The Secret of the Second Novel

Okay, here it is. I’m spilling the big secret to my success during NaNoWriMo.

I write a second novel.

I know. It’s cheating. The Rules clearly state that you start with a new novel on November 1st and write it from beginning to 50,000 words.

Oh wait, I couldn’t link that to the FAQ because they changed the rules a couple years ago.

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. It may be an arbitrary distinction, but we’ve seen that novelists do better (and have more fun) when they’re free from the constraints of existing manuscripts. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate!

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.

That continues the previous allowance for short shorts (as long as they are related) but it’s still not what I’m saying.

I’m saying have a second novel to write in tandem.

A lot of people are mortified by this idea. Professionals say ‘oh god no’, but professionals get a day off, during NaNo, there are no days off. You can’t step away from the project for more than a few hours to work out the kinks you find in chapter 12. What you can do is move to another project.

Normally this would be a bad idea. Working on another project distracts from the first and means you won’t have 50k of either at the end of the month. Someone might say ‘do some worldbuilding’ or ‘edit the earlier chapters’ but neither of those things will help increase your wordcount significantly (though editing a vomit draft does increase your wordcount, not reduce it).

Having and working on a second project means you can continue to write even when your main project is getting tired and allows you to start to enjoy your characters again.

Maybe this means adding some new words to a previous project, maybe it means writing a short story about how your characters got married. In the end it’s about getting more words down and hitting our arbitrary goal for the month.

A Penny for Your Thoughts?