It’s October 31st, an auspicious date not because it’s Halloween but because it’s the day before Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) begins. Not only that, I know National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts tomorrow as well. Now some nonfiction writers choose to be NaNo Rebels and to write nonfiction there, producing 50,000 words in 30 days. Why do that, though, when you can start and finish a piece of nonfiction–any piece of nonfiction of any length–in 30 days during WNFIN with a bunch of other nonfiction writers?
Here you have no need to be a rebel. I suggest you not hide in a rebel forum but come out into the light and write nonfiction proudly among other nonfiction writers. Of course, I founded WNFIN, so I’m a bit biased.
Get involved in WNFIN! Visit this blog every day for 30 days and learn tons about writing and publishing nonfiction. It features 30 posts from writing, publishing and promotion experts! NaNoWriMo can’t give you that. And there’s a forum (Just register to use it.) and a Facebook page.
If you take the WNFIN challenge, please tell me what you are writing about and how your project progresses during the month and at the end of the challenge. You can do so in the forum, on the Facebook page, by leaving comments to blog posts, and by signing in here.
Now, down to some more serious information. WNFIN involves getting some serious writing done in 30 days. When you know you have a deadline to meet–a real or a self-imposed one, it’s important to find ways to move through writer’s block and the desire to edit as you compose and write a first draft quickly. That’s the goal, of course—to write a first draft of something in 30 days. Some of you may actually get around to editing that first draft and producing a polished piece ready for submission or publishing. That’s even better!
As a journalist, I often find myself under the pressure of deadlines. Additionally, as a blogger with five (Yes, five.) blogs and one on-line column, I have had to learn to write copy fast. I don’t have time to dawdle over my articles or posts. I don’t have time for writer’s block. (What is writer’s block?) And I don’t have time to let my “Inner Critic or Editor” take over while I’m composing. I only have time to write a rough draft fast. In fact, that rough draft can’t even be too rough; in many cases, I have to get it close to right the first time. I may only have time for one round of editing.
How do I accomplish this feat day in and day out? Some techniques exist that help any writer, but especially nonfiction writers, write fast and on point every time (or almost every time). Here are three I use regularly.
Know what you want to write about. This first tip is a bit like writing a pitch or elevator speech for a book. If you can summarize what you want to write about in 25 words or so, then you’ll be able to sit down and write about it without beating around the bush too much. A good summary statement allows you to lead into that statement and then out of it with targeted points pretty quickly. Most nonfiction requires exactly that: a statement of purpose and follow-up points. You might want to add in some nice anecdotes or stories to illustrate your points, but that’s easy once you have the basic outline. So, start by figuring out exactly what you want to write about and then let your article, essay, e-book, or book flow out of that. You can also break a bigger project, like a book down into smaller pieces in the same manner; write smaller summary statements or pitches for each chapter or each section of a chapter. Then write those in short bursts or periods of time.
Don’t allow your Inner Editor to join you while writing a first draft. Most writers like to revise as they write. That’s your Inner Critic or Editor at work. When you feel the pressure of a deadline, however, the Inner Editor slows you down. Looking at every sentence or word makes writing a slow process. Going back over a whole section or several pages can mean 30 minutes of precious time you could have been writing two more pages of copy. Tell your Inner Editor that to wait! His or her time will come–and soon enough. When the first draft has been completed, the Inner Editor’s role becomes extremely important. That’s when the two of you team up to begin the job of polishing your article, essay, book, e-book, or information product. You want your Inner Editor working hard then; you need an Inner Critic…a real critical eye…at that point but not before.
Write in short blocks of time rather than long ones. Most writers think they must sit down for two hours or more to knock out the amount of writing they need to produce or to meet a deadline. Sometimes that may be true. However, this can produce writer’s block, and the monotony of sitting for so long also can make you write more slowly. I’ve found that writing in short bursts makes the writing go more quickly. That’s why writing blog posts works so well; they are only about 250-300 words a piece. (I wrote a whole book in 5 months by blogging a book and you can, too– click here and check out “services” or “products”.) Try setting a word count for yourself and try to make it in a certain amount of time. For example, tell yourself you’ll write 300 words in 20 minutes. Then, say, “Go!” Or just do timed writings; write for 30 minutes without stopping. No fingers paused over the keyboard allowed. After each writing period, you get a break. You can take five minutes off or an hour. You can come back tomorrow if you accomplished enough. How many short blocks of writing you do in one set time period will depend upon your deadline or how much writing you need to accomplish in a time period. When you return, you can reread what you wrote and edit it if you like, or you can simply keep writing. Some people like to leave off mid-sentence and pick up there. See what works for you.
Of course, most writing needs a bit of editing and polishing when you are done. First you have to get that draft written, though. Hopefully, these tips will help you with that initial step all year long but especially during the next 30 days as you take on the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.
Tomorrow…WNFIN hits the “GO” button!