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NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake

The first time I tried National Novel Writing Month, I did a lot right but I did one crucial thing wrong. 

What went right:

1. I created a loose outline before NaNoWriMo started so I wouldn’t write myself into too many corners and dead ends.

2. I planned my calendar and even reserved babysitters to make sure I had enough time to write.

3. I wrote more than the bare minimum each day (1,666 words) so I got ahead of my word count goal early. You don’t want to derail your NaNoWriMo challenge just because you had the flu for a few days or other work demands pulled you away unexpectedly. 

The crucial mistake:

It’s okay to paste in the broad strokes to fill in later (e.g. “insert awesome sex scene here” or “this is the chapter where little Bobby discovers he can crush badger skulls with the power of his mind.”)

However, as I reached 50,000 words, I stopped short. I didn’t write the last scene before typing “The End”. Later, when I returned to my manuscript to revise and edit, the magic momentum was gone. The missing end sucked my enthusiasm for the project. NaNoWriMo is a sprint and it feels great to cross that finish line. Fifty-thousand words isn’t the only finish line. Build the skeleton of the entire book and you’ll have something more solid to work with when you’re done.

For more on National Novel Writing Month and brainstorming tips, tricks and inspiration to carry you to the end, get my new book, Crack the Indie Author Code.

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20 Responses

  1. amypaulussen says:

    Ooh, good and NEW advice. I had a similar experience: the ending was really hard to get done, eighteen months later when I came to edit. I blamed the eighteen months, amongst other things. But I like how doing a skeleton of the whole (presumably well over 50 000 word novel) frees you up to leave big gaps for filling in later. Besides, the end is fun to write if you’ve got the momentum up. And if we’re running shy of 50 000 there’s all those gaps to fill in.

    • Chazz says:

      Thanks, Amy. Isn’t it funny when you go back and think, Who wrote this? And what was that idiot thinking? I think anyone can build a solid book out of the NaNoWriMo experience, though, as long as they’ve got the frames up by the end of the month.

  2. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

  3. Endings are hard, but you are wiser for the experience. Now, I am, too.

    • Chazz says:

      Thanks for reading, Brian. Though I am wiser for the experience, just like the fact that I’m a Caesarean section baby, it’s hard to see unless you look very closely.

  4. Great observation! I’m going to keep that in mind on this first outing, although I’m just hoping to sustain the idea for the 50,000 words. And endings are the worst part (for me) of any piece of writing.

    • Chazz says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Jodi. Personally, I love writing endings. I find early middles kind of intimidating, so far from the end and looking to punch heavy.

      • Got any tips on how to approach endings? When I write nonfiction, the middle of the project is when I seriously question my sanity, wisdom and the meaning of life. I find chocolate helps, preferably dark and studded with toffee.

  5. Reena Jacobs says:

    I’m the type of writer who does [INSERT BETTER WORD THAT MEANS THIS] also. 🙂 In fact, I did that in both my Write or Die sessions today. I figure with the clock ticking, it’s better to do my bracket than stop and look up the exact word. I also do that with scenes I’m not motivated to write or haven’t worked out the details.

    • Chazz says:

      Heh. Thanks, Reena. I joke in one of the writing guides about the value of loose outlines for NaNoWriMo and how it’s okay to write the big, fun scenes that come to mind first. Hypothesis: If that advice is followed, the sex scenes get written fast.

  6. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

  7. […] ← NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake 11/01/2012 · 10:32 PM ↓ Jump to Comments […]

  8. Chazz says:

    @ Jodi To your question: Got any tips on how to approach endings? Sounds like a blog post. I’ll get right on it and have an answer for you in the next post.

  9. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

  10. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

  11. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

  12. […] NaNoWriMo: My crucial mistake (chazzwrites.com) […]

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