Everybody is chattering about National Novel Writing Month this month, since this is it, and why should I be any different?
My advice on how to approach it and how to get through it is the same as my advice for anything involving writing: Do Whatever Works.
Now, the first thing to remember about NaNo is that it isn't a job. It isn't something you have to do, even if you've signed up for it. The purpose of it is to encourage you to sit down and disconnect your inner editor and just write as freely as you can. There isn't a "right" way or a "wrong" way. As far as I'm concerned, there is no "cheating", since the only "prize" is the words you write. Are you starting with a project you got stuck on halfway through? Go ahead! Do you have a detailed outline already? Fine! Do you want to turn a series of unrelated short stories into a coherent storyline? Sounds awesome! Do you have a vague idea and want to use NaNo to rough out a detailed outline? I'm like, "Cheat, schmeat--just write!"
NaNo should be a pleasure and a joy. If it isn't, shrug it off. Maybe it doesn't work for you. November might be a little lonely, while lots of people are all NaNo, NaNo, NaNo, but so what? If that's not the way you roll, set yourself another goal for November:
Friend: I've written 24,000 words so far this month!
You: I've organized my Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes and made out a shopping list.
Come December, they'll have a rough draft, a caffeine crash AND they'll be heading into the Christmas crush, and you'll have your recipes organized and your shopping list made.
If you do NaNo, don't let it become a contest between you and your buddies. It's tempting to feel pressured to write faster, write more words, and that's kind of the point. But if the pressure feels uncomfortable or unpleasant, unplug yourself from that. There's no law that says you have to post your word count publicly. Your words aren't anybody else's words; they're your words.
NaNo is a chance to dedicate some time each day to writing, which you may or may not do anyway. It gives you some leverage with loved ones who may not think to grant you that time ordinarily, a chance to say, "No, I can't do that. I'm doing NaNo, and I pledged to write 1,670 words every day."
People who don't write tend to be impressed by numbers, and they'll go, "Oh! That's a lot of words! I'd better let you get to it, then." That's one thing NaNo can do for you.
NaNo can encourage you to let go and throw yourself through the story without worrying if it hangs together. If you can't do that (and I can't), maybe it can encourage you to throw yourself a little farther into the story than you are and see if it comes together or sparks some ideas for farther along. I write 250 words at a time. That's just the way I roll.
Marian Allen is the author of EEL'S REVERENCE, a fantasy published by Echelon Press.