My name is Chris Baty, and I’m the director of National Novel Writing Month. Welcome to this year’s noveling extravaganza! It’s great to have you writing with us.
As impossible as it may seem standing here on the precipice overlooking a vast November, NaNoWriMo will be over before you know it. This month—like the book you started writing today—moves at a frightful pace. To help give you a heads-up on some of the spirit-lifting milestones and spleen-poking hazards we’ll be flying past on our way to 50K, I’ll be sending an email like this one to you every Wednesday of the month.
Which brings me neatly to the subject at hand: Week One.
Ah, sweet Week One. Whether you’re a first-timer or a NaNoWriMo veteran, Week One is epic. We step onto its stage clutching a few crumpled lines of dialogue, and bearing only the haziest notions of setting and story. And, when the curtain closes on the seventh day, we’re improbably directing a strange and wonderful cast of characters, all of them eager to make their mark on the tale unfolding around them.
The keys to thriving in Week One are straightforward:
1) Surge early. To be on par for the month, you should be writing 1667 words per day. In Week One, try to get 2000 or 2500 a day, and beg, borrow, and steal as much of the first weekend as possible to write. You won’t need to keep up this pace throughout the month, but nothing guarantees a NaNoWriMo victory (and a fun month) like opening up a hefty lead in the first week.
2) Know that you’re not doing any of this alone. As you dive into your book, 70,000 other souls are going through the same ups and downs of the Great Sleep-Deprived Novel. Whenever you’re feeling like hurling your laptop out the window or setting fire to your favorite noveling notebook, come to a local write-in or stop by the NaNoWriMo forums for encouragement and reassurance. Likewise, whe never you’ve had a ferociously productive writing day, celebrate by sending a pep talk or sports car or box of fantastically expensive Swiss chocolates to a writer in distress.
3) Embrace the fear. It’s okay to be nervous. Nervous just means you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone—which is when great and magical things happen. Even if you have a complete story outline to serve as a map for the month, it’s still terrifying to be stepping out into the frontier of your imagination. I blame this on a lifetime of exposure to the perplexing idea that art should be made by artists, and novels left to novelists.
As someone who has done NaNoWriMo for eight years now, I can tell you this: Novels are not written by novelists. Novels are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write novels. Whatever your writing experience, you have a book in you that only you can write. And November is a beautiful month to get it written.
Have a great first week, everyone! I’ll be writing like crazy until Wednesday the 8th, when I’ll drop by your inbox again with some thoughts about the spleen-tastic adventures awaiting us in Week Two.