All about NaNoWriMo
To those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a writing challenge that takes place during the month of November, from November 1st to November 30th. The goal is to write 50,000 words within those 30 days. The rules are that you have to write every word within those 30 days, midnight to midnight. I suppose that’s the only rule. Lots of people start something new, but it doesn’t have to be new. It can even be a re-write of something old, as long as all 50,000 words are newly written during November. You update your word count on the very useful website NaNoWriMo.org. I have been doing this for almost 5 years now, but the only year I have officially completed was last year. The two years previous to that I was unable to update online, so they kind of didn’t count.
I had been editing last year’s NaNo, and even added to it during Camp NaNo, which takes place during the months of April and July. During Camp Nano, you are able to choose your word count goal, and change it at any time. I chose 25,000 for both, but because I was moving during July, I was unable to continue that month. I’m actually going to start something new this year.
So what do you do if you’re interested in NaNoWriMo?
The very first thing I would suggest doing is breathe. 50,ooo words sounds like a lot. In some ways, it is a lot. But remember this. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is only 90,000 words. That book doesn’t take too long to read, and it kicked off an insanely amazing series, who’s books only grew in size. 50,000 is a good start to a rough draft, and since NaNoWriMo is intended to be only the rough draft, I’d say don’t worry too much about how large of a number 50,000 is.
The idea behind NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo) is that we are all getting ready to build a sand castle. What’s the first thing you do when you build a sand castle? You gather the sand. Each and every word is a grain of sand. Your completed NaNo will be the sand you need to mold a castle. Most WriMo’s (NaNo writers) go back and edit during December and January.
So, you’ve decided to do NaNo. Okay. Gather some materials now. I’d say one notebook, a few pens, a highlighter or two, coffee (or tea/soda) and some munchies. You’re about to start a long process. I never start with the title. In fact, I don’t start with much except for one simple sentence. I expand on that when something comes to me, but other than that I move down to the next line and start another sentence. This is how I find the topic I will eventually write about. Keep a notebook, or folded piece of scribble paper handy. October is going to be a crucial month, this is the time where you get ready to write. All of the planning, if any, will be done now.
You’ve got your materials now, and a few ideas. Start forming characters, worlds, plots and my favorite part, the villains. Just brainstorm. All over the notebook. I don’t spend much time thinking either, if you over think, nothing gets written down. Just write. That’s how NaNo goes.
There is something very important you need to know about NaNo
The most important tip I have for you is this:
Do. Not. Edit.
The month of November is not for editing. It’s for writing. Brainstorming. It’s for mistakes and mind changes. But whatever you do, do not put that pinky on the backspace button! Even if you forget a period or to capitalize a characters name. Even if you forgot to put the i before the e. Just keep writing.
It’s almost November
Now, you’ve gone through the first motions of creating a book baby. You’ve created a few characters, an intriguing world, and a semi formed plot twist. You have notes scribbled in the margins of the notebook and you’ve found your favorite pen. What now? Well, it’ll almost be November now. It’s almost time to start your NaNo. What you need to know about writing is that there are certain programs that will help you during this time. My favorite one is Scrivener. They offer a free 30 day trial (and a discount to all winners). What better time to try out the program than during your NaNo? Spend some time looking over the details of the program and see if it’s for you. There are numerous videos on youtube showing how to use the program. On Nov 1st, go ahead and activate the free trial. It’ll help more than I can describe.
Do I have any tips for you?
I’ve already told you not to edit. So I stress, don’t edit! But beyond that, I need you to know that there are other tips that can help you survive NaNoWriMo. Let your family and friends know what you’re doing. Writing 50,000 words isn’t easy, and it takes up a bit of time. Be prepared to spend lots of November doing nothing but writing. I like to try and keep myself a day ahead. I always start out with a bang, I over write. I try to keep up on that as long as possible because at some point something is going to happen that is going to make you lose a day or two. If you have a healthy amount of extra words, you can safely lose this time and not fall behind on NaNo. Which brings me to my second very important tip.
DO NOT FALL BEHIND. I really do mean this. Falling behind is what causes lots of WriMo’s to quite early. It becomes overwhelming and feels like a task that you no longer want to do. Try not to fall behind, and the best way I can say to do this is to write what you can. If you’re having a seriously busy day, don’t just put off your words for the next day. Try your hardest to get any amount of time in, weather it’s 15 minutes or 30. Half of your daily count means you won’t have as much to make up the next day.
Another thing that helps me is to do sprints. Set a timer, shut off any electronics, disconnect the internet if you must. Turn off the tv and close the door. The timer should be set for an amount of time that you feel comfortable with, 15-30 minutes. Write that entire time. I usually can get away with doing this twice a day and I end up with my daily count.
Speaking of which, you will have to write 1,667 words a day. That usually takes me about an hour, I type quickly. I suggest trying to work on how quickly and efficiently you can type in the month of October. You’re going to need it.
Sleep when you are tired. I remember last year when I was writing. I refused to drink coffee because I knew that once I got my word count in, I was going to go to sleep for the night. Half way through my writing I ended up dozing off, while typing. I guess it was more like a trance in which I was daydreaming, typing with my eyes shut. Somehow, my sci-fi character began talking about rescuing the second main character from “Hogwartz”. Just like that. I began rambling about this. Before I knew it, I had my word count, but it was all about this “Hogwartz” place. Get your sleep folks.
My final piece of advice? Don’t give up. Please. I beg you. Do not give up. This is important work. It’s a story itching to get out of you. It’s an entire world that will never exist if you don’t put it on paper. It’s a part of you that the world might never know, unless you write it down. Whatever you do, push through it, and keep pushing. Push until you can’t anymore, and then push some more. What you’re doing this November could change your entire world. Remember that. Look forward to how it will feel to have an entire novel at the end of November.
If you are going to do NaNoWriMo this year, I encourage you to share with everyone else. I encourage you to have fun with it. Insert tiny t-rex characters or a character that owns a cat who likes to cuddle the character’s left shoe. Be silly. Be serious. Make jokes. Be who you really are, and don’t doubt. At the end of this, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to show a single person. You don’t send your actual words to anyone, only the word count.
I wish you good luck, and happy typing. 🙂