The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

silverlinings-2It's November, and y'all know what that means. It's the time of year when everybody picks up their pens, their computers. You are ten thousand times more likely to see writers hunched over laptops in cafes, camped out for hours until they reach their word counts. November is when the magic happens. Why?NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a nonprofit organization and more specifically, a challenge for participants to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It gets tons of coverage because it produces gorgeous, incredible, radiant novels. Water for Elephants is a NaNo novel and so is The Night Circus! If you have a circus book, you might be in luck!I've done it for three years now - mostly working on portfolios, little stories, things I've wanted to try for a while. It's not hard. If you're a first-timer, the prospective of 50,000 can seem daunting or overwhelming but I have some tips that can definitely help. I did it for the first time in 2011 or 2012, I believe, and it was a struggle to get there.My problem was that I didn't write every day and I didn't have much organization. I attempted to write a longer project, but because I didn't know what scenes I wanted to write, it ended up dissolving into poetic - although jumbled - moments. Now, I believe I have a much better handle on disciplining my writing, and I've collected some tips to help you survive NaNo:1. Don't take it too seriously.NaNoWriMo is meant to be fun. What's the worst that happens? You don't win? You get a smaller word count than you wanted? It is one monthly challenge to help you supplement and motivate your writing but you can write in EVERY SINGLE OTHER MONTH. November is not the exclusive month that you can write a novel, so unless you're on deadline, it's not this huge pressure cooker. It's fun. You can network with other writers, challenge yourself. I don't consider myself a very intense writer but November flips a switch inside me. It's a project; it's a challenge. It is not a lifestyle that demands a huge amount of time or stress if you do it in intervals. The trick to getting 50,000 words is that you have to love the journey.2. Get ahead so you can fall behind.This month, I'm working on my portfolio. I'm in Washington, D.C. right now for a youth journalism conference and so I missed my word count goal on Wednesday because I was packing. Because I was about 2000 words ahead, I just had to hit my word count goal yesterday and didn't have to worry about catching up. You do not have to write 4000 words in a day - just writing a few extra words, following the flow of your narrative, builds up after time. Even writing a hundred extra words a day helps loads when you fall behind, and then you aren't struggling for 50,000 words all at once.3. Don't be afraid to work on other things.Despite the title, National Novel Writing Month doesn't have to be about novels. I personally use it mostly to reinforce my portfolio. I'm on deadline for about three or four different submissions/contests so I need to write so many essays, short stories, and poems. Even blog posts are okay. The challenge is for writing 50,000 words; it doesn't mean that you have to write about one thing.4. Write every day.Jackson Pearce has fantastic videos and posts on the subject. National Novel Writing Month doesn't work unless you can write every day. On a busy day, I go straight from school to work to lacrosse to homework. Now, since it's November, I write. It's easy to discipline myself when I have a goal; sleep deprivation is easy to get over when it means that I can see the word count climbing. That's why I do NaNo - I write often, I write sporadically, but I'm teaching myself discipline. If you write 1667 words a day, it is inherently easier than writing 5000 words because you missed a day.5. Be patient -- revise.So you're done. You finished your NaNo project. You have a novel. I may be sixteen, but even I can tell you that querying directly after you write your 50,000 word novel is a bad, bad idea. Not only is revision important, but a NaNo first draft is often messier than a "normal" first draft. Agents are forever tired by the inevitable rush of query letters that clogs their mailboxes come December. I've noticed that many self-published (not most - I love and support self-published works) and quickly-queried works are sloppier than those that are meditative. It seems like common sense but it's easy to get too excited and want to push your work into the world right away; don't release it right away. Don't query. Take the time to make those 50,000 words count and have a shot.

Good luck! You can add me on NaNo here.