Do you NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just days away.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? NaNoWriMo is a yearly event in which writer’s set a goal to write an entire novel (or 50,000 words) in thirty days. I know, it seems insane. I think that every time I make the commitment to do it. But I keep signing up.

If you’re wondering if NaNoWriMo is for you–if you can really do it–the answer is yes.

There are still a few days left to prepare. I’ve found my best NaNoWriMo time is when I think about my novel beforehand. I do some research, plan my characters, locations and the general direction I want my novel to travel. I usually start with a loose outline that includes plot points and twists I want to follow. Depending on the amount of preparation time I have, my outline may be far more detailed, but all I need is a “roadmap” to keep me on track.

Some people prefer to use the “pantser” method (ie- fly by the seat of your pants, no outline, make it up as you go, write with the wind). I have “Pantsed” in the past, and while there is something exciting about working like that, I find it easier to keep track and progress in a linear fashion when I have an outline. I’ve also discovered it’s easier for me to revise (and there is a lot of revision to come after November!) when my initial writing had structure.

If you want to try NaNoWriMo the main things to keep in mind are:

  • Nobody judges. Its fun, its a challenge, its a supportive community of writers with a shared goal.
  • Don’t–I repeat, do not–edit your writing as you go. The goal is to get 50,000 words down. They don’t have to be pretty. They don’t even have to be spelled correctly. You’ll come back and make corrections later. You may spend months–or longer–revising this novel. Some people call this their “first draft”, some call it the “zero draft”. I prefer to use the Anne Lamott term “shitty first draft”. I even save my file as “.SFD”. To me, it’s the most basic way of owning and being okay with the horrible quality of this draft.
  • What’s most important is that at the end of the month you’ll have a completed (or nearly complete) first draft of a novel. Even if you don’t quite make it to 50,000 you’ll have a good start on a novel.
  • Save research for the revision phase. As soon as you go online to research something you’re going to get sucked into a vortex of lost time. Enter a place mark/reminder within the text, for example “Moss draped from the [find out what kind of] trees…”. (as a bonus…all those place mark words help reach the goal!).
  • Enlist your family to help you meet your goal. It’s one month. Meals can be easy, the house can be cluttered, the kids can watch movies or play video games and your spouse can freely watch whatever they want (for my husband it’s a month of all the sports he can watch!).

Most important is to keep in mind that this goal can be reached. On December 1 you’ll look back and realize what an amazing thing it is to have written an entire book in one month. And you never know where that book will take you. There are a number of best-selling novels that started as a NaNoWriMo project. My own 2015 NaNoWriMo project was A Shine That Defies the Dark, which is being released on 12/5/17.

For more information on National Novel Writing Month check out the NaNoWriMo website and, if you want to “buddy” up, look for me there.

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NaNoWriMo Day 30: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

This is it! Day 30. You may have noticed that I disappeared for several days. Between work, Thanksgiving, a business trip and having some fun with my husband for his birthday I missed several NaNoWriMo days. So now I find myself in the same position as a lot of my fellow NaNo’ers: trying desperately to hit 5oK before the end of the day.

So, my tip of the day is: WE CAN DO THIS!!!!! Keep at it. We have the rest of the day, don’t give up. Push yourself and get as far as you can. You’ve already written more than did last month, right? This is not the time to give up. Write away, my friends, we can do this.

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NaNoWriMo Day 21: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

We’ve reached day 21. Congratulation. Whether you’re right on track, way ahead, or struggling to catch up the fact is that you’ve been doing an amazing thing. You’ve been writing your ass off for 21 days!

If it hasn’t happened already you might find that your story is veering off course from where you thought it was heading. Maybe your characters are proving to have different personalities than you thought. Todays tip is: follow your character’s lead.

You may have reached that point where your unconscious–and very creative–mind has kicked in and recognizes things that you had never anticipated about your project. As you’ve been writing you’ve also become more familiar with your characters and setting. As a result of your increased awareness and familiarity more options have opened up and there might be something better for your novel. Feel free to let go of your outline–or veer slightly off course for a short period–and see where you end up. You might just be surprised at the result.

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NaNoWriMo Day 20: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

You’ve done it! Day 20! There are only ten days to go. I have to admit it, my brain is tired! I’ve just passed 40k words and I’m exhausted. My tip for the day is simple. No matter how many words you have right now: keep going! It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but it’s such an awesome accomplishment. Don’t give up now.

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NaNoWriMo Day 19: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

We are getting to the end of that rough third week. Here’s what is happening to a lot of people: work demands are increasing; you’re getting tired & making excuses to not write; Thanksgiving planning/preparations are becoming more urgent; and you’re just not writing like you’d planned.

You’re so close to the end. This is the time you need to push through. Determine how you can best schedule time to write.

