I’m adding my voice to the current slew of advice posts aimed at anyone thinking of joining in the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month through NaNoWriMo.org in November this year. Whether you are a seasoned author or a newbie, this is a great challenge to give you a big push to writing a complete novel–though it could also be non-fiction if that’s your bag, baby–by taking the challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November.
I’ve done it several times now, and still haven’t quite made up my mind whether or not to go for it this year, as I am revising my WIP ahead of publication this December. But I can say unreservedly that it is a great idea and I think also a valuable writing experience. If you’re not sure whether to do it, I say, give it a go, what have you got to lose? And you could gain a complete first draft!!!!!
So here are my top tips for a great NaNoWriMo:
- Prepare. Yes, make sure you do! Even if you see yourself as a ‘pantser’, make sure you hit the ground running on November 1st by having a good idea of what your story is about, who the main characters are, and key plots points. You will need to write an average of 1600 words per day to achieve the 50,000 word target by the end of the month. Reread any notes you have made, and get your Word docs or word processing files ready on your computer of choice. Do any essential research necessary NOW, don’t leave it until November.
- Keep your daily writing typed up! Don’t do what I did two years in a row (argh, the pain!) of writing mainly longhand then not leaving enough time to type up my work before the end of the month. It’s no good telling NaNoWriMo you’ve successfully completed the challenge if you don’t upload your ENTIRE 50,000 words for verification by their robot. In addition, remember their robot may not count quite the same as you, so ensure you’ve got a couple of hundred words over the 50,000-limit under your belt.
- Don’t get distracted. There is so much to look at on the NaNoWriMo site, and so many useful talks, motivational speeches, helps, suggestions, support groups, discussions and so on, but DO NOT spend time looking at this stuff if you haven’t done your daily word count. It is so easy to become distracted and to think, I’ll just write extra tomorrow. Then the dog breaks its leg, and you’re at the vet till midnight and before you know it a week has gone by and you’ve got to write 3,500 words a day just to keep up. So don’t get on that slippery slope. Write first, have fun later.
- Be realistic. The aim here is not to write and publish a great work by Christmas. Okay, I’m sure some wonderman/woman will do exactly that–there’s always a handful of literary stars. But most of us will be aiming to simply write a complete, or almost complete, first draft during NaNoWriMo. Don’t write your 50,000 words then think the work is over, that your book is ready to be unleashed on a waiting world. This is simply the end of the beginning. Once you’ve finished your first draft, pat yourself on the back because it’s a great achievement; then request your winners’ certificate from NaNoWriMo.org and take a well-earned break. Put your first draft away. Then get it out in a month or six, and begin the process of rewriting, crafting, polishing. Work on it alongside the NaNoWriMo revision camps and workshops, and take pride in getting it as good as it can be. And–write another book!
- Keep going through the tough days. At first it’s exciting. It’s fun. You feel a wonderful sense of achievement, and as you reach the end of week one, you survey your 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000 words with pride. It’s all so easy, it’s all so wonderful. You should have done this years ago. BUT…often, (and it won’t just be you who goes through this) you can hit a brick wall. You struggle to wring 400 words from your imagination. Things happen in life and it can be hard to find the time. Suddenly the blank page is staring back at you in what can only be described as a hostile manner, and you begin to feel like giving up. Okay, take a breath, dig deep, you can do this. Hang on in there as they used to say in the 70s. Write a page of ‘I have no idea what to write’ or ‘I am so &*%%£! off with this writing game’. Anything, just to keep writing. Just keep at it and slog through the tough times. This would be a good time to read or listen to ONE or TWO only of the motivational speeches or posts, just so you know there are others going through the same experience. Keep writing, it will come back, I promise. You can make that 50,000 words appear.
Woohoo–you made it! You are a writing genius and should feel sooo proud of your achievement. Congratulations! Print off your certificate and put it on your wall to gloat over. Now stop wasting time and write another book. Oh, and, please, let me know how you get on! See you on the other side.