Do you plan on participating in Nanowrimo in November this year?
What is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In my case it’s more just write 50,000 words. I write fantasy so it will be about half a novel.
Why would you want to do something so crazy? It’s complicated and depends on who you ask so I’ll give you come pros and cons in seemingly random order:
- Pro – It’s a good way to get yourself writing every day.
- Con – You might not write 1667 every day.
- Pro – By the end you could have a complete first draft.
- Con – What you write will be utter crap.
- Pro – When you remember all first drafts are terrible you’ll get over the previous con fast.
- Pro -You might win.
- Con -You might not win. So what? This is a made up competition you choose to have with yourself. The point is to write. However many words you write is that many more words than you had on October 31st.
- Pro – If you get involved with your region’s group you will connect with other writers. I know writing is a solitary endeavor but sometimes we all need some socializing. Since writers tend to lean in the introvert direction you’ll probably be around a bunch of people as awkward and uncomfortable as you, for a few minutes. Then you realize you’ve found your people and can enjoy yourself. Picking up on writer vibes is a good thing. I like to call it positive peer pressure because when I’m around other people being creative I buckle down and get to work.
- Pro – Also with getting involved you’re more likely to ‘win.’ The first year I did it I wrote about 25,000 words but I did it all on my own. The next year I got involved and went to write-ins and became active in my region’s Facebook group. I won easily and I’m convinced it was because I surrounded myself with other writers.
- Pro – You’ll learn you can write more in a day than you ever believed, even if it’s not 1667 words.
- Pro – You can plan or not. Some people are planners and some are pantsers. I previously believed I was a pantser and I still am to an extent. However I’m learning that a little loose planning goes a long way. I didn’t plan at all the first year but I managed to make it to the halfway mark. I did some minor planning last year and won. Everyone has a different system and you need to do what works for you.
If you choose to participate and it’s your first time, or if you don’t think you did well the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t write sentences that could have been and perhaps should have been much shorter than they end up being simply to satisfy your desire to meet your goals. Ugh! Horrible right? The first year I found myself trying so hard to make the word count goals that half my sentences looked like the one above! I was horrified when I read back through and swore to never do Nano again if crap like that was the result. Last year I didn’t exactly edit but when I found myself writing junk like this I mentally backtracked a bit and learned to not overdo it.
- Meeting a word count is not worth the frustration of editing something you normally wouldn’t write. If you write bare bones in the first draft then by all means keep doing it.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you write 99% dialog. Your muse is trying to get the story out, let it.
- Same with he/she/it/the. If you find most of your sentences start with one of those words, it’s okay. You can’t type as fast as your muse can throw out ideas. Your brain auto inserts the same beginnings to give you time to get more thoughts out. You can make your sentences beautiful later.
- Don’t fret if you write zero description. When I do Nanowrimo I don’t write about how the trees smell or what type they are. I don’t talk about how you can’t see the sky and only small shafts of sunlight penetrate the foliage. I don’t mention the sound of the horses’ hooves crunching fallen leaves or clattering on a dilapidated roadway. I say: “They rode through the dark forest,” and move on to the action. I can add the rest later.
- Don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s! Everyone’s process is different and each person will be a different level. If you compare your 1600 words a day to that one woman who writes 10,000 a day you will only make yourself miserable. I did this exact thing the first year. What I didn’t realize is the woman I was envious of was writing what she called ‘smutty romance’ with very little plot. She didn’t care if it was good and neither did her readers. I write fantasy which is much more complicated. How on earth could there ever be a comparison? I’ll keep my envy reserved for Stephen King since I’d love to be that prolific.
- Do be encouraging to others. You’ll find your effort appreciated and reciprocated. Besides, feeling good about yourself for helping another human being isn’t such a bad thing.
- Don’t be disappointed if you don’t win. Remember that you are doing this to help yourself not to stress yourself out. Be happy with however many words you get on paper.
- Do have a conversation with your loved ones. Even if you only are able to set aside an hour a day your family can deal with it. It’s not unreasonable for you to take some time for yourself.
- Don’t become obsessed. Just write.
- Do consider freezer meals. Look it up online and spend a day or two preparing meals you can freeze and throw in a slow cooker later. Even though I said don’t stress and don’t become obsessed you probably will. You’ll forget to eat or lose track of time. If you have your meals lined up you and your family will be forever grateful (if you’re the one who cooks).
- Do invest in a few boxes of protein, cereal and granola bars for those times when your muse refuses to let you stop writing.
- Do spend some time this month to plan. You can be a pantser and still do a little planning. A basic outline or synopsis could go a long way to keeping you on track. You don’t have to and probably won’t stick to either but at least you won’t forget what you were trying to accomplish. My personal suggestion is plot cards. Pin them up or use Scrivener (which has a lovely cork board feature and a free trial) to keep them organized.
- If you blog, keep your readers updated on your progress. It will help keep you accountable to yourself and we want to know how you’re doing.
- Do be prepared to explain what NaNoWriMo means to everyone who doesn’t write.
- Do change locations. If you normally write on your couch or at your desk at home then go to a coffee shop for an hour or two. You’ll feel less isolated and a new environment could provide inspiration. If you usually go to coffee shops then go to a pub. I suggest going during the day though. You don’t have to get drunk, unless you want to. Or try sitting on a park bench.
- Do make a playlist if you like listening to music while you write. I don’t suggest something you’ll sing along to! I like soundtracks because there is normally powerful music in movies and I love that stuff.
- Do consider using a timer for word sprints when you’re stuck. Once you get used to 10 minute spurts your happy muse will thank you!
- Do go to nanowrimo.org later today to sign up and learn your way around the site. They are wiping out last years info and starting fresh for this year. I’m not sure when they will be up and running but probably lunch time.
- As stated in the pros and cons, do get involved with your local region if one is available. It will make a world of difference. If one is not available then take advantage of the national forums, Facebook and Twitter. You’ll find tons of info and support. There are live word sprints and many other things designed to help you succeed.
- One final tip. If you start planning your novel now and your muse starts begging to write it, give in and do it. Never deny yourself when the ideas are flowing. Remember, Nano is what you make it. There may be rules but they aren’t meant to stifle creativity. If you start now you can continue on in November. Just start word counting with what you write on November 1st.
I think every writer should try their hand at Nanowrimo at least once. This will be my third year. If I win, cool. If I don’t, fine. I’m looking forward to getting back in the habit of daily writing and creative bursts. Good luck to all who try it and happy writing!
Sidenote: The daily word count goal to reach 50,000 words is 1667. If it sounds unreasonably high consider this blog post. I started writing a list last night and used that to write the post this morning. I spent maybe a grand total of an hour and a half on it, which includes coming up with the dos and don’ts, the pros and cons and making the list (so basically the thinking) before actually writing the article. Not including the list from last night, I wrote 1563 words before this side note. Even if I’d taken twice as long, or three times that, I was still able to write a lot of words, in one morning. Don’t let the numbers overwhelm you! (This makes 1667 words!)