November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you participating? If so, good for you! Given the inherent deadline of the movement, I’d like to share one of the most important lessons I’ve learned about writing books: If you try to make every sentence sound perfect NOW, you’ll never get anywhere.
When I was writing my first novel, anytime I found myself stuck about where to go next with the plot, I would go back and wordsmith what I’d already written. At the time, I reasoned that as long as I was working on the book, I was making progress. Looking back, however, I realized what I was really doing was procrastinating! I was putting off the hard work of developing the plot, instead choosing to spend hours and hours fine-tuning what I’d already written. The problem with that approach is if you don’t push the story forward, you will never finish the book.
If you want to complete (the first draft of) a 50,000-word novel in a month, I suggest you take a clinical approach and set one of two goals, depending on your schedule:
A) Write 1,600 words each day
B) Write 2,500 words each weekend day and 1,300 words each weekday
Writing that many words, especially if you’re working full-time and/or have kids, is quite a task, but it’s doable. The key is consistency. Skipping even one day will put you way behind, so don’t even consider that as an option. And if you find yourself on a roll at some point, keep writing! There’s nothing wrong with going over your daily quota.
Once you finish the first draft, by all means go back and edit from the beginning. And you know what? As you read the story with fresh eyes, you’ll probably end up cutting some things that for whatever reason don’t work for the story anymore. Just think how glad you’ll be you didn’t waste your valuable time and energy tinkering with them.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2015 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.