Dear Middle-of-November Sheryl,
This is a reminder for when you’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo and wondering why you subject yourself to such insanity. You’re probably about to throw the towel in and the computer across the room from the frustration and pressure induced writer’s block. Before you do so, take a deep breath and read this.
1. The goal is to write 50,000 words. Emphasis on words. They won’t be publishable words. There will be awkward sentence structure, horrendous spelling, and grammar errors that will make your third grade teacher weep. Don’t go back and correct. Even if you choose the wrong words, you wrote them, therefore they count. Keep forging onward without giving into the temptation of the delete button.
2. The goal is get a good start on the first draft of your next novel. It will only be the first half, and probably very spotty in terms of the plot. This is an exercise to get you to boost your daily word count and get disciplined into the habit of writing daily, not to turn out highly polished, publishable writing.
3. The goal is to write daily. Once a draft of the novel is done, it is best to put it to one side to rest before diving into the next draft. But your habit of doing nothing while letting the draft rest makes it that much harder to get back into the discipline of writing daily. Break that habit of doing nothing here and now. Once November is over, keep writing daily.
4. Permission to suck is granted. Be aware that what you are writing cannot be published in its current form. You will tell yourself that it is utter crap and you will be absolutely right. The goal is not to have polished work ready for publishing, or even work that you can send to your beta readers. See points 1, 2, and 3 for a reminder of what your goals are.
5. Permission to not reach the goal of 50,000 words is granted. Life happens. You saw that when your keyboard broke in the middle of November two years ago, leaving you computerless for three days. You know Mom will have medical issues that will demand your attention. You know that work will go haywire, leaving you drained before you turn on your computer. You know there are days that you have not, and days when you will not, write that magical minimum of 1667 words. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach 50,000. Even if you only write 500 words total for the entire month, that’s 500 words more than you had at the start of November.
In short, apply butt to chair and fingers to keyboard. Practice sitzfleisch. Don’t think about this in terms of “winning” or “losing.” If you make that 50,000 word goal, wonderful. If you don’t, you will still have a start on your novel. Keep your chin up, and keep writing.