walk in I feel transported from the rest of the house. The rest of life. I’m truly somewhere else.
Set the scene. I always play music. Usually loud, chosen depending on my mood. I find that the quiet adds more pressure, it seems to hang heavy in the air. I can also hear ‘real-life’ happening on the other side of the door – the dog scratching, someone putting their shoes on, the doorbell, one of the kids shouting. And, to avoid getting distracted from my flow I play music I don’t necessarily yet know; new albums. The rule is that if I find myself singing along, its time change the album. I find it works better than accidentally typing out song lyrics.
This is perhaps the bit you really wanted to read. Okay, for me it works like this:
1. Unless you really feel like it, don’t think you have to continue where you finished last time.
2. Write out of order depending on your mood. If you are happy write something happy, if you are sad work on something sad. You can piece it all together at the end;
3. Writing always flows better when you are comfortable and in the mood. Sit down and begin. Feel the joy that it brings you (if it doesn’t bring joy question whether you should be doing it in the first place) and it’ll soon flow, especially when you don’t feel constrained to start where you last finished;
4. If you are really into a character (which you should be) and can’t stop thinking about them, then write about them.
5. If a sentence gets ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked’ and you can’t get it right, highlight it (I use green) and move on. Don’t get hung up trying to make something work at that exact moment. If it doesn’t flow right that day, it will some other time.
6. Use a different colour highlighter in Word (yellow for me) to mark-up areas that may or may not make sense. I tend to add comments in square brackets like, [WOULD HE REALLY DO THIS?] or [DOES THIS TIE IN WITH SCENE IN KITCHEN EARLIER?]. This helps you to you’re your flow;
7. Get the story down. This is the key. In your mind is a story that you want to tell. So write it, don’t worry if it doesn’t sound brilliant or you are not convinced with certain plot strands. Get the main story down. It’ll develop so much and you can chop and change it when you have your first draft.
To me, this is the best and easiest way to write. Hopefully, you’ll find that at the end of November when #NaNoWriMo has finished for another year, you’ll have a nice bulky manuscript in front of you. Some of it will be nonsense, some of it will be good. Some will be scrapped, and other bits developed. Some bits will perhaps be used in another, altogether different story. But now you’ll have an early rough draft of your story right there in front of you.
And surely that’s the objective, isn’t it?
I’m going for 3,000 words a day. That’ll give me 60,000 at the end of the month (see I’m an author and a mathematician). That’s a pretty good start I would say. I’ll expect to delete around 10,000 words altogether, but expect to add maybe 20,000-30,000 in draft two.
To me, the first draft is like getting the walls of the house built. The subsequent drafts are making the house habitable and ultimately decorating it.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.
Oh, and the highlighting all gets swallowed up and dealt with in the editing stage.