NaNo and Your Inner Editor by Grace

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is upon us. The challenge? Write 50,000 words in a mere 30 days. Some people even increase their word count, but it’s up to you to set your own word count goal. At first glance, it might seem like an insane notion to write 50,000 words in only thirty days. For me, I can write about 20,000 but it takes months to get there! However, 50,000 words ideally accounts for a “novella,” which is roughly 200-250 pages and not the everyday novels we read (which can range from 80,000-100,000 words). With that being said, you don’t have to envision you’re writing a Harry Potter-lengthed work any longer! Hopefully this makes the challenge look less daunting and more feasible. However, writing a work of this size in thirty days can still be difficult to complete. Thousands of people each year complete the challenge, and you might be wondering how they possibly do it. Do they just have seemingly unattainable amounts of time on their hands? Not necessarily.

The idea of NaNo is, in essence, to write with a “stream of consciousness.” This is defined as a person’s thoughts perceived as a continuous flow. You can find testimonials on the NaNo site that illustrate this idea as well. People have learned to “abandon their inner editor” and write from the soul without worrying too much about producing “clever words.” There are many of us who sit down to write a first draft with dozens of “inner editor” inklings that prevent us from completing it. Maybe we stumble upon a plot hole because we didn’t plan accordingly and we have no way out. Maybe we focus too much on word choice, grammar, or other mechanics that slow down the rate at which we write. We want to sound a certain way, create an original concept or scene but don’t know how. There are so many things that can stand in our way, and if you’re like me, you end up discarding the concept and move on to something else. Evidently, this can be a problem when it comes to completing a challenge like NaNo. Whether you are a planner (plan the novel outline before November hits) or a pantster (construct a concept without planning the outline at all), you may find yourself second guessing the content of your work, taking more time to iron things out. In NaNo, time is critical. The idea applies to everyone: you must write without stopping.

It can be scary, can’t it? You have no idea where your novel may even go, but that’s entirely okay! You may find at the end of the month a very interesting potential piece you can edit, change, play around with that you didn’t have before November 1st. That’s a very promising idea to look forward to, and one that hopefully motivates you when things begin to look rough. Just get rid of that inner editor. Here’s how you do it:

Because the idea is to write with a continuous flow, engage in the challenge of writing without stopping for a certain number of minutes. This is generally labeled as a “word war” or “word sprint.” You can compete with other friends or aim to beat a high score yourself. The idea is to write the most words in 10-15-30 minutes, whichever you choose. This forces you to shut out the thoughts that will make you pause to fix something or rethink what you just wrote, because your aim is to get the highest word count in the allotted time. If you do this often, expect to see a higher word count!

I also encourage you not to read what you just wrote. Of course, it’s important to know where your story is at the moment and where it could be going. Don’t completely abandon all components of writing a novel. However, if you find yourself in plot holes galore, don’t worry about it. Just keep going! Don’t limit yourself, write without limit. Quality over quantity. Reward yourself when you reach a certain goal (like 15K, 25K, etc.), have fun and don’t overthink this. The months of December, January and beyond will be the time for you to hunker down and make sense of what you wrote. Now is the time to get it all on paper.


Posted on November 23, 2016, in Editorial Board Essay, NaNoWriMo. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This is some great inspiration and motivation, Grace!

  2. I agree with Cristi 🙂 I love your advice to not read what you write. That is my number one mistake. I always read what I write and then delete it before I finish

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