Make It Up As You Go Along | NANO TALK 2016

Those 15 seconds it takes to Google something can really start to add up.

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NaNoWriMo

Research. It makes you sound productive. Credible. Like you know what you’re doing. A writer who researches, at any other time of the year, is on the right track.

During a WriMo, however, research makes you extremely unproductive, unfocused and makes you much more likely to fall short of whatever your personal end goal for the month might be.

I’m going to eventually have to look into about half of what I’ve already written to make sure it’s accurate. I know next to nothing about murder investigations, cybercrime or dead people (it’s a book, don’t judge me). If I were to try and research details in all of these areas and more, I would be even more behind on my word count than I already am.

Half the posts I’m seeing in forums and writing groups are about research. And as much as I understand that everyone has their own writing process, it just completely defeats the intended purpose of a WriMo – to write as many words as possible as fast as you can.

Many people use November as motivation to start or continue working on a novel they haven’t been motivated to work on all year. I get that. But there are first-draft laws being violated here, WriMo or not. At some point, yes, you’re probably going to have to look into some facts. But the whole point of a first draft is to write a messy, imperfect story. Only once you have a foundation in place can you even hope to build a sturdy house on top of it.

I honestly recommend making things up as I go along. The details in a story matter – but you don’t have to get them all right the first time. I just want to shout this (constructively, of course) at everyone I see talking about their novel research. WRITE THE STORY ALREADY. I’m fine with Googling a word every now and then, if it’s really bugging me that much … but you have to set limits, or you’re never going to move forward.

I like to call this month No Research November. Maybe that’s just my preference, maybe many of you out there have good reasons why you try to fit researching into NaNoWriMo. It’s always something I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around. When it comes to novel writing, I will always advocate for first draft first, research during rewrites. But if you have a different perspective, I’d love to hear about it.

Many of the normal ‘rules’ of the writing process just don’t apply this month. I think research is an extremely important part of writing a story told accurately, of course depending on the genre and your overall goal for writing the story in the first place. Just not now.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

2 thoughts on “Make It Up As You Go Along | NANO TALK 2016

  1. I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. I still consider myself a novice writer and have spent a lot of time learning the rules. I think if I did participate, I would use aspects familiar to me-settings, time periods, cultures etc. Like you I would not want to bog myself down with research but then that idea may stifle creativity. :-)

    1. If you’re still a beginner, I would totally recommend participating in a WriMo next year! It’s a great way to push yourself to start/make progress in/finish a book, especially if you never have before or want more practice!

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