It's almost November, and so here are my top three tips for National Novel Writing Month (i.e. NaNoWriMo):
- Turn off your inner critic. If you're doing NaNoWrimo, chances are it's because you love writing. Maybe the idea of creating an entirely new world intrigues you. Maybe finishing a novel is a lifelong dream of yours. Whatever your reasons, bear in mind that writing is a (long) process, and it helps if you enjoy it. No, your first completed novel will not live up to the glory of your initial idea. Why? Because writing is hard and it takes practice. In fact, your first five or six or twenty manuscripts might all be practice runs, leading up to your breakthrough moment. Don't be discouraged by the crappiness of your writing. It happens to everyone all the time, even writers who have already sold books. NaNo is about getting that first (or fifth) novel under your belt, and you can't do that if you're constantly questioning every word. Believe in yourself. Take a temporary narcissism pill that only wears off once you type the words, "The End." When November's over, you won't regret writing a less-than-perfect manuscript, because, hey, finishing any kind of novel is awesome. You will regret it, though, if you gave up because you were worried about sucking. Embrace the suckiness, because that's how you'll eventually gain the skills to write a novel that sells.
- Don't quit after November. Even if you finish your manuscript, the first draft is only the beginning. Now it's time for the fun part. That's right, revision, mwahahaha! I like to do it in rounds. Start with a read-through of the entire manuscript where you make notes of overarching issues. Then prioritize your list from largest to smallest. Let's say I identify five big things wrong with my story. I'll then do five more read-throughs, each one focusing on a single issue. After that, I'll give it one final read, and then it's ready to send off into the world. On a related note: don't submit your manuscript too early if you can help it. NaNo is about first drafts, but the piece you submit to an agent or editor should be waaaay more polished.
- Find a community. Join an online or in-person group to vent and get support during NaNo season. And hey, while you're at it, why not join a local writer's group all year round. Fellow writers can be a great source of motivation and growth. I love the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in particular. I've learned new skills, been inspired and developed a huge group of fellow travelers to keep me company on my writing journey.
Hope these tips help make your NaNoWriMo a huge success!!!
About the Author: Kim Ventrella is the author of the middle grade novel, Skeleton Tree (Scholastic Press). When she's not writing, you might find her working as a Children's Librarian or hanging out with her awesome dog, Hera.
Praise for Skeleton Tree
“Skeleton Tree is a powerful and tender story. Kim Ventrella knows when to be playful and when to break your heart.” —Cassie Beasley, NYT-bestelling author of Circus Mirandus
“Ventrella’s comforting storytelling reveals a magical world where a skeleton can grow and where a family’s love for each other can provide healing.” —School Library Journal