Tips and Hints for NaNoWriMo
This is me with my writer’s head on now…the editor’s hat only gets put on after this particular contest is over. And that’s a whole other story…
NaNoWriMo: in case you don’t already know, this is an annual competition, or challenge, or challenging competition, designed to inspire you to write a novel (or 50,000 words of one) in just one month. That month is November, hence the name…National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it’s become known. The competition has been going since 1999 and last year had 394,507 participants across 6 continents. It sports a Young Writers Programme which brings the whole NaNo experience into the classroom too and supports all its entrants, whatever their ages, with a host of resources including weekly pep talks, access to mentorship and interactive webcasts all with published authors. And best yet, absolutely anything goes as far as genre and format, even poetry or fan-fiction using someone else’s characters!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I promise that one of these years I too will give it a go, especially now that writing has become my full-time focus. I would have done it this year, honest guv, had I not booked a holiday in the sun slap bang in the middle of the month (and, like driving, I never write drunk).
Advice For NaNoWriMo
Congratulations then to all those writers who have been so much braver than me and picked up the literary gauntlet at the start of this month. The internet is peppered with advice as to how to approach this incredible experience, but summarised below is what looks to me (from this year’s side lines) to be the best:
- Not everyone plans a novel before writing it. Those that don’t are generally referred to as pantsers while those of us who do are called plotters. Given that you can plan as much as you like before the start of the competition this seems like a no-brainer to me and must be an easy way to make the month’s task just that little less daunting. Plan the outline for your story. Plan your characters. Just don’t start to write your novel until the clock has struck midnight and October is officially behind you. Mind you, if you’re reading this on the first of November, it’s probably a bit late for that little nugget of advice.
- Ok, so…Plan your Time. Build into the calendar days when you know there will be absolutely no other distractions or drains on your time so that these can be your catch-up days if you have fallen short by then (remember that to make the deadline you have to average 1667 words per day).
- Write more when you can. Don’t just limit yourself to 1600 or so words if you’re in full flow (but hey, as a writer you probably don’t need to be told that, do you? It’s bloody obvious! Sorry.)
- Write every day. People report that missing a day leads to a loss of momentum…and obviously once that juggernaut slows down it takes time to get it to speed up again.
- Edit later. This is all about getting words on the page, people. Don’t worry about bad spelling or bad grammar or even whether the story is actually a pile of garbage or not. You can deal with all of those fine details later once you have written through the finish-line.
- Plan a reward for yourself when you reach a particular milestone…the middle, or a pivotal scene perhaps. Obviously if you haven’t planned any of it and are just writing by the seat of your pants then you may not recognise this milestone-moment and won’t treat yourself either. Shame. No Tunnocks Tea Cake for you then.
Have an idea of where your writing is going tomorrow!
- When you stop, make sure you’ve got an idea of where it’s going to go tomorrow. What brilliant advice even if you are not in the middle of NaNoWriMo! There’s nothing more stultifying than the blank page reflected back in your blank staring eyes and that blank mind as wet and white as a sheet of photographic paper pulled too early from its tray of developing solution.
- Write in the cloud, or at least have a foolproof back up system in place. Oh my god, the consequences of not backing up almost don’t bear thinking about…but let’s take a moment to imagine it anyway! It’s November 29th you sit down at your laptop and….can’t log in /can’t find your folder/can’t open the file/can only find a version of your work from 3 weeks ago. Aaagh!
- Be comfortable. For many of you who don’t sit tapping at a keyboard as part of your day-job for hours at a time you may suddenly develop neck, shoulder and/or wrist aches. Similarly make sure you’re not straining your eyes. Don’t know if it’s any good but there’s a Chrome extension which casts an orange shade over your screen to reduce eye strain and fatigue. Just google F.lux.
- Take full advantage of the community of support that is out there for you NaNoWriMo-ers. Check out NaNoWriMo.org and retreat to Camp NanoWriMo. Find yourself a writing buddy who can keep you accountable and chivvy you on when things are getting tough. It can be a buddy in the real world as well as the virtual one. There are plenty of us writers out there and we’re mostly very supportive of each other’s struggles!
- Look after yourself. I know there’s a certain romance to the image of the deadline-haunted writer holed up in their room, an over-flowing ashtray beside them, dark circles round their eyes and nothing but a stack of empty pizza boxes to photograph for your #foodie Insta posts. If it were me, I would feel like crap after a month of living off junk food so perhaps a supply of healthy options squirrelled away in your freezer for NaNo emergencies is in order. Something to think about for next year, perhaps…or ask your mum/partner/house-mate etc to see to it!
- And finally…remember that the end is just the beginning! You’re a writer now even if (perhaps) you weren’t at the start of the month. So come December or January or February, you’ve got to start sifting through those 50,000 words to see if anything’s salvageable; you must re-work and edit and add to and subtract; then put it away in a folder on your computer for another six months to come back to with fresh eyes and new ideas and start over again. Welcome to the world of the real writer!!!
I of course will be following all of this good advice….next year! Over to you, what are you writing this month? In the spirit of NaNoWriMo everything is allowed…including shopping and bucket lists.