How do you FAIL Nanowrimo?

Did you fail NaNoWriMo?

to-write-1700787_640NaNoWriMo 2016 is nearly over. Some participants won the contest, others didn’t. My Twitter and Instagram feeds are full of writers bemoaning that they “failed Nano”.

That makes me really sad. It’s like they don’t even realise that they’re a lot further along than they were at the beginning of the month. One girl said she ‘only’ managed 15,000 words. That’s about 520 words a day. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you extrapolate that, that’s over 180,000 words a year! That’s 3 romance novels! And trust me, 500 words a day is not that hard. That’s 20 minutes writing if you’re in the zone.

Is there another way to take part without beating yourself up?

Why bother feeling down over a target that’s entirely arbitrary? I used Nano this year to take advantage of the sprints on Twitter. It’s fun to know that there are 1000s of other writers playing along and at the end, I’ve got another 300 words or more added to my total. Do that 4 times and hey presto, that’s some days 1500 words that felt easy.

You won Nano – good for you!

What about the people who did manage the 50,000 words in November? Well done, that’s a super achievement! Don’t fool yourself though, the hard work is only beginning!

You need to edit! That means several passes through your text to knock it into shape.

Work from high level issues down to details. What I mean by that: DON’T START WITH LOOKING FOR TYPOS! That’s a total waste of time. Chances are you’re going to have to re-write chunks of your work anyways.

Some ideas on how to edit

Very briefly – I look for the following:

  • Are my characters consistent in their voice, behavior, clothing?
  • Continuity in weather, time of day, time of year, location, all that jazz;
  • When beginning a new chapter or different location, do I give enough detail to settle the reader and take them with me? Or do I lose them because they can’t follow my time / location jumps?
  • Do I give enough / too much descriptive detail? Is it boring or not evocative enough?Do I drop enough hints / red herrings / clues for the plot to thicken or build up suspense?
  • Are my characters too passive? Are they whiny? Do they annoy me? Do they do stupid ‘out of character’ things?
  • Am I rambling? Can I cut certain scenes to make them tighter?

Stylistic issues

  • Now I look at whether I’m consistent in my point of view i.e. Head-hopping?
  • What about using certain words too often or too close together in the text? Can I find a better expression than ‘he ran very fast’?
  • Do I use words that distance the reader from the action? Such as ‘he saw a horse in the distance, coming closer’. I’m describing what he saw rather than just describing the horse, ‘he turned around. A horse galloped towards him’.

Then, and only then, will I proof-read for errors and typos.

So does Nano matter?

Of course it does. Anything that allows us to be part of a community of creators matters.

But – we’re in this for the long run. Writing isn’t a “quick, get it down on paper” career. So taking another few weeks to get your word count up to 50k isn’t going to make or break you.

Enjoy yourselves, the best is yet to come! 🙂

Do you agree? Let me know what you think!