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What business authors can steal from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo_word_widgetRepeat after me: NaNoWriMo. Don’t you love the acronym for National Novel Writing Month?

It kicks off annually on Nov. 1st. Last year over 170,000 people from around the world took part. They wrote over 3 billion words in 30 days.

Beyond the catchy name, this crazy sprint to write the draft of a novel in one month has lots of lessons you can steal from. Here are three NaNoWriMo rules you can adapt to your own ends if writing a short book on a nonfiction topic is on your bucket list.

Write Every Day

This is the number one rule.

You have to sit down every day and write something. If it’s not the draft of your book, per se, it can be free writing around the topic of your book or, equally important, the goal for your book.

I’ve talked about this before. I call it creating a Daily Writing Practice. There are different ways you can do this.

Mine is simple-minded:

  • Commit to writing in the morning before email and other online distractions
  • Make it a ritual (light a candle; lay out your writing totems)
  • Set a word count goal that you can reach

The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Make yours smaller.

If you’re aiming to write a 50-page short book, make your goal 20,000 words. That way you can cut a bunch of them and still end up with 12,500 words (or 50 pages).

And in case you’re wondering, 20,000 words means churning out 666 words a day. That is doable!

Write Crap

You have to etch this concept into your forehead as well as scrawl it on a stickie with a fat magic marker.

Make two copies of the stickie. Put one next to your computer. Put the other on the refrigerator door.

It’s easy to for me to tell you this. But it is far more difficult to put this rule into practice.

I confess that I have a lot of trouble writing the shitty first draft, as writing teacher and author Anne Lamott famously calls it.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a perfectionist and a maximizer. Perhaps it’s because I am also an editor. And the editor’s job is to spot imperfections and inconsistencies and (gently) point them out.

Whatever the reason, writing “crap” is very, very hard for me and for many others. You might be one of them.

Fill the Canvas

Which brings me to the third rule of NaNoWriMo. Your goal is to “fill the canvas” as author Steven Pressfield puts it in his terrific book about writing, The Authentic Swing.

Get enough down on paper so that your paint (aka words) covers the whole canvas.

Yes, there will be holes. Yes, it may look awkward and misshapen. But if you get enough out of your head and complete that shitty first draft, then (and only then) can you go onto Steps 2, 3, 4, etc. and fix what you’ve got.

If you’re writing enough crap to finish your first draft, you’ve made it into the big leagues. You are a writer.

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