So November looms just around the weekend and you all know what that means: It's NaNoWriMo time again! For the unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the idea is to start on November 1st, and write a 50,000 word novel by November 30. For more information, see http://www.nanowrimo.org.
I am not doing NaNoWriMo this year, although I am hanging around on the forums a bit, and I will be concentrating on getting some writing work done. Since I am going to be revising and editing, and not writing something new, I am not officially a participant. But there are always questions from those who are. Not that I consider myself any sort of expert, but I have participated in NaNoWriMo three times, and made the 50k all three times. I'm just going to outline a few things that have worked for me. I hope you find something useful, and good luck!
First, don't be intimidated. Sure, it looks like a huge thing. Write a whole book in just one month? Don't think of it like that. Actually, a lot of people don't completely finish a novel in that 50,000 words, But it does get you a good start. It will need work and revising and probably a good bit of rewriting afterward, but this month of drafting gets you off to a good start.
Second, tell people you are doing it. This accomplished two things. It helps those around you, the poeple who will be most affected by your sudden need to lock yourself in your room and write, to adjust to your month of writing. This applies to anyone you interact with regularly: parents, siblings, spouse, roommates, friends. if they are warned ahead of time, they will have time to adjust. The other thing it will do is keep you honest- and working. If people know you are writing for the whole month, they will ask you about it. That alone can keep you writing when you hit those inevitable slump periods.
Third, set daily word count goals. Try to set your goal at above the 1,667 minimum you need to make the 50,000. For example, when I do NaNoWriMo, I set my daily goal at 2,000 words. It's a reasonable goal that I can usually make in a few hours work. At that rate, I would hit 50,000 words on November 25. This has real benefits. If you can write more than you need to at the beginning of the month when your energy and enthusiasm are peaking, you will build up a stockpile of words for those days when you can't get as much done, And don't kid yourself- it will happen. Your day job demands overtime, you get a bad case of the flu, your kid gets a bad case of the flu- you name it. It will happen. And if you are in the United States, you also have Thanksgiving in November, and that can interrupt your flow. For me, we are the ones who host Thanksgiving dinner, which means I have company for a few days, and can't always sit down for the time it takes to up my word count. Having a backlog of words done helps get me through those few days without alienating any relatives!
Fourth, set aside a specific time to write. Don't just assume you will sit down and write your story at some point. Because you won't, If it's not a habit now, it will be almost impossible to ingrain that habit if you made it part of your scheduled day. I'm luckier than most in that I do not have a day job to worry about, so I can pretty much schedule my writing time when I am at my best. (For me, that is mid-afternoon.) Look at your day, and look hard. Find the best time to set aside a couple hours to write. Early AM, before everyone gets up? Lunch hour? Afternoon, after school? Evening, after the kids are in bed? The point is, set the time aside, and make sure everyone, yourself included, knows that this is your writing time. Hang a sign on your bedroom or office door, if you need to. Making writing a regular part of your day will help make it a habit.
And last, stop obsessing! Just write. Don't worry about the details now. Plenty of time for that later. Tell the story. Draw the characters. Move the plot along. Add interesting bits and pieces. Just write it. Keep going. Don't edit. Don't re-read unless you must to jog your memory on where you are (especially helpful if you've jumped around in the story a bit). But only read what you have to. Most of all, write, write, write.
This post is just a few tips I've learned in past Novembers. I'm no expert, nor am I trying to say this is the only way. Everyone has to discover what works best for them in this writing game. Best of luck getting that 50,000 word novel done! Start on Tuesday, write every day and you WILL do it! Oh, and have fun, too!