NaNoWriMo is, ultimately, a contest in which we’re all our own judges.
Traditionalists will say NaNo is: a) writing at least 50,000 new words of fiction in b) the creation of a new work that is c) a novel.
But, at the end of the day, that excludes a lot of people who’d like to participate — and many of those people who’ve felt excluded have crashed the gates, so to speak, becoming NaNo rebels.
This is a huge portion of participants who’ve embraced the fact that we’re our own judges, and do their own thing — and from new website features specifically catering to rebels to the awesome NaNo rebel forum to NaNo rebel web badges, the NaNo organization has embraced this huge population of its participants, too.
So, you’re your own judge. So long as there’s 50,000 words worth of work, you make the rules.
Here’s mine, just in case they help:
- Every word counts. If I write 40,000 new words in my novel and 10,000 new words of outlines/notes, that’s 50,000 words. If I decide I have to cut a scene – something I rarely do in first drafts, but hey, I’m human – I’ll paste whatever I cut right onto my word count file.
- It’s okay to rebel. Every year, I may be at a different stage of my writing. Some years, I may want to work on several ongoing projects — editing or writing. Other years, I may want to write something entirely new. It’s all good, as long as I’m doing 50,000 words worth of work.
- Usually, though, I’ll create my ‘rebel code’ for the year, and add some special rules for myself — such as picking the projects I allow myself to work on, so I don’t spread myself too thin and fail to make a substantial dent in anything.
- Make things easier.
- First drafts don’t have to be pretty — if you want to power through a chapter that you haven’t fully figured out, just write it as a glorified outline. If I can’t figure out how much description to add, I may choose “all of the above,” then worry about cuts later. A good idea: add a note for when we’re reviewing the project after our first draft is completed.
- Use word count files for the official count. This makes it much easier to add things you wrote from different files together, not lose words from making cuts, and even account for any words we write by hand or through other means. If you write by hand, the human average writes 330 words/pg. Generate the same number of words through a dummy text app — I use this — then add the dummy words to word count file. If disaster strikes, my computer crashes and work is lost, I may not be able to get that work back, but you can bet I’ll estimate how many words I wrote and add it to my word count.
- All Writing is Momentum.
- Don’t dust off an old project and expect a Day 1 lift off. It may sound counterintuitive, but in my experience it’s much more difficult to get back into old projects than it is to create something entirely new — especially if the old project isn’t a finished draft. NaNo can still be a great time to try to bring back that great idea from 5 years ago you didn’t finish, just try to get a firm grip on that project in September and October if possible, so you have an idea of what you need to do.
- Taking NaNo days off is healthy. Weekends? Sure. Beyond that, and I’m asking for trouble — both by losing steam, and falling into word count holes that can be difficult to climb out of. We all have our own experiences, but I think it’s a very good idea to for people to save writing vacations for after they’re done with NaNo — and, better yet, after they have a finished draft.
- The only important thing about a 1st Draft is finishing it. Nothing about it needs to be pretty. Don’t worry too much about whether you think it’s good — we’re all our worst judges in the moment, anyway. Anything to get to The End. The hard part starts there.
So, what’s your NaNo rules?