Hey, y’know what I realized over the weekend? It’s NaNoWriMo! Who’s trying it this year?
I’ll be honest. I’ve never tried it myself. By the time I first heard of it, as it was just starting to gain popularity, I’d already been writing professionally for a year or two. Might’ve even already been writing full time (non-fiction, but still). For the past eleven years… well, every month’s been about word count for me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have some ideas and thoughts on NaNoWriMo. In fact, a lot. At this early point in the month, I have one very firm reassurance, and one solid tip.
First piece of reassurance. No matter who you are, I can tell you with absolute certainty, you are not going to sell the manuscript you write this month. No agent will consider it. No editor will look at it. It’s just not going to happen.
HANG ON! This isn’t a kick-in-the-gut thing. This is liberating. It’s freeing.
I’m not saying nobody will ever buy this book. But what we’re doing during this month is a first draft. A rushed first draft at that. It’s going to have plot holes and factual errors and typos. It will, trust me. It’s a fantastic starting point, but it’s going to need more work after November 30th. No question about it.
Again, this is a good thing. Stop worrying about if an agent or editor or your significant other is going to like this. They’re never going to see it. This draft is for you and you alone. Be selfish. Go crazy. This is the “dance like nobody’s watching” part of the process. Let your creativity run wild, eat nothing but chips, drink nothing but whiskey, run naked in the coffeeshop, and don’t worry about anyone else and what they may think. They can see the second or third draft, maybe, but not this one. Do what you want to do with it. Do anything. Because this is just the first draft.
Okay, don’t actually run naked in the coffeeshop. Yeah, I know they smile at you a lot there, but they’re paid to be nice to you. They don’t want to see that. Especially not in a place that sells food.
Second thing—the solid tip.
That’s it. Just write.
I know that sounds kind of flip and arrogant, but stop and think for a moment. Like we just said, this draft isn’t for anyone else. We’re not going to worry about spelling, research, current hot genres, book advances, any of that. All that matters for this month is getting words on the page.
Sooooo… get the words on the page.
In my first drafts, I change character names halfway through. I snip off plot threads and remind myself to pull them out later. I snip off some characters halfway through, and then jump to the alternate timeline version of the book where I killed them sixty pages ago (like I now know I should’ve done in the first place). And I can do all this because this is going to get another draft.
For now, the most important thing is to just write. Put words on paper or on the screen or on your arm or your friend’s shirt or whatever medium you’ve decided to work in. Stop trying to filter or rein in your creativity and get it all out.
So for now…