Writing a novel is a crazy.
I started my NaNoWriMo account a whopping 5 years ago and have happily avoided writing any type of fiction every following year. It feels amazing to not write fiction. You can sleep at night, hang out with your friends, and be part of the outside world.
Being inside your own head all day is different. And not always good-different. But I'll tell you — my brain synapses have been firing non-stop, and the further I go in the process, the easier it gets to eek. Out. More. Words.
Here's what I've learned from my first week of novel-writing:
1. You must commit fully to your project.
Don't make deals with yourself. This is one instance where it's okay to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid. The more you buy into the process, the easier it will be — that's the whole point, after all!
2. Don't be too precious with your words.
There's a time and place for stringing words into sentences like precious jewels onto a silver necklace. This is not it. Let the words be ugly, the sentences garbled. Just get it on the page.
3. Revision is an amazing motivator.
Writing is the hard part; revision is the fun part where you get to play with words and polish your story until it shines. You have to do the hard work before you can have playtime, kiddo.
4. Get it done in one big chunk of time.
Doesn't matter when — just cloister yourself away from distractions and get it done. Trust me, four half-hearted, frantic hours scattered throughout your day is not an ideal process for anyone.
5. Gird yourself against future laziness.
If you can muster up an extra hundred or more words, do it. Words in excess of your daily goal are like money in the bank and can be redeemed for social engagements. Or like ... finally changing out of your pajamas.
6. Having an outline or scene sketch helps.
I'm fully in the "planner," not the "pantser" camp, but I think this advice is useful to all types of writers. Unless you're just looking to explore the inner workings of your mind, jot down a note or two about what you'd like to write that day. You can always ignore it if you want to.
7. Kick off your writing with a theme song for the day.
If you have trouble transitioning into your "writer's mind," this can help. It also provides useful procrastination time for when you're feeling unmotivated. I've been picking a new song every day, just to make opening my manuscript file a little less scary.
8. Stick pictures of your favorite authors everywhere.
I have Charles Baudelaire scornfully looking down at me from above; he'll be disappointed if I don't hit my word count for the day. You're a writer — invent a reason why your favorite author needs to see you hit the 50k mark.
9. You can make it into a game.
After I've finished writing every day, I crunch my numbers and look at my predicted finish-date on the NaNoWriMo website. The rewards for finishing early or writing more than 2500 words a day include everything from cookies to a weekend getaway. Go ahead, dangle a carrot for yourself.
10. Writing is really, really hard. But you can do it.
It's taken me more years than I care to admit to even attempt to write fiction because a) it was hard for me, and b) "real" writers seemed to just do it naturally. I have a lot to say on the topic of "real" writers and the jealousy-driven vitriol that often arises when somebody starts calling themselves a writer, but the gist is this: Writing is hard work. If you sling words together for fun or for work, you're already a writer.
But being a good writer is really hard work. The love of words will drive a person mad — to the tune of writing 50,000 words in 30 days — but when you love your project, you're willing to put in the hard work. Even if it's far from perfect the first time around.