Countdown to NaNoWriMo

It’s rare to find someone in the writing community who hasn’t heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Every November, thousands of writers — published and unpublished — embark on a mission to write 50,000 words in thirty days.

If you’re wondering, “Is that a lot?” the answer is YES! Broken down, you’re essentially writing 1,667 words a day.

Most writers, including yours truly, can punch out 1,000+ words each writing session with ease. But daily, with all the obstacles of life — daytime jobs, kids, spouses, etc — it’s not always feasible. 

Personally, my daily goals are not word count related. I strive to write for at least 25 to 30 minutes a day. Within that timeframe, I can usually type out 1,000+ words. On rougher days, I’m lucky if I get a solid 100 words down. But for me so long as I’ve sat and focused on writing for 25-30 minutes a day, I walk away feeling productive.

Many writers prefer word count goals. NaNoWriMo is the biggest word count goal you can dedicate yourself to for a month.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo in the past. I’ve also done the July CampNaNo, which allows you to choose a different kind of goal like how many pages you want to edit a day or how many minutes you want to write in a month. It’s why I’ve always preferred CampNaNo to NaNoWriMo. It also never helped that I’d be finishing a draft come November and I’d use that time to relax before diving into edits.

But this year, I’ll actually be taking part in NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I am going to break my preference of writing 30 minutes a day to writing 1,667 words a day.

Why am I changing it up?

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is it allows you to challenge yourself. You connect with writers all across the world participating in it. You’re all doing this crazy thing. You’re telling a story you’ve wanted to write forever.

At its core, NaNoWriMo is your ultimate cheerleader. It wants you to succeed. It wants you to befriend a community that has each other’s backs. Seriously, just search #nanowrimo or #preptober and you’ll find millions of posts. This thing grows every year.

Preptober, for those who don’t know, is when writers plan what they’re going to write or how they’re going to write during NaNoWriMo. Hence the name PREPTOBER (prepping in October). People have created workbooks, downloads, and playlists they then share worldwide. 

My favorite thing about NaNoWriMo is how together the writing community becomes. How much we’re there to hold each other accountable and lean on when we’ve had a bad writing day.

While I don’t talk about what I’m writing, I can say here it’s part of a memoir I started back in April. I plan on using NaNoWriMo to complete Parts 2 and 3. Part 1 is finished. Now, I want to challenge myself and get the remainder of the book written so I can start editing in 2021. 

I’ll be honest and tell you the two other times I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo I “lost.” Meaning, I didn’t write 50,000 words in thirty days. But I wrote a hell of a lot more than I thought and I was proud of what I accomplished.

That’s what NaNoWriMo wants you to take away. You set out to accomplish this insane task. Whether or not you did is irrelevant. Be proud of yourself no matter what. 

I’ll share more about my NaNoWriMo journey as we get into the thick of it. Until then, tell me, are you participating this year? Have you tried it in the past? Have you won? Hit the comments below.

The Editing Process and How to Make It Work for You

Writers have a love/hate relationship with editing. I assume it stems from our fear of rejection. We pour our heart and soul into a piece. No matter what it is. A novel, essay, blog, poem. We steal time away from our already busy lives to work on it. Then we send it out into the world. Before that happens, however, we put it through rounds and rounds of edits.

Though an official editor will look over a piece prior to publication, writers become temporary editors. And boy, are we our worst critics.

How can something we loved during the drafting stage end up with so much red ink all over it?

We all know the answer: to make it stronger.

As much as we would love to punch out a masterpiece on the first draft, editing is part of the game. We can’t avoid it and we can’t skip it. What we can do is create an editing system that’s not so cut and dry. Ditch the red pen! You should be excited to edit because you’re about to make your writing better.

Bring some color into the mix. Make it fun to look at. All that red will no doubt drive you crazy. I couldn’t stand it. So, I changed it up.

Here’s a peek at my editing process.

I barely use a red pen anymore. I’ve switched to using pencil. And I mean a regular pencil, not a red pencil.

I find when I’m rewriting a sentence, paragraph, scene, etc, I tend to start writing something, erase it, rewrite it again. Rather than have more scratches and cross offs in red, I’m able to erase, which saves space on the page.

But before I start rewriting, I read through the piece. Highlighters at the ready, I color code corrections using the following system:

  • Yellow = awkward sentence structure; run-on sentence
  • Pink = words ending in -ly
  • Green = words ending in -ing
  • Blue = words to spellcheck
  • Purple = areas to show, not tell
  • Orange = things to fact check

You’re going to end up with a bunch of colorful pages. But I’d rather look at a colorful rainbow than a horde of red markers any day.

Color coding makes it easier for you to remember what you’re looking at. If you circle or underline a sentence in red pen and you go back to it later, you may run into, Wait — why did I mark that again? With color coding, you know what each color means.

When revising, I won’t rid my text completely of -ly and -ing words. But highlighting them shows me how often I rely on them. During a first draft, it’s a lot.

Once I have highlighted the hell out of the text, I get to work rewriting. I use a notebook to rewrite. I only rewrite on the original document if it’s fixing a sentence or two. If I’m going to add a new paragraph or rewrite an entire page, I write it in the notebook.

I can’t edit on a screen. I know some people can, but it’s not for me. Rewriting in longhand allows me to slow down and really make sure I’m making the text stronger. When I edit on the screen, I tend to go too fast, and I miss something crucial.

I use the color coding system for at least the first two rounds of edits. After that, I send it out to my trusted readers for feedback.

At most, I do five to six rounds of edits. It varies depending on the project but that’s my comfort number.

What you need to do is find an editing system that works for you.

And like everything else in the writing community, it’ll change project to project. For example, my blog posts go through one, maybe two rounds of edits. It depends on the length and the topic. I don’t use highlighters when editing blog posts.

Editing is all about finding what works and what will make your words stronger. When you find a system that flows with your creativity and improves productivity, it’ll change your mindset about editing. You may even come to love it.

Your turn. Do you swear by the red pen and only the red pen? Are you a screen editor or a hardcopy editor? Have you tried color coding? Let me know below. I’d love to hear how you make editing work for you.