The Best NaNoWriMo Tip Ever

Advice abounds for those who are attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time. As with all writing advice, it can be conflicting and confusing, especially if you’ve never written anything as long as 50,000 words before.

So here’s the best tip I have ever received: Lower your expectations.

Those words are somewhat heartbreaking to hear, especially if you’ve had your idea for a long time and it’s sparked all kinds of beautiful mental images in your mind that you can’t wait to capture on paper. Unfortunately, something always gets lost in the translation from mind to paper (or screen), so the words never quite match up to the idealistic vision. That’s OK.

I think it was Hemingway who said something to the effect of “writing is easy: you just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” That’s what first drafts are like. They’re bloody, they’re messy, and they’re painful. Hemingway also said, “Write drunk; edit sober,” which is reminiscent of first drafts. You say all kinds of regrettable things when you’re drunk, then you (hopefully) fix all the mistakes you made and clean everything up when you recover from the hangover. That’s how it goes with the first draft. You may end up regretting 90% of it, but at least that 90% is on paper/screen where it can be revised and put to good use.

Lower your expectations, WriMos. Be glad you’re getting something down on paper, even if most of that something is bound for the recycle bin in a few months. Get the words down. Make them great later.

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