National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us. Beginning November 1st, hundreds of thousands of people will sit down at their computers and attempt to crank out 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is billed as a way to help new writers get over their fright, insecurity, and procrastination tactics. But what if you’re not a new writer? What if you’ve already mastered the art of putting your butt in the chair every day? What if (gasp) you’re a writer who has no desire to write a novel or fiction of any sort? What if you already have paying projects lined up and you have no time to start a new novel? Can a professional writer get any benefit from participating in NaNoWriMo? Absolutely.
Here’s the trick to turning NaNo into an event that benefits your writing career:
Understand that no NaNoWriMo cops are going to come to your door and throw you in NaNo jail if you don’t work on 50,000 words of new fiction. You can work on anything you want and no one is going to care.
I did NaNoWriMo the traditional way for a few years and had a good time. But once I started making money with my writing, I had less time (and need) to participate in the traditional sense. I hated not doing something organized and massive in November, though, because there is something powerful about knowing that so many other people are writing during the month. Even if you don’t participate in any of the writing groups, write-ins, or forums that spring up, it’s still fun to go into the library or coffee shop and see people pounding away on their laptops and trade a knowing smile.
I didn’t want to miss out on that, so I began to think of ways to use the month to my advantage. Now I view November as the month in which I rededicate myself to my work and try to make some progress that will set me up for the coming year. Here are just a few of the things you can do during NaNo that will help your overall writing career.
- Blog posts. NaNo can be a good time to stockpile some blog posts so that you have something to post when you’re busy doing other things.
- Articles. If you write for magazines or websites, you can crank out a few spec articles. If they don’t sell, rework them and use them for blog posts.
- Edit/revise. Maybe you’ve finished the first (or tenth) draft of your novel or non-fiction book and instead of starting something new you really need to edit or revise that work. Do it. See if you can have it in submittable shape by the end of the month.
- Query. Set a query goal and submit like crazy during NaNo.
- Non-fiction. If you write non-fiction, there’s no law that says you can’t work on your book(s) during NaNo. I won’t rat you out.
- Short stories/poetry/scripts/graphic novels/children’s books. Again, there’s no group of NaNo police that will drag you out on the lawn and beat you if you work on shorter or illustrated forms of writing.
- Perfect (or start) your submission/marketing materials. Proposals, query letters, marketing materials, brochures, media kits and synopses aren’t thrilling to write, but they’re necessary for marketing yourself and your work.
- Work on your website. If you’ve got a website that needs some work (or if you need to create one), dedicate your NaNo time to getting it done.
- Work on your social media presence. Social media isn’t optional anymore, so use November to set up profiles on new sites, perfect your old profiles, and contribute more posts to your pages. If you have books on Amazon, create or jazz up your author page.
- Prep work. Maybe you’re not ready to start writing your novel or non-fiction book just yet. Use November to do all of your research, outlining, interviews, story-boarding or whatever else you need to do to get ready to write.
- Search out new markets. Network. Look at job postings. Audition or guest post for new blogs. Go to the bookstore and check out all the new magazines. New opportunities for your work crop up every day. Find them.
And if you want to participate in the traditional way and write 50K of new fiction? Go for it. It can absolutely be worthwhile to draft a new novel, try a new genre, or work on the second book in a series, for example. You may discover a talent that you didn’t know you had.
It’s true that you won’t receive the winner’s certificate if you don’t have 50,000 words strung together in a single document that you can submit for verification. But the certificate doesn’t matter. What matters is that you made a concerted effort to advance your writing career and maybe had a little bit of fun being part of the crazy NaNoWriMo crowd. Define your own win condition before you start and then go out and celebrate like all the other NaNoWriMoer’s when you achieve it.
(Photo courtesy of StartupStockPhotos)