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.
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.
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.
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?
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!