NaNoWriMo Prep: Expecations (and Managing Them)

Nano Prep week 4

I looked at my calendar and couldn’t believe it; we are in our last week of prep before the main event! Hopefully you’ve got some sort of plan, and are still excited about writing. In this last week before the craziness unfolds I wanted to talk about managing expectations for the next month, and beyond. A lot of people don’t realize how much 50,000 words really is. You are not going to get there the first day, or week (as a general rule- there are always exceptions) and there will come a time in the month when you might want to throw in the towel, because all of a sudden writing is getting hard, you are running out of steam, and you are questioning why you even thought you had a good idea in the first place. That’s okay. That’s why you’ve put together a support system to rally around you.

However, if you are one of the many who manage to cross the finish line and become a ‘winner’ of NaNoWriMo, rejoice! But then remember- you do not yet have a novel. You have a first draft- or more realistically, you have a part of a first draft. As a new writer entering the exciting world of NaNoWriMo, it is easy to get pulled in to the fast paced forums, exciting word wars and start dreaming big about your novel. The adrenaline and ‘what if’s’ couple together to form an intoxicating dream of quick success and fame. Don’t let the excitement of NaNoWriMo give you unrealistic expectations about the publishing and writing industries though. NaNo is probably the only really fast paced thing out there.

Publishing is a slow industry. Reaching that NaNoWriMo goal will be exciting, and it’s great to dream big; we all want to be bestsellers. But there is a reason that books become bestsellers, and a lot of it has to do with the enormous amount of work that went into them. But don’t get discouraged! Your exciting writing journey is just getting under way! December will present you with a few choices:

1. Finish the first draft.
If 50,000 words were not enough to convey your story, that is okay. It is important to note that most published novels are at least double this amount. So if you need more time to finish your plot, do it! Just because November is over and you are a NaNoWriMo winner doesn’t mean you should stop writing, or abandon your book, half finished.

2. Editing.
Now if you did finish your first draft (in however many words) you can choose to start editing right away. Some authors, especially ones with deadlines, jump right into edits. A lot suggest that you start first with just an overall read of the manuscript to catch any major problems. After that you can delve in deeper and do the closer edits.

Other authors however, are proponents for taking a break before edits. Stephen King’s book On Writing suggests that readers take a substantial break after the first draft in order to come at the edits with a fresh eye. I tend to agree with this school of thought, and practice it with my blog. Now, when I’m editing posts that tend to be 1,000 words or less I don’t let them sit for months, or even weeks, but it is amazing to me what a day or two can reveal. I catch a lot of small mistakes, delete unnecessary or redundant information, and rearrange content to make more sense.

3. Shelf the novel.
Maybe your manuscript wore you out. Maybe by the end of the month you hate your characters, and plot. Maybe the book just got away from your and you are frustrated. That’s okay. No one says that you have to keep going. You can put that novel away and come back to it later- or not at all. This was your story. I only suggest that you don’t destroy it. You never know what day in the future you will want to look back on it and steal a character, or maybe even start writing it again with a fresh perspective.

You might be looking at all of this thinking “Well, if what I produce during this month isn’t really a finished Novel, does this mean that NaNoWriMo isn’t worth it?” Not at all. This month pulls together people from all over the world to write- and that is exciting!

Single Step

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Think of NaNoWriMo as that first single step towards your novel. Just because it doesn’t get you all the way to your goal of having a published novel doesn’t diminish its importance. Understanding that this is only the first step in what can be a long slow journey will help you stay creative, and positive during the trials to come.

What are your expectations for NaNoWriMo? Are you excited to finally start writing something? Share your comments and reasons for writing in the section below!

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