Every year, thousands of people dedicate their November to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a 30-day push to produce a 50,000-word manuscript. As I write this, it’s already past 1pm on the eastern seaboard, so probably a bunch of writers have already set down their first thousand words.
I’m not writing a novel. But I am opening up my newsletter, which usually only comes out a few times a month, and while I’m not going to be able to put out thousands of words every day, I’m going to take my best shot at sharing some solid advice every weekday. Let’s see how that goes!
One of my favorite books of advice for writers is Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake, which starts out with, as the subtitle says, “four noble truths for writers.”
Writing is a process.
You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.
You can see how this would be a relevant message for the first day of NaNoWriMo—although, to be honest, I’ve actually become much less stringent about #4 over the years, because I’ve come to understand that sometimes what might look like “not writing” might actually be an important part of the writing process. Sometimes. I’m not saying you should blow off your time with your notebook, or at your keyboard, and sit on the couch and watch reality shows and tell yourself, “This is part of my process.”
On the other hand, if you’re trying to get the words out, and they’re not coming, that’s not necessarily “not writing.” And you should probably prepare yourself to hit that wall at least once this month.
One of the great things about NaNoWriMo, though, is the way it encourages us to jumpstart our writing practices—and to recognize that we’re going to mistakes along the way. This month, you have license to stop worrying about whether your prose is absolutely perfect and go totally freestyle; get the words on the page now, then figure out later whether they were the right words. Chances are, many of them probably weren’t, and that’s okay! Because now you’ve got pages, you’ve got something with a rough shape, and you can go back and play with those words, as many times as you have to, until you’ve got yourself a story.
So if you hit a wall today, or at any other point in the next 30 days, just run with the first thing that pops into your head that seems to move the story forward. If it’s obviously the wrong choice, you’ll realize that soon enough. And even if you don’t figure it out until much later, you’ve probably got more usable material—and certainly more usable insights into your story—than you might initially think.
Right now, it’s all about leaning in to your writing practice. If you haven’t started yet, you’ve still got time left in the day. And if you hadn’t even thought about NaNoWriMo, but you think you’ve got a story inside you, here’s your chance to find out!