It is once again that crazy time of year where writers everywhere decide to embark on a heroic quest of their own: writing an entire novel in just one month.
If you have decided to take on this massive enterprise for the first time, or are coming off of a failed attempt last year, this goal may seem even more daunting than it really is. The truth is, writing a novel in one month is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is write 1667 words every day. Or, to reduce that down even more, only 833 words an hour for two hours a day, or, 209 words every 15 minutes.
Do you think you can write 209 words every 15 minutes? Of course you can! 209 words is nothing!
So why then do so many not succeed in writing a novel in a month?
We make a lot of excuses. Being too tired, not having enough time, something else coming up, etc. But very rarely do any of these excuses account for not writing a novel in a month. Surely, even the busiest person can find 8 fifteen minute sections in a day to write 209 words. It’s not about time or capability. You have the ability and the time to write a novel in just one month. However, the reason you may not lies inside your head.
I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2012, but then failed to complete a novel the following year. Why? The same reason why I think a lot of others don’t finish: perfectionism.
More and more as I write, it is becoming increasingly difficult to turn off that inner editor voice in my head telling me my writing is absolutely appalling. I’ll just be merrily writing along when, BAM! Off goes the bad writing alarms.
Inner editor: Oh my gosh! You just used an adverb there! That’s weak writing!
Me: Sweet flipping flapjacks! You’re right I did! I must cease my writing immediately to find a better verb to use in this situation!
Inner editor: Are you sure that blow to the head is enough to knock someone out for an hour?
Me: Oh my goodness! I have no idea! I must stop writing and research this!
And so, an hour passes, and I still only have one paragraph written at best. Suddenly, this writing business seems much too difficult. But this is an illusion. The problem is I’m trying to be perfect the first time inputting text to word processor. The only problem with that is I’m not going to be perfect the first time. Almost no one will be.
You have to accept that your writing is going to have some major weaknesses in your first draft. You’re going to have plot holes, and parts that need more research. That’s okay, but trying to be a perfectionist isn’t. Perfectionism is for losers, seriously. You won’t be able to win NaNo if you’re a perfectionist.
So if you want to finish your novel, don’t let yourself stumble over editing. Just let your creativity flow. Write with your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Except don’t, because you will probably need your hands to type. But you get the idea.
Write. Write. Write.
Don’t let your own criticism or perfectionism derail you. Just write, no matter how deplorable. Even if you find yourself writing sentences such as, “The cat meowed,” or “The dog went woof,” or other such manifestations of childhood reader books, just keep those words flowing. All that matters is word count. That’s all you have to care about. You’ll always have time to go back later to edit…but you can’t edit a blank page.
If you embrace your inner IMperfectionist, you WILL complete NaNoWriMo.
Writer, speaker, musician, Reagan Ramm is the editor of Kingdom Pen Magazine. He writes for Coastal Conservatory, a website for families seeking to run a business from home. Additionally, he is currently in the process of writing a book on the topic of modesty.
On top of his writing, he also produces music, and recently completed his 2nd full-length album with his electronic music project, Andromeda Coast. He lives in southwest Florida with his parents and six siblings.