Linda Ge is a Northern Californian high school student by day and a writer by night. A longtime NaNoWriMo participant, she is the co-proprietor of Teens Writing for Teens. She wishes the Wall Street Journal had a horoscope section and would love it if you left a comment or a hundred on the TWFT blog. We were lucky enough to have her spin some wisdom for us on our blog:
At the age of 17, I consider myself a NaNoWriMo veteran. I’ve been participating since the seventh grade, and I’ve won four times (we won’t talk about the times I didn’t quite make it).
For y’all out there who are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, congratulations! You’re entering into that home stretch. Now making it through the home stretch is mainly about keeping your focus. As a longtime participant, here are some mistakes that I’ve learned to avoid. I hope this helps you, too!
- Deleting a good chunk of everything you wrote because, five minutes ago, you decided you wanted to head in a completely new direction.
No! Let’s stop that.
The thing is: you can always revise later. And the whole point of NaNo isn’t to compose 50,000 perfect words; it’s to put 50,000 words on paper. You can’t revise your manuscript if there’s nothing left to revise.
And if you do decide to go through with your changes anyway, you just might regret it tomorrow morning when you realize the brilliant new plot you figured out around midnight isn’t so brilliant after all.
- Allowing friends and family to read your novel before it’s done.
The best-case scenario is that they love what you have so far. Flush with praise, all of a sudden, you start to ask yourself what they would want to read about instead of writing the story you’d set out to.
The worst-case scenario is that they don’t “get” it at all and you wallow in your room for a few days before dumping your manuscript altogether.
You’ve heard writers say, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, in this case, it’s better to tell your loved ones about your NaNo novel than to actually show it to them.
- Spending writing time doing research or anything that’s sort of writing-related—but isn’t actually writing your novel.
Write your first draft because you love the story, not because you want to get it published. You’ll find that your motivation for writing is stronger. When you’re preoccupied with thoughts of publishing your work, writing time inevitably morphs into make-a-mockup-of-your-book-cover time. Or find-the-best-character-name-that-readers-would-like time. Or look-up-facts-for-accuracy-because-God-forbid-I-slip-up time.
It’s what I call “pseudo-writing”: work that is pertinent enough to your actual goal of finishing the darn book that it leaves you with a feeling of success, but ends up being a time drain.
At the rough draft stage, it doesn’t matter if Andrew Carnegie supported the Social Gospel of Wealth, or if Hitler was assassinated in 1944 by Brad Pitt. Write it in if it works for your story. Fact-checking can come later.
What are some writing mistakes that you’ve made in the past? How have you learned to avoid them?