November is National Novel Writing Month when goal-oriented writers aim to crank out 50,000 words of a brand new manuscript. That’s 1,667 words/day. Now that we are already four days into the new month, have you met or exceeded the word count of 6668 yet? If not, no worries! There are unofficial ways to participate that can be just as productive.
Last June, I self-published my literary debut, Odyssey of Love: A Memoir of Seeking and Finding. It took years to complete, mostly due to my Gemini habit of balancing different projects at once. On the plus side, I now have a treasure trove of unpublished essays, short stories, and fairy tales begging for attention. Most pressing, however, is Triptych, the memoir sequel I was writing at the same time as Odyssey. I will add a few chapters to this rough draft, but they will not total 50,000 words. However, revisiting the manuscript after months of marketing and promoting Odyssey will be a welcome relief.
For those of you who also wish to focus on writing this month, but don’t feel you have 50,000 words in you, here are some suggestions of how to create your own NaNoWriMo.
1. Finish Works in Progress
Rather than start a new project, dust off the ones withering away on your computer or in your cabinet. Read them thoroughly and decide if they are worth revising and editing. In addition to Triptych, I will review some ancient essays and short stories with the aim of getting to “The End” and also consider if they could possibly be compiled into an anthology.
2. Enter Contests
After you have revised, edited, and completed your old works, consider submitting them to a literary competition. This month and next, several noteworthy ones are open to writers of flash fiction, short stories, nonfiction, poetry, and essays (see below). Cash prizes, word count, and entry fees vary.
I have been keeping a diary since age 11, but recently, my daily habit has lapsed into a weekly or bi-weekly rhythm. My last entry was October 18th, which means I have some catching up to do, maybe even a daily count’s worth of 1667 words! Journaling is also a good way to keep track of important events, especially for writers of memoir. I was recently asked at a book discussion group meeting how I was able to remember long-ago snippets of conversations, and details from my travels in Europe and the people I’d met. Easy! While writing Odyssey, I had a box of journals, monthly calendars, photos, and mementos by my side. This was a big help when outlining the story in terms of chronology and recalling events.
4. Write and Leave Book Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads
Yesterday I spent half the day writing two reviews, one for a cozy mystery, another for a travel memoir. I’m a fast reader, so my reviews tend to lag behind my rush to begin a new book. Hitting that Send button felt great! Why? Firstly, writing a review directs you away from your own style to someone else’s. You can mull over what worked or didn’t, how you might have written a chapter or the ending differently. Think of reviews as short creative writing projects that can also provide insight into how to improve your craft.
Also, if you are a new author, or even an established one, and expect readers to leave you reviews, it’s good karma to reciprocate. I don’t mean an author-to-author swap (which is a no-no), but in general. If you’ve read a book that you particularly enjoyed, your honest review will be much appreciated by the author, especially an indie. It also helps prospective readers find their next favorite read and you can play a part in directing them to it. I never considered writing reviews until I was at the receiving end, and boy, do they make a difference when it comes to providing encouragement and motivation.
If you are unsure how to post a review, here’s a link to Amazon’s help page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GL4WJF8BGV8VL6B8. Please note that your review there may take a day or two to show up, as the company checks to see if you have purchased the book or other items. If this is an issue (or even if it isn’t), Goodreads is another popular site for book lovers: https://help.goodreads.com/s/article/How-do-I-write-a-book-review-on-Goodreads-1553870933519. I always check out what other readers are saying before and after I finish a book.
5. Strengthen Your Query Letter
If you are considering finding a literary agent and going the traditional publishing route, then take this month to polish your query. Here are some ideas from the pros that will give your pitch the best chance of staying out of the slush pile:
Last month, Odyssey of Love was featured in a WOW! Women On Writing blog tour for which I wrote guest posts on various subjects: https://lindajamsen.com/blog-tour/. During this time, I neglected my own blog, which is probably why I woke up today thinking that NaNoWriMo is the ideal time to get back into that groove.
Blogging keeps the creative juices flowing without committing to a long-term project. In addition to writing-related topics, I also post about my travels in Europe, such as my first vacation outside of Finland since the pandemic: https://lindajamsen.com/2021/09/05/oslo-sea-and-the-city/ and my first Thanksgiving as an American ex-pat living abroad in Hungary: https://lindajamsen.com/2020/11/26/my-first-expat-thanksgiving/.
Even if you don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I hope you will use this month to write, whether in blog, journal, query letter, or essay form. As you can see from this post, it’s not difficult to reach close to 1,000 words. Now only 49,000 more to go!