How to NaNoWriMo Better / by Chris Weigl

This is our first time ever trying NaNoWriMo, but we felt like this would be an opportunity to do something different creatively that might spur some new ideas and potentially help us launch some new projects that maybe we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, so we’re doing it. 

Keep in mind when reading this that it’s been three days and these are observations that may fly in the face of the underlying idea behind NaNoWriMo and that is to simply write.  Writing for writings sake has its own rewards especially if you’re having a tough time getting going on a project.  What’s more useful from our perspective isn’t writing for writings sake but targeted writing.  Targeted writing is putting a chapter together first and then going back and cleaning it up, going back and developing arcs, working on story development within each chapter and building characterization so everything that everyone does has a purpose.  This is also useful in developing devices in your writing. 

NaNoWriMo promotes what we refer to as splurge writing, that is, writing in bursts to hit a word count.  Word counts in writing are utterly meaningless unless you’re developing your material.  Word counts do promote more writing, but they also promote static writing.  Static writing is writing in the same place with the same action that keeps characters from moving forward because we can’t make key decisions on where we want the story to go.  Writing in stasis is not productive if you are trying to put together a well-developed story.  Targeted writing helps avoid this by putting the emphasis on development and not merely word count.

One of the core tenants of NaNoWriMo is to do no editing during the period in which you’re writing.  The underlying theory behind this is that once you get consumed with editing you’ll lose your will to write.  It’s true that there is only a finite amount we can write in any given period of time, however by limiting the kind of writing you can do when you’re writing well you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Editing and revision is what makes great books and great art.  Targeted writing allows you to go back and not only make what you wrote better, it also allows you to become more aware of how you write.  Awareness of what we’re doing allows us to self-analyze and ultimately make better choices when it comes to what we’re putting on the page.

Finally, we’re big believers in flow.  Flow is the idea that you can get so completely in the zone when you’re doing something that you’re operating on a whole different level as everyone else.  This, to us, should be the goal of NaNoWriMo.  Producing words and having something to work towards is great, but unless what you’re working towards is developed you’ll ultimately be writing in place.  Writing in place doesn’t do anyone any good.  It’s writing for writing’s sake and that does not promote better ideas it simply produces more workman-like writing.  Someone asked us if we needed a muse for this month and that’s kind of what NaNoWriMo is.  It’s like a competitive muse that forces you to write even when you don’t want to or can’t think of what to write about.  What we’d challenge our readers to do is to not merely write more, but work more on your writing in general.  This will help you be more efficient in your use of time and will lead you to eventually do better writing and hopefully get into a state of flow sometime during the month.