Here we are Nano-ers (Nanophites? Nanophiles?), the third week of November. It went by fast, didn’t it? How is it going out there? Are you keeping up with your word count? Getting sleep? Staying healthy? Are your friends and family still speaking to you? I hope so. I’ve been thinking about you. We’ve loved hearing from you over on the Girl Friday Twitter (just a reminder that it’s not too late to join our awesome contest for a chance to win a free edit with GFP, details here).
If you’re still in it now, you’re serious. The lightweights dropped out after one week of trying to write over a thousand words a day, but not you, you came to win, you mean business. Even so, dear reader, you might be feeling like you could use a little wind in your sails, right? I mean, the days are getting really short, and work is really busy, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And it turns out that fifty thousand words is a lot of words (never mind the thirty thousand or so more you’ll probably write to finish out your first draft, you can worry about those in December). But this is what it’s all about, my friend, getting a whole bunch of words on the page and then weeding out a lot of those and replacing them with others until you have 80,000 good ones. Give or take. Maybe you made it through the past two weeks on sheer adrenaline, but that can’t last. What you need is momentum, something you can ride all the way to the shore. So how do you keep it up?
Let it Go. Let yourself write bad sentences, bad paragraphs, bad pages. Revel in the filth of your own worst writing! No one needs to see this (or should see it, really) until you’ve spent many months polishing what you joyfully, blithely spit out onto the pages today. Writing with abandon, rather than with precision, is the whole fun of working on a first draft, so let it fly!
Don’t Edit. I repeat do not edit. Editing is a wonderful and necessary skill to have as a writer, but it is separate from writing: and the former can stifle the later in a heartbeat. Tell your inner editor to take a seat for now, you’ll see her sometime early next year, and boy will you need her. When I’m editing a draft of my work, I always print it out. I find it easier to get some space from it this way, and it’s a little trick to tell my brain, “Okay, Editrix, you’re up!” But she’s off the clock during first draft time, she’s at the bar drinking martinis with the copyeditor and the cover designer, and I don’t want to disturb her. She’s really sassy when she drinks.
Be Kind. Now is the time for encouraging self-talk. The voices of doubt can get loud at this point, trying to keep you from every finishing a draft. Maybe you read the first paragraph of this post, and thought, “Oh no! I’m behind on Nano! I’m not the real thing. I’ve let myself down, I’ve let everyone down!” But take heart! There is still time. And if you end up with 40K instead of 50K (or 30K for that matter), you still win as long as you keeping going. The world is going to tell you no plenty of times with your writing, you’ll learn that soon enough if you haven’t already. Use this time to practice telling yourself yes.