The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a few ups and downs in terms of forming a writing habit. In this post, I want to cover the three things that have had the biggest impact on my productivity.

The rough draft is not the final draft…

This is the number one, fundamentally groundbreaking concept. Once I understood and applied it, everything changed. Three simple things:
1. No other person can ever read your rough draft, so it doesn’t matter what you write.
2. Don’t stop typing. Write what comes to mind.
3. No editing until the story is finished.

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In Preparation for November.

November is National Novel writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. I don’t know why they still call it that, seeing as how it is well and truly international now. Maybe it should be InNoWriMo?

The idea is this: write 50,000 words in the month of November. The prize? You win 50,000 words that you would not have written if you hadn’t bothered to participate in NaNoWriMo.

Before I begin.

I think that some people spend time before November plotting out their story and planning their characters. I don’t want to do that. I want to see if I can put the whole process into the one month. There are, however, two steps that I have taken in preparation for the novel: one for the, and one for process.


When creating a setting, I don’t enjoy sitting down and figuring out things like the way that the spacecraft move through space or politics or anything like that. I like to discover that stuff while drafting, and then go back and flesh it out later.

So in preparation for November, I’ve written a short story set in the same universe that the novel will take place. I think the characters from the short might have minor roles in the novel, though I don’t know for sure yet. Anyway, I always prefer world building by actually writing stories in the world and exploring it through the characters, instead of sitting down and trying to figure out how everything works.


To prepare my process, I read Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley. Plotting and planning is an area that I need to strengthen, and these two books teach some fundamental concepts in those two areas.

To this day, I have struggled with editing. I never really had that much of a plan laid out. When it came time to edit, I would just get stuck in from page one and start editing everything. It was almost impossible for me to take a step back and look and the bigger picture to see the problems with my story. And that is where these two books come in. My NaNo novel is going to be tightly plotted, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects my drafting and editing.

Drafting I’m confident with. Remember, the one unbreakable rule that I have is that my first draft (or Zero draft) is never to be viewed by anyone other than me. This is what allows me to write so fast; changing that will drastically change my process and slow me down. The point is, I can’t just sit down and bust out 50,000 words then post it up and say “job’s done!” I want to be able to have at least 50,000 words I can share by the end of November.

The rough plan.

First two days: Plotting and planning. Writing out plot outline and character sheets. Checking over everything to make sure it all makes sense. Filling in scene plans and information.

Third day: Optional planning if needed. Otherwise, drafting begins!

Up to the 20th November: Drafting. By that date, I want to have drafted at least 60,000 words, assuming I’m going to lose 10% to editing. This timeframe is based on a few things. 1) I can confidently write 5000 words a day. 2) I don’t know how busy I’ll be with my day job over that period, so I may have a few days when I can’t write.

10% might not seem like much to lose to editing, but I’m assuming my drafting will be tighter due to the plot outline I will have written.

That leaves me ten days to edit. Again, I’m assuming that the editing process will be faster due to the tighter draft and tighter plot. We’ll see, I guess!!

Having deadlines makes me more motivated.

In the past, when people have asked me when I’ll have finished drafting something or editing something, or have something available for them to buy. I’ve always just shrugged and said “soon” or “when it’s ready.” Even though these numbers and dates aren’t really based on any hard experience, it feels better to actually put a deadline on things and work towards them.