Brennan Harvey is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. He was the first-place winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest for the 1st quarter of 2010. His work has appeared in anthologies and magazines, and is available on Amazon.
I started the 2021 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) late this year. I hadn’t planned to do it at all, since I’d successfully completed the task in 2020. Plus, I had a job to juggle with it this year. However, I had a novel that was half completed, so I decided to finish the novel in November.
I was successful, but this year I needed to work harder to complete the task. I started late, and never caught up with the goal line until November 27. Here are five things I learned from the 2021 NaNoWriMo.
The only day that matters if you miss your goal is November 30. No other day is critical to finishing NaNoWriMo. There is always time to make up for missed words. I know it can be frustrating when you were 400 words short of the NaNoWriMo trend line yesterday, and you end up 500 words shy of it today. You have time to make up those lost words tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. At one point this year, I was 4,000 words behind the curve. By November 27, I was 120 words above it. Ten 2,000+ word days during the month helped me catch up. Those days weren’t always back to back, either. If you write little extra here and a little extra there, you’ll discover that it adds up to a lot when summed together.
Every day after writing, I examined how much I wrote that session, where my accumulated total was, and how many words NaNoWriMo’s curve suggested I have to meet my goal. The NaNoWriMo stats webpage reminds you how many words you need to write in a specific day to meet your goal, and I used this as a constant guideline. Every day, I’d try to meet that number, or beat it. Use all the tools at your disposal to determine how many words you have to write.
I wrote for an hour at a time, which prevented burnout. Sometimes, during that hour, I wrote as little as 200 words. Other times, I could write up to 800 words. And if the words were flowing, I’d continue my sprint until I had a good break point. Doing three sprints a day at 560 words per sprint took only three hours of my writing time. That freed up my spare time to plot what might happen next, do some research, and make any edits I needed to. Some days , I would get four sprints in, sometimes just two. You can succeed if you remain conscious of how many words you need in a sprint to equal your daily total.
When I sat down to a sprint, I had a clear objective of what that scene would accomplish towards the goal of my story. According to Writer’s Digest, every scene should do at least one of the following:
I hear a lot of people complain that after NaNoWriMo, they had words on the page, but no story. If you go into each sprint with a goal of furthering your story, your writing will hold together during the month.
Writing a chapter every two days allowed me to remember more of the details in my story. Usually, if I forgot a character’s name, I’d simply type __[barkeep’s name]__ and keep going. I knew I could look the name up in an earlier chapter and replace the text with the real name. However, I’d have to stop writing, think about the name, and only then would I write the substitute. Writing quickly, I could remember these trivial details easier, and simply write Tavindish without stopping to think about it. If you write quickly, you might find the same details coming to you easily.