We all know that the main goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words. The organisers of NaNoWriMo encourage you to write everyday and that every word that you write counts towards your 50,000 total. So that means that if you suddenly realize that the last paragraph you’ve written is completely wrong and needs to be removed, then you should not delete it. Instead, we’re told, you should just strike it through. That unwanted paragraph still counts towards your word count.
No matter how many words you want to cut out, NaNoWriMo encourages you to never actually delete them. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the last paragraph, or if it’s the entire last chapter: nothing should get deleted. Every words counts towards your end of month total.
For a lot of people this advice creates a dilemma. If the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in one month, then what’s the point in keeping in scenes that I know I’m going to edit out on the the first of December?
Honestly, that argument does makes sense – but it’s missing the bigger picture.
Yes, NaNoWriMo is about getting your novel written…but it’s also about showing you what you are capable of. This November you’re going to find out that you are capable of writing 50,000 words. You’re going to get into the habit of writing everyday. One writing session at a time. Each session chipping away towards your goal. It does suck that not every writing session will be 100% useful. But those words that you want to edit out are a testament to your new creativity and work ethic. They absolutely should count towards your end of month total.
You put that work in, and nobody can take that away from you. Apart from you.
Please don’t delete your own hard work!
There is another reason why you should strikethrough rather than delete. What you’re writing this November is a draft. This is not the final manuscript. It doesn’t have to be all polished and ready to be published. Every time you stop writing and start editing, you’re slowing down.
Say you’re half-way through a scene, and you suddenly realize that the character that’s supposed to speaking at the moment is wrong. The whole character is just unnecessary; having him in the story doesn’t help further the plot. Instead, he’s just a confusing extra that’s stealing the limelight from the protagonist. He has to go.
Now that you’ve come to this momentous decision, what’s your next step? Do you stop writing halfway through a scene, so that you can go back over everything you’ve written so far, deleting every mention of this rejected character?
Or, do you strikethrough whatever that character just said and continue writing? It’s pretty clear that one way is going to completely stall your writing session, and the other way is going to let you continue amping up that precious wordcount.
So, this November, no matter what, don’t touch that Delete key!