SEers, you can do it! Mae here with you today to tell you that you CAN crush NaNoWriMo! If anyone is not familiar with the abbreviation, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Write Month which happens every November. The goal is to write a 50K novel in 30 days. Accomplish that and you “win.”
What do you win, you may ask? Let’s take a look:
1. Surviving the month and achieving that lofty word count in 30 days
2. The right to crow about it (sure, why not?)
3. Having a messy novel or the guts of a novel to polish into shape
4. Undertaking a rite of passage for most writers (even for those who don’t win, this is an accomplishment)
5. The NaNoWriMo website usually offers discounted goodies to winners
Sounds good, right? So how do you win?
Sign up at the official NaNoWriMo website
Afterward, announce your novel. Yes, October is the time to do that. In fact, October is a busy prep month for anyone participating in November’s main event.
Follow the official Twitter feed
Stay current with announcements by following @nanowrimo and the hashtag #nanowrimo
Blog about your intention to participate
You’re more accountable if you’ve publicly stated you plan to undertake the challenge. And make no mistake—NaNoWriMo is a challenge.
Start planing now
This is a big one. The more prep you do in October, the greater your chances of success in November. Flesh out your characters. Know their backgrounds, motivations, and goals. I’ve participated in NaNo three times. My first time out, I won. The next two times I failed miserably. Why the difference? My first time participating, I spent October creating character sheets, setting details, plot points, and scene maps. Which brings me to the next point.
Pansters, this is no time to be squeamish about the dreaded pre-planning. I never understood the value of plotting until my first experience with NaNo. I was always a dyed-in-the-wool panster. Right now I waver about 50/50. If plotting is hard for you, there’s plenty of wiggle room to make it work.
Pansters rely on one scene generating the next. The good news is you don’t have to plot the whole novel. When I won NaNo, I only plotted the first three chapters of my book. Nothing beyond that. But having those first three chapters ready to go (scene by scene), allowed me to start NaNo with a blast. That momentum was able to carry me through to the end.
Making word count
During NaNo, writers commit to making a certain word count each day. Try to stick to it but if you can’t, don’t throw in the towel! Allow yourself to fail occasionally. There will be rough days when you wail and moan and berate yourself for ever undertaking NaNo. If you can, make up your lost word count the next day. And remember there will be days when you exceed your word count, which gives you a buffer for those times when you come up dry.
Do not edit or reread
This is the hardest part of NaNo for me. My normal writing routine is to reread the last few scenes from my previous writing session. I also edit as I go. You can’t do that with NaNo. Your only goal should be to VOMIT words onto the page. If they’re crap, so what! You’re going to fix them later (December is NaNoWriMo fix-it month). Resist the urge to reread and edit. Trust me on this one.
Find out who else is participating and buddy up. You can do that through the NaNoWriMo website, through your blog, Twitter, Facebook and even regional write-ins. Get your group of buddies together, hold each other accountable, and support each other when the going gets rough. If you live in the States, November is a busy time with our Thanksgiving holiday, so adding the pressure of NaNo is no easy feat, but it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you win.
And here’s a final thought…
Many novels are longer than 50K. When I won NaNoWriMo I finished at 51K, but my book was only partially done. I set it aside for a few months, then picked it up again in June the next year and added another 30K. A Thousand Yesteryears, written during NaNo, remains my best seller even today.
Maybe you already have a novel started that has been languishing. Commit to finishing it—or adding 50K of word count in November. However you tackle it, you CAN crush NaNoWriMo. And after writing this post, I guess that means—gulp!—I’m going to have to participate this year. Whose with me? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments, including any past successes or attempts at NaNo.
Ready, set, go!