November is over! I hope everyone had a fun and productive month with your novel projects.
I have to start this post by patting myself on the back just a little. This is the fourth year I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the third I’ve really put in the effort with my novel. Both previous attempts fell short, one just hit the 40,000 words mark (I did eventually finish this novel and am currently working on a third revision), the other crumbed before I even hit 35,000 words, but is now a whopping 120,000+ word story and in a mostly-finished state.
This year I did it. I surpassed 50,000 words on November 30th, coming in just under the wire to hit the NaNoWriMo goal! Here’s my writing progress chart:
You’ll notice a lot of days with little progress, then days with mad bursts of progress to get caught up. This is a symptom of my writing style and my normal goal setting. I usually aim for 5,000 words a week, allowing for days with no progress. Add to that November has a holiday (Thanksgiving) and Lulu forum software was being updated (an initiative I spearheaded) and I had a fair amount of distraction. You can see that in the progress chart.
What makes a difference is just putting pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard) again and again. Consistency is important, but writing is writing, if you can maintain the daily goals or weekly goals, you’re making progress.
I cannot state this enough. If you write anything, be it long form or short, fiction or nonfiction, work related or just for fun, writing every day is the absolute most important way to improve.
So, I’ve got a novel mostly done – while I hit the word count goal, the story isn’t quite finished – but now what? First off, the story needs to be finished. One of the most dangerous things a writer can do is let the excitement die down even a little. NaNoWriMo pushes my word count per day to a place I’m not really thrilled about, but the act of forcing yourself to hit that word count every day is valuable. 1700 words a day is a lot though, and for me, I felt like the quality suffered.
November is over, so tone it down. I know I’ve mentioned before I use Scrivener as my primary word processor. This year I gave Write! a try (I’ll do a full analysis of the experience in early 2018) and both have simple means of tracking word count per day. Hitting my 1700 words (or more for those days I had to do make-up writing) was made that much easier by the counter. No reason to stop using it either! I lower my target to 800 words per day, which usually fills about an hour of writing time. Even if you’re reducing your daily goals, let the NaNoWriMo drive to write every day carry over.
Okay, so you’ve got your NaNo story finished, either completely now, or you’re like me and you need to keep writing for another week or so to get the final scenes done. What’s the next step?
Head over to Lulu and print a copy. I’ve said this before; getting a printed draft to review is the best way to find errors and build a second draft. I like to print a coil bound book with double-spaced content and wide margins. Lots of room for in-line notes and editing, the book will lay flat, and you’ll have it to refer to while making your edits. I know word processors all have tracking and review options, but nothing can truly replace pen and paper when it comes to editing a book draft. The work is too long and complex to do on a screen.
Don’t read this too much like a sales pitch. We want you to print your book with Lulu of course, but in general, you should get a printed review copy. Period. If you’re not printing and reviewing your drafts, you’re not doing your book the service it deserves.
So keep your NaNoWriMo momentum going; get a review copy, make the updates and corrections. You’ve made the first and hardest step in getting a draft down. Keep going!
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.