I 've never done NaNoWriMo, so I don't know if I qualify to write this blog post, BUT I BADLY WANT TO, ONE YEAR, WHEN I HAVE TIME! So, here are my qualifications for this post, before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at me. I typically write my first drafts in 6 weeks (8 weeks if I'm really taking my sweet time), so I suppose with the whole idea of writing a book in a month, I can totally dish on how to make it work in 4 weeks, because 6 weeks is, after all, ALMOST 6 weeks, right? Right. Here we go then. First of all, before I dive any deeper, I must warn you. My methods are pretty radical and not for the fainthearted. As in, my childhood has been far from happy, and I've learned to have a thick skin and an ability to make myself do things when I don't want to. If you're not the kind that likes to squeeze creativity out of yourself by any means possible, then I suggest you go watch butterflies somewhere else. Here we'll be talking glorious sweat, blood, and guts. What, still here? Alrighty then.
Rule number one. For the month of November forget about any social outings or events or coffee dates or your uncle's birthday party. Like, seriously, take out your calendar and clear everything out. You will need, of course, to keep going to work, if you have a day job, but everything else goes. Next, go to the store and buy yourself food that can sustain you for a month, namely: lots of protein, veggies, fruit, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. You're only permitted chocolate in terms of sweets, everything else must go. Sugar, processed foods, all tend to make you sleepy and stupid, and you can't have that while writing. Also, forget alcohol. Don't shake your head at me, I told you that my approach is radical. By the way, I'm describing my daily writing life here for you, it's what I do on a daily basis, while writing, all year long. Next, you need to tell everyone what you're about to do, because you're apt to get a lot of pissed off friends banging on your door, wondering what the hell has happened to you. Tell them, for the month of November, you're unreachable, period.
Rule number two. Okay, now that the basics are out of the way, you will have to decide what you're going to write about. Using my methods, it's very easy, except that not everyone likes my methods, as they are unconventional. Here is what I do. I dig deep inside and think of the most painful moment in my life, or one of the most painful moments, something I haven't told anyone, or told only a few select people. I look for something that doesn't let me sleep at night, that bothers me on a very deep level, and I start there (because writing is the best therapy there is). I just start spilling that pain in the very first sentence, and usually the first sentence is the summary of your novel, so there goes your planning. You don't need to do it, you know what your whole book is about. Don't believe me? Here, I'll illustrate. My trilogy SIREN SUICIDES starts with: "I chose to die in the bathroom because it's the only room in the house that I can lock." My YA novel ROSEHEAD (still in progress) starts with: "Lilith Bloom had a peculiar feeling that once she stepped into the rose garden, it wouldn't let her out alive." And my literary novel IRKADURA (starting to write in December) starts with: "Irka stopped talking the moment she learned how to talk." If I can do it, you can do it. So do it.
Rule number three. Write, don't edit. This is a must, and if you happen to break this, I will find out where you live, come over, and chase you with a broom. Seriously. A great many books never get finished because writers get stuck in the constant editing. The goal is to throw the story on paper, the WHOLE story. You can worry about editing later, in the 2nd draft, but first you have to know what to edit. I will mention here what Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors, has said: "First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair. I usually find that most of the book will have handed itself to me on that first draft.” See? Your whole job with NaNoWriMo is to write the story. Essentially, to write the first draft. I heard once about some famous writer who wrote 1st draft on a dare in 10 days, or something crazy like that. But that famous writer had already a ton of novels under his belt. Do you? I didn't think so. Neither do I. That's why we shall assume that it will take us a whole month to do 1st draft only.
Rule number four. Don't forget to read. You MUST include reading time into your daily NaNoWriMo writing routine. Literally, think of it as writing. It's part of writing. If you don't read, you can't write, might as well not even try. My formula is, I read half the time I spend writing. At least half the time. If I can, I read longer. Meaning, if I wrote for 4 hours, I try to read for at least 2 hours. Ideally, you can squeeze at least 4 hours of total work every day, meaning, you should block out about 3 hours for writing and about 1.5 hours for reading or so. If you can't write at least for 3 hours a day, I don't know if you can hit the goal of finishing the novel, unless it's only 50,000 words. My 1st drafts are typically about 120,000 words. If you divide it by 6 weeks it takes me to write them (and I write for about 4 hours a day), then it turns to 20,000 words a week, which will yield 80,000 words in 4 weeks, a pretty sizable 1st draft. Therefore, depending on your speed, you can absolutely do it within 4 weeks and 3 hours of daily writing. Oh, I forgot to mention, I write only on work days and take weekends off, so if you write on weekends during NaNoWriMo too, you can totally do it.
Rule number five. Have fun! We often forget why we write in the first place. We write because writing makes us happy. If at any moment you feel like you're blocked, stand up, stretch, look out the window, drink a cup of coffee, then sit down and write down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it seems unrelated to the story. The point here is - to have fun, to be goofy and completely unpredictable, to keep enjoying yourself. There is a reason why you do NaNoWriMo, isn't it? You were super excited when you decided to do it, didn't you? Well then, keep that excitement going!
I'm out of rules here. And I pulled them out of thin air, anyway. I'm not participating this year in NaNoWriMo, I'm sorta doing my own NaNoWriMo, starting on 3rd draft of ROSEHEAD on Monday the 4th, so I will be racing along you. Happy writing!