NaNoWriMo: First Week Progress and Writing Hack

Last month I prepared to take part in National Novel Writing Month this November. The goal is to write every day to produce a 50,000-word novel. That comes to about 1,666 words a day. I rounded up to 2,000–because I’m a glutton for punishment.

I’m happy to say that this week has been successful. I’ve been able to keep to my goal since Sunday, with today reaching the goal of about 12,000 words. I am charting my progress using the handy calendar provided by the official NaNoWriMo website.

Writing at such an intense pace isn’t easy, even for people like me who write for a living. I’m used to churning out thousands of words a day (I literally write an average of 12,000 words total)–but it’s a very different kind of writing. Crafting prose for a book at 2,000/words a day is easier said than done.

Perhaps it’s not even all that easy to say.

So, how do I do it? Easy, I cheat.

Perhaps cheating is not the right word. But I think many writers fall into a trap when they think they have to craft perfect prose, every time they sit down to write. But a first draft can’t be “perfect.” That’s not the goal. The goal is to actually write the thing. Get whatever down on paper you need to get it done.

That means you need to hit your 2,000-word goal, regardless of how pretty or “right” the writing is. As long as you hit that goal, then you’re progressing. Which means, you can “fudge” what you actually wrote, so long as you’re moving forward.

What does fudging mean? It’s simple. Instead of writing out your word-for-word prose, just write out the rough descriptions of what you want to happen next. Most writers hit a block when they try to write out their prose when they need to brainstorm the next chapter, scene, steps, etc. You can’t brainstorm and wordcraft at the same time. It doesn’t work.

So, instead of trying to write out that perfect prose, at the very least, write out what you want to happen next as simply and in a straightforward way. I’ve been doing it when I get to parts that normally would slow me down, like action sequences or descriptions that are necessary but can trip up my writing progress.

It looks kind of like this:

Mark discovers that the gun used to kill the woman was lost in the river. He goes there, but knows that without help from the police, he can’t find it. While weighing his options, Jacks the crime boss shows up with two of his henchmen. They try to throw Mark into their car, but he fights them off, getting away just in the nick of time. A chase occurs and Mark finds himself in a part of town he’s never been to before. He jumps into a window and hunkers down in the dark.

Hey, as long as I hit 2,000–what does it matter? I can always go back and “flesh out” the rough parts when needed. The point is I’m not stopping to write. I’m moving forward with the story. Eventually, I hit my stride again and continue with the prose.

That example may not look pretty or be considered “real” writing, but it’s better than nothing. And it can get you to the next part where you can slow down and write it out properly.

There. My writing hack. It just might prevent you from experiencing writer’s block ever again. Or not. Just keep writing.