MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FIRST DRAFT – NaNo Prep

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  1. Plan ahead.

I am undecided when it comes to pantsing and outlining; but for something as big as NaNoWriMo, I take no risks and plan ahead. When pantsing, I often have a cool story idea that runs dry after approximately 20,000 words, while outlining (usually) guarantees a win.

  1. Take enough time to plan ahead.

Last year, I outlined my NaNoWriMo novel ahead of time. Things didn’t go entirely as planned (hey, my main character hadn’t told me about the sweet ex-boyfriend she hadn’t let go of) but I passed the 50,000 word count and felt accomplished. The manuscript is, however, as valuable as a garbled collection of notes for a story idea. Clearly, I didn’t know enough about where I wanted the story to go and who I was dealing with.

  1. Keep to the point.

I know we’re trying to write 50,000 words and only have 30 days to do it. At times I get desperate just to get my daily word count in. I scribble nonsense, things that have nothing to do with the story and affect my draft in detrimental ways. Be strict with yourself and don’t allow yourself to give in to the temptation to stuff in conversation, descriptions, subplots that don’t further the story.

  1. Dare to lose.

Winning NaNoWriMo is an incredible feeling. It’s nice to say, “Yeah, I won. I was even nearly 10k over the goal.” Check your reaction when someone asks if they may look at your work. I don’t think NaNoWriMo should be used for simply getting words out there. You are more than that. The tricky thing is, your novel is not completed at the end of November. An average novel is 90-100k words. NaNoWriMo gives you the opportunity to get back into consistency, to get a foundation for your new work-in-progress. I love the community feeling of writing and being in it together.

But I challenge you to seriously consider quality over quantity. First drafts are always pretty crappy, but there’s normal crap and then there’s… well, you know. By crapping 50k into a Word document, you may just be making more work for yourself than necessary. Honestly, if I wanted to complete last year’s story idea, I would start from scratch because my NaNoWriMo draft is nearly useless.

Don’t win for winning’s sake. Win for yourself. Write for yourself even if it means losing. NaNoWriMo is a tool for your benefit. Decide how you can benefit from NaNoWriMo. How can it help you write a better novel?

  1. Finish it.

Don’t quit December 1. Finish what you start. Give yourself something to work with. Finish your first draft, set it aside, and then pick it up with fresh eyes and mind.

Don’t give up on your story. I’m sure it’s pretty awesome!

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7 responses »

    • Though you won’t see it in the official standpoint, there is zero requirement to write the 50,000 words all on the same story or idea. There’s always a few folks who do a short story collection, or finish their current WIP before starting in on the next one. It’s a challenge for you, so whatever fits who you are is the way to go about it.

  1. I wrote my now-published book Darkness Concealed purely as a NaNo novel. Both the first and second drafts were done during 2012 and 2013. I’m outside the norm of most folks, because last year I actually wrote the entire 103,259 words required to finish the draft during the month of November.

    And I fully agree with you: quality, not raw quantity. If you’re serious about not just writing a novel, but being able to improve it into something that can be published, take the art of writing words seriously. No random word pasta, no scenes that you already know go nowhere. Delete and rewrite until it works. I did it, and I have zero regrets.

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