November – for some people, it’s a month of busy work, a leadup to Thanksgiving, the beginning of the silly season. Christmas is in the air, the snow is falling (or the sun is burning), exams are looming and school is ending.

But for writers, it’s NaNoWriMo time.

Edit: Thanks to Briana Morgan of The Novelista, for organizing a linkup!

The Novelista

In case you’ve never heard about it, NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month, held right around the world, from the 1st to the 30th of November. Anyone can join, and your goal is to produce a novel of at least 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

–NaNoWriMo Foundation

It might sound like a staggering feat, especially since it takes many people years just to finish one novel – but that’s the whole point. NaNoWriMo is all about pushing yourself to do things you never thought were possible.

NaNo isn’t a competition, it’s a fraternity of brothers and sisters bonded by writing, the hardship of juggling our creative talents over whatever life demands of us. It’s the challenge of extracting ideas from our mind and hammering them into place on paper.

Here’s some of my tips and tricks for getting the most out of NaNoWriMo:

Be Social! NaNo is an amazing time of year, and the community is one of the best! You can signup and track your progress through the main site, or simply hang out around Twitter with the hashtag #NaNoWriMo – and don’t forget to follow the @NaNoWriMo account too.

Don’t Let the Inner Editor Out! This is the most important one! It’s tempting to want to edit as you go, and with the fast-paced nature of the event, too often we’ll write things and want to change them. Don’t do it. See down below for my tips on retconning your story.

Marathon, Not Sprint! It’s a 30-day event, not a 1-day sprint. If you can consistently do 10K words a day, then good for you! But if you average 3-4K like me, or even if you only have time to do 1-2K, you are better off pacing yourself.  Ernest Hemingway advocated stopping for the day while you still knew what you wanted to happen tomorrow:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Ernest Hemingway. [1]

Remember The Goal! My final tip is to remember why you’re doing this. To challenge yourself, to create a new novel, to prove you can do it; whatever your goal is, don’t forget it. And don’t get hung up on the idea of victory – the process is more important than the result. If you fall shy of your goal, hold your head high and know you did the best you could, and try again next year. Draw inspiration from your fellow writers, and learn from your experience.

But I really want to fix that stupid thing I did in the last chapter.

Okay, I hear you. You don’t like the fact that you set the novel in Kansas, when Eastern Russia would be more fitting. Or you don’t like some of the names you used. Maybe you hate the entire first chapter.

Don’t edit.

Put down that red-pen, scroll your word processor down again, because NaNoWriMo is not about perfecting a novel. It’s about writing a novel.

The solution to your problem is retconning.

The word comes largely from the comic book industry, but is used widely everywhere. Essentially, it’s the process of making your current work erase the old work, without ever editing the old work.

Confused? Think of it this way: in Chapter One, you set the novel in Kansas. You really wanted it to be L.A. (Or Russia). You could edit the whole thing, but you know that would take too much time, and ultimately, it only has a superficial impact on the overall novel.

So a retcon would be writing Chapter Two onwards as though they were always in L.A. The characters are unaware of the sudden shift, they just act like everything’s fine. Write yourself a post-it note, telling yourself that when December rolls around, you need to edit Chapter One to reflect the changes.

That’s as simple as it gets. Sometimes you might need to pull off a larger retcon, but the idea is just that you continue pushing forward, that you keep writing no matter what. You can edit the book later, but you can’t afford to stop for a break.

So those are my NaNoWriMo tips and tricks, and I wish everyone the very best in their NaNo Experience! Follow me on Twitter to track my progress, and don’t forget that NaNoWriMo is not-for-profit, and their computer system costs a lot to run. If you enjoy the event, please consider donating.

Now get back to writing!

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