So Nanowrimo is obviously on my mind a lot right about now. Which means I have started preparing and trying to encourage several other people to join along with me again this year because the experience is wonderful.
This year, however, I’m putting together my own survival guide. For myself and for everyone else so much as thinking about taking on the challenge.
Don’t Panic – Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide, NaNoWriMo is a daunting task for a lot of people. The word count seems insurmountable. 50,000 words is an impossible task, right? It is, however, only 1,667 words a night. Depending on your typing speed and your inspiration at that moment, it can be as little as an hour a night for a month. Maybe more, maybe less. But not nearly as much time as you think.
You are not Alone – Around the world, thousands of people are doing exactly the same thing. Some of them veterans with words of wisdom and many of them newbies and first timers approaching it with the same fear and wonderment as many of the veterans. The forums are a wonderful place to utilize for help if you need anything over the course of your novel.
Busy is Good – It seems counterintuitive, but being busy does amazing things for your writing. It’s also easier to write when you are busy. No, really. Please stop laughing. Making sure you don’t spend every waking moment on the book will keep you interested in the story. If it is something you do when you aren’t working, it will seem more like play. And if you do nothing but write for the month with nothing else, you are likely to lose interest because that’s all there is to do. And if it’s all there is to do, it’s less likely you will do it.
Do Some Preparation – Also important. Especially if you’re worried about the word count. Nanowrimo allows you to do as much preparation as you want before November 1st, so you can come out with outlines, full character sketches, whatever you need to do to get your story ready. You can have everything ready to go before the end of the month so in the middle, there’s no chance of getting stuck.
But it Won’t be Good! – No it will not, in all likelihood. Get over it. Your first draft is never good, it will always need rewrites and you do not get to the rewrite and editing phases where your story actually becomes good if you never have a first draft to start out with.
Writing Totems – This is a personal favourite. Find something to wear every single time you write. Like Pavlov with his dog, you will train yourself to write when you wear these. When these are worn, they will instantly transform you into a real writer, capable of creating marvellous stories, characters and plotlines. You will do no wrong. And when they’re off, you can go back to your normal life. Simple as that.
The Head Start – The beginning of the month is when people tend to be the most motivated. At the start of the month, try to get as much writing as you possibly can. This will be a bit of a buffer in case something comes up later in the month and you will be grateful for it.
Check Your Inner Editor at the Door – You shouldn’t be editing during Nanowrimo. This isn’t the time for things like that. he point of Nanowrimo is to give you a head start on a novel that you can later go through and edit in full. No novel or story, no matter how much time you put into it and how careful you are, will go unedited, so forget all about editing for this first draft. Focus instead on getting it done, ploughing ahead and never looking back.
November First Candy Outing – November 1st is the day after Halloween. Go buy lots of discount candy on a break from your day one writing. Nanowrimo is a bit of a marathon and the sugar rush can be very good when you just need that extra little kick. Or, it can be used as…
Incentives – Good deeds should be rewarded. Milestones, more so. Come up with your own marks on the trail to 50K (Word counts and plot points work rather well) on a sheet of paper. And next to each milestone, write what you will give yourself for every mark. First thousand words? Chocolate bar. Half way thorugh? A day off in the city to shop for that new computer. Finished? Burn the computer! Okay, maybe not that, but it’s good to reward yourself for a job well done. Or a milestone hit, anyway.
Pace yourself – Nanowrimo is a bit of a marathon. It’s undoubtedly long and the word count can be daunting. So while you’re working on it, make sure you don’t burn out and give yourself breathing room. If you can’t do anymore that night, put it to rest and get some rest. It will still be there in the morning. Inspirational burnout is a good thing to avoid, so try not to push yourself too hard, especially on your first year.
Don’t be Afraid of Tangents – In Nanowrimo, the goal is to try and get your word count as high as possible in a short amount of time. This means writing down any idea you have. This means sometimes letting the characters do things you haven’t planned for them. If your characters suddenly decide to hop in the car and take an unexpected roadtrip through time, let them. Who knows? The tangent they take you on might prove to be an interesting story. And if not, there’s nothing saying that it wasn’t all a dream.
Getting Ahead – Great for you! Don’t get cocky, though. If you aren’t done yet, then remember there’s more yet to do. You can breathe easier now, but try to keep the pace going until you’re actually done. Nothing’s final until that word count is validated.
Falling Behind – DON’T PANIC! You’ll be okay. There’s a lot of tips out there about how to quickly add to your word count when you fall behind. You just have to be a little creatively underhanded.
- Word Padding – This technique is the easiest to learn. It is simply trying to jam as many words as possible into a sentence. These words are often completely unnecessary in order to increase word count. This works especially well with description.
- Meanwhile… – Sick of the story? Want a break to work on some other idea? The word “Meanwhile” allows you to go on completely random tangents with no affiliation to your main plot. With it, you could even write two stories at once.
- Incorporate That Academia – If you are a student with papers due in November, try to incorporate them into your novel! Say there’s a student in the story who also coincidentally has to write or read a paper. Bam! Excuse to put the paper into your novel.
- Search and Replace – The desperate last resort of those on their last week and very far behind, or those who are just worried in general, search and replace is powerful if used well. Find a name, then replace it with their full, thirteen word name for the entire story. Or replace “they will” with “they might. Maybe. Probably… or will they? Perhaps they won’t and that would be awfully troublesome if they didn’t but they probably will cave and they will” if you really need to. Every single time it shows up. It can help.
Be Social! – On the forums, you can often find people living near you who are also taking on the same daunting word count of a novel. These people are likely to hold social events of sorts, such as meet ups and write ins, that you can go to. For a little while, you can talk to likeminded people who know exactly what you’re going through and can help you along, or you can help them if they are in distress about their own novel. Or you can just chat. Or write!
Don’t be Afraid of Failure – Failure is always a possibility. If you don’t make it at the end of the month, don’t worry! You are not alone! Sometimes it happens. Nanowrimo is hard. But now, you have the beginnings of a novel that you can continue to work on at your own pace. A good head start. Or maybe you’ve written enough to know you don’t want to write it anymore. Both situations you would not be in if you never undertook this, which isn’t too bad of an outcome. And you can always try again next year now that you know the basics.
Finishing the Word Count – Congratulations! You’re done! Your story might not be complete, but you will have gotten a good way into your story by now and have a decent chunk of it done. You’ve done well. You can rest for a little while, say hello to all those loved ones you’ve left behind and let your mind take a break from the story. Or you can keep going. Your choice really. You’ve already won Nanowrimo. Download your swag and be sure to tell everyone you know you’ve just written a novel.