The secret to winning NaNoWriMo 2015

Wright_Books2One of the secrets to writing 50,000 words part-time in 30 days is to make that writing process efficient.

Sure, the figure averages out at just 1666 words a day, or thereabouts. But writing’s a stop-start process. It’s easy to sit there for hours and get just a few hundred words out. And the onus is particularly on when writing’s not your main task of the day.

Efficiency comes from planning. Careful planning. But wait, I can hear the cries now. Wait – writing is all about creativity, isn’t it? It’s about being able to let those ideas flow freely. It’s about sitting down and experiencing the joy of creating something from nothing.

To which I have one answer. Sure – if you’re writing for self-entertainment. That’s what ‘seat-of-the-pants’ writing actually devolves to if it isn’t framed in some sort of shape. The results, usually, meander like thought processes. Stories lose shape, lose the essential structure that makes them work as stories.

But that’s not to say ‘pantsing’ is unimportant. Sometimes it’s worth ‘pantsing’ a few pages to get the feel of the flow, to explore ideas and thoughts. But then the author needs to sit back and figure out how that fits in to the plan.

‘Pantsing’ can also work if it’s used to fill gaps within a broader framework set out by the writing plan. The author begins from a known point and also knows where the end point happens to be – and their imagination can soar between those points.

A plan doesn’t have to be totally prescriptive, either – on the contrary, it needs to be able to adapt as new ideas arrive. But it IS essential, especially when writing to tight time-and-word constraints.

The cost of not planning is extensive re-writing, just to give the story the shape it needs to work as a story. And maybe that’s fine too. But not when it comes to getting out 50,000 words in 30 days.

So – the first step to success is coming up with a plan, even a short one that offers a broad skeleton around which to hang the story.

More next time.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015