In a few short days, Nanowrimo will begin. If you aren’t aware, National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge where over 300,000 writers band together to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.
If it sounds a bit crazy, that’s because it is.
But it’s not impossible. I can assure you that, as I’ve done it three times. It’s proven, for me, a great way to blow some dust off my brain, try out an idea that’s been simmering for a while, and practice generating raw word-count output. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my three years of Nanowrimo-ing.
Set yourself up for success before the month even begins. Plot out your novel