  • Some people do better when they block off a dedicated writing time. Allow yourself 1-2 hours daily (for minimum 1667 words, plus this allows you some room for a buffer or bonus word count in case you fall short one day)
  • Some people do better if they can write, in sprint format, for several shorter periods every day. Depending on your typing speed you can get 400-600 words in a 15 minute period. In four fifteen minute sprints per day (morning, afternoon, dinner time and before bed, perhaps?) you should be able to meet, and even exceed your 1667 word per day goal.

However you do it, rededicate yourself to meeting the goal. There are only 11 days left. You can do it!

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NaNoWriMo Day 18: Survival Tip of the Day

(It’s painfully apparent that I forgot to push this out on schedule yesterday, but I am doing so now because I am a strong supporter of the topic)

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

The Day 18 tip of the day is: reward yourself! Whether you reward yourself for a job already well done (for instance, you’re probably hovering around the 30K word mark this week) or if you rely on rewards to keep pushing on, rewards can be important.

I personally set small goals: 1500 words, pushing past 20k, for every 5,ooo words. There’s some sort of reward that keeps me going and keeps me honest. Maybe I can go to dinner & a movie with my family when I pass the 35,ooo word mark. I’d like another cup of tea, but I can’t get up to get that until I’ve gotten another 1,000 words. I’ll write for three hours then take a break to watch a show I’ve recorded, then come back to writing. Pick some form of reward, no matter how small, and treat yourself throughout this experience. Don’t wait until the very end to reward yourself. NaNoWriMo is a major undertaking and you deserve to pat yourself on the back for sticking to it, so give yourself a kiss (Hershey’s, of course, and only after you’ve written 750 words!)

 

 

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NaNoWriMo Day 17: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Todays tip is dedicated toward getting the most words possible in the shortest amount of time: join in some word sprints/challenges. It’s easy to find challenges & sprints online. Check the NaNoWriMo forums, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, check your local NaNoWriMo group or organize your own among groups of friends who are participating. The idea and rules are simple: Someone declares a word sprint of a certain length to begin at a certain time (ie “15 minute challenge beginning at :15). You simply join in, begin typing like crazy at the designated start time, then count & post the number of words you wrote during that time. A 15-minute challenge is a great way to knock out 400-600 words (depending on how fast you type). If you’re very competitive by nature, you can join in three of the 15-minute challenges & have met your minimum daily word count in 45 minutes!

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NaNoWriMo Day 16: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

For those of you who have hung in, congratulations. We have just crossed the midpoint! We are halfway to our 50k/30 day goal. This is a good time to bring up todays tip: think about the middle of your book. This is the paint at which, even during a regular writing schedule, you might find your story lagging.

Some things to keep in mind at this point:

  • This is the point at which something should be happening to change your characters from being reactive to being proactive
  • There should be some sort of big event that drives the story forward and changes your characters outlook. Has there been a death? Has deceit been exposed? Your characters still have so much to overcome.
  • Whatever happens here should be a logical progression of the events that happened in the beginning of the book
  • The tension and/or action should still be increasing. You don’t want the story to slow down.
  • If you’re having trouble with the middle and just can’t seem to get past it, jump to the end. Don’t give up. You can come back and fill in the middle when you have a better idea of what it’s leading to.
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NaNoWriMo Day 15: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Today’s tip–and I realize now that I should have mentioned this earlier, like way earlier–is to lock up your internal editor. No matter how hard it is you have to push forward. You cannot make progress and move forward if you keep moving back. All of those misspellings, wrong words, bad punctuation, and really, really inadequate words that you put down will still be there when you go back later. You can fix them during your first round of revisions.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get through the first draft, no matter how bad it is. My current project title includes “SFD”, for Shitty First Draft (a la BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott). I label all of my projects with the title and then “SFD”. This is just a starting point, nobody expects it to be perfect, but I’m certain that you want it done. So plug along. Leave the errors. Get to the end. December is the month of spelling corrections and removing errant punctuation.

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NaNoWriMo Day 13: Survival Tip of the Day

Like many of my friends and acquaintances, you might be in the midst of the sheer madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The goal: to write a book (yes, sir, that’s right a whole book) in (gasp) 30 days!

Today’s tip is try a write-in. Write-ins are great for productivity and support. There are a number of write-ins during NaNoWriMo. You can usually find several options during the week. Check your regional message board for listings. There are established write-ins that occur every week at a particular time and place (frequently in book stores or coffee shops). There are also pop-up write-ins that are planned during the week as people are available.

If you can’t make it in person, try a virtual write-in. You can log onto a chat room with others. There is usually minimal chat during the actual writing time, and usually involving word sprints or challenges which you can participate in if you’re interested and inspired by competition. Familiarize yourself with the NaNoWriMo website so that you can find local/regional events and give it a try. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit in a room of like-minded people whose sole purpose during your time together is to write!

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