NaNoWriMo Tip: Write and Don’t Look Back

Photo credit: Ars Electronica on Flickr
With NaNoWriMo in full swing, many writers have joined the writing race to 50,000 words. Whether for the prizes, bragging rights, a new WIP or just the sake of writing, NaNoWriMo gives writers of all levels of experience the chance to prove that they have what it takes to write a book in a month.

Writing 50,000 words in thirty days isn't easy, but one way to make the task a little more manageable is this: don't look back.

I know it's tempting—we're writers, many of us perfectionists, and when you write at the speed that's necessary to complete the NaNoWriMo goal, most times the writing that results isn't exactly Hemingway quality. Because of that, many writers feel the need to go back and edit what they've written before moving on.

But if you're serious about completing NaNoWriMo and you'd rather not make the task even more difficult than it already is, you cannot look back. 

Look, the goal of NaNoWriMo isn't to have a publishable masterpiece by December—it's to get your butt in the chair and write 50,000 words of a story that you didn't have thirty days ago. The goal isn't perfection—it's words, plain and simple. It's to write, and write quickly, which means it's probably not going to be your best, but that's ok. No one's asking you to write something you can publish on December first. Your goal is just to write. 

But what's the problem with looking back? you ask. Can't I edit and still complete the required 50,000 words by the end of the month? 

I'm not going to tell you that's it's impossible to edit and write a WIP in thirty days—it's certainly possible, it's just unnecessarily difficult. Editing isn't meant to be done quickly, and the problem with editing your writing throughout the course of NaNoWriMo is that it slows down the writing itself. That time that you're spending editing chapter one could be spent writing chapter two.

I know there are writers successfully edit while completing NaNoWriMo, and I don't doubt that there will be some of you who read this post then go on to do it anyway. But if you truly want to make the process as stress free and quick as possible, then I highly recommend you surge forward without looking back until you've written the words THE END on the final page.

What do you think? If you're doing NaNoWriMo, will you be editing while writing?


Fallon said...

I might fix a typo that I catch, but otherwise I always wait until the first draft is finished, and I've been away from it for at least a month, before I start any editing. That goes for November or any other month.

RoweMatthew said...

Yes! If I look back I get caught up with reediting. I want to choose the perfect words. But you know what I did today? I didn't think. I just wrote, and before I knew it, I had 788 words of a novel I was scared to write badly.

So I'm trying this Naninununemo thing now. I don't expect to reach the word count, but I just want to write regularly again. It's been so long.

To further encourage me, I'm posting my work directly on my website for people to give feedback on. I'll even listen to advice and comments. So feel free to join me. Starting tomorrow!

Ava Jae said...

That's a great policy--it really helps to create some distance before editing.

Khai said...

Yep, I totally agree with you on this post, Ava!
As soon as you put on the editing cap, the word count tends to drop, rather than increase. If your goal is 50,000, this will hinder your efforts considerably.

Ava Jae said...

I think it's fantastic that you pushed yourself and wrote forward without worrying about writing badly. That's the beauty of NaNoWriMo--it really gives you permission to write terribly without worrying about it. Regardless of whether or not you make the word count, every word that you write is a word that wouldn't have been there had you not sat down and started typing. Best of luck during NaNo!

Ava Jae said...

Absolutely. Thank you, Khai!

Emily Mead said...

I'm writing so badly that I've reached 16,000 words. And it rocks! I did read back over it (oops) but I had enough self-control to only edit the times that I changed tense accidentally. Writing two different novels a few weeks apart - in different tenses - is harder than I expected.

Ava Jae said...

16,000 already! Wow! That's absolutely incredible Emily--great work! I'm also glad to hear you didn't fall into the editing everything trap when you looked back. It can be very tempting, I know. :)

RoweMatthew said...

Thanks. I actually really like this writing style, but between work and being exhausted from work Im struggling to find the time. I've been getting a few words here and there but no big writing sessions unfortunately.

Ava Jae said...

As I like to say, progress is progress. You can't always make time for a large writing session--that's perfectly understandable. Just do what you can and know that writing even a hundred words a day is better than nothing at all. :)

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