This week’s guestblogger is Dave Baldwin of Raleigh: writer, content producer extraordinaire and sales process architect. I’ve known Dave for over eight years after meeting at a publishing panel in Durham, North Carolina. Since then, we’ve collaborated on writing workshops, writing projects, referrals and blogging. I consider him a great friend and he’ll be posting here once a month. Today Dave gives us FOUR tips on how to survive NaNoWriMo and jump start your writing in 2016. This is essential reading for anyone attempting to write a novel in 30 days in November. I did it twice and it ain’t easy. Read on and learn more about Dave at the bottom of this post.
Are you thinking about writing a book “someday”? If so, you may have heard about National Novel Writers’ Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. During the month of November, aspiring authors join together for a mad dash to the finish line in the hopes of jamming out the Great American Novel by year’s end. I have participated in this event twice, and I am planning to participate again this year. You can glean a lot of potential benefit from the exercise, but there are a few things you should know going in.
Remember that you can’t shortcut the long haul.
First and foremost, don’t expect a finished manuscript in 30 days. If you’re new to writing, expect the process to take longer than you think. Writing a book doesn’t just take hours of work—it takes time to marinade. Ideas and concepts take time to crystallize in your brain. Establishing a consistent habit and sticking to it over the long-term is much more impactful than anything you can crunch into a weekend writing jam. Recognize that a large amount of the material you crunch out in a month will end up in the scrap heap—and that’s okay. The value of NaNoWriMo is that it creates an opportunity for you to establish a regular discipline and create a routine.
If you want to make an omelet, be willing to break some eggs.
During Memorial Day weekend in 2012, I sat down and wrote nonstop for three straight days. I produced 40,000 words—most of which was unusable junk. However, here’s the important part: at the end of this exercise, I was much clearer about what I had to say. My writing started to flow out of me more naturally. That year, I challenged myself to write a million words. I ended up managing about 500,000. This writing took the form of countless disconnected fragments that are still sitting in the oubliette of my hard drive. At the same time, I produced a lot of my best writing. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to let it rip—and be brutal when you edit. Writing is a practice. You aren’t going to do it perfectly the first time.
Customize the challenge to your goals.
The standard NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month (1,667 per day), but I don’t recommend that for everyone. That can sound intimidating to a writer who is just starting out. Set a goal that is appropriate to the level where you are at right now. You might find it more empowering to commit to 100 words per day. Or, you might decide to write for 15 minutes per day regardless of word count. Whatever your target is, pick a habit that you can stick to consistently and don’t make it ridiculous. Think about what constitutes a stretch for you—what would you consider a real accomplishment at the end of 30 days? Most importantly, what will you be realistically able to continue after the challenge is over?
Use the community for support.
The cool thing about NaNoWriMo: there are lots of people doing it. There is a built-in community available to share ideas and inspiration. You can follow the official NaNoWriMo community on Facebook or just find local writer friends in your area who are taking on the challenge. One simple and powerful tactic that I’ve found to be enormously helpful: publish your progress on social media. For example, you could push out a quick status post about your word count. When I wrote my first book in 2009, I published regular Facebook updates with my estimated percentage of completion. These posts consistently got strong engagement and people continued to ask me about it for months afterward. This kept me motivated to keep the momentum going.
Writing a book is a big undertaking, and it takes more than a month to get it done. There’s an extensive process involved—you will need to go through multiple rounds of revising, editing, proofreading and formatting. The hardest part about writing, in my experience, is crafting a clear message that impacts the audience in the way that you intend. Sound difficult? It is! That’s why most people who talk about writing books never get around to actually writing them.
If you plan to jump in for NaNoWriMo, think about your writing goals for the next 12 months. What would you like to be celebrating in December of 2016, and how can you use this coming month to set yourself up for success?
Dave Baldwin is a self-proclaimed introverted entrepreneur. He authored Pied Piper Entrepreneurship (2009) and Get That Book Out of Your Head! (2009). He helps introverts become better salespeople by branding themselves as subject matter experts through authorship.
Dave’s ultimate vision is to transform the field of education by creating tools that empower people to build stronger relationships. His BHAG (“big, hairy, audacious goal”) is to make an appearance on Shark Tank.