Goodbye Halloween, hello November’s National Novel Writing Month (called NaNoWriMo for short) where 200,000 writers around the world hash out a 50,000 word novel from Nov 1st to Nov 30th. November is also the month of National Blog Posting Month and Write Nonfiction in November. So if you’ve been waiting to write that novel, blog post, memoir and keep coming up with excuses, now’s the time to crank out your pages! I completed two novels during this month and you can too.
Started in San Francisco by Chris Baty in 1999 the first NaNoWriMo event only had 21 participants—wow, has it grown in 12 years. I wrote a 50K novel in 2008 and 2009 just to say I did it to my fiction editing clients and to prove to myself that I could do it with two kids, my other writing/speaking/editing work, the NC Writers’ Conference and Thanksgiving. Here are five tips I’d like to share with you if you’re thinking about embarking on the NaNoWriMo journey or have already completed 5,000 words (Day 1-3).
Plan out your word count and write daily. 50,000 words divided by 30 is 1,666.67 words a day. It really sucks when you skip a few days and suddenly you have to make up 7,500 words—ARGHHH! That’s what happened to me in 2009. I didn’t write the first week of November and was constantly playing catch up till Nov 30th with writing 5K, 7K and even 10K in one day.
It’s OK to Outline in October. You don’t need to know every subplot or even the main plot before you begin writing Nov 1st, but it sure helps to have a map so you finish your word count for the day and don’t procrastinate by turning to Wikipedia every five minutes to do “research.” My outline helped me know who my characters were and where the action took place in most scenes.
Keep the Typing Going. It’s tempting to stop when you reach a point in your story that needs more thought. Instead of stopping, highlight the area in yellow and keep going. When you edit your novel in December or January, you’ll know exactly where to fill in the missing details. Complete your word count for the day and when your mind is at rest the answers may come back to you. Go back to your yellow spot and fill it in—yay, more words for the word count.
Don’t Operate In A Bubble. When you register on the NaNoWriMo site you’ll also be connected to your local NaNoWriMo writers for weekly Write-Ins. I could only go to a few of them, but those were the most productive hours of my month. I also read the daily NaNoWriMo tips and words of inspiration from published authors.
Get Yourself on a Schedule. Treat your writing as a job. All professional writers do this—they have set hours for their writing and you need to do the same. You’ll have to give up some things this month like watching Dancing with the Stars or Book Club or reading the paper. But you’ll manifest pages and when you do complete your goal, give yourself a treat like going on Facebook for five minutes or buying the pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks. Get into the habit with rituals: turn off your phone, play the same music, wear the same fleece jacket, and make tea in your lucky mug.
You may be wondering where my novels went to—they are still hanging out on my flash and back-up drives. The second one has some potential, but needs a LOT of work. At this point in my writing career I’m focusing on my poetry. The novels were great practice in taking risks and gave me a lot of confidence and perspective—necessary for any writer in any genre.
Good luck this month!
What tips did I leave off the list? Are you new to NaNoWriMo or a veteran? If you’re a veteran, how has NaNoWriMo helped your writing overall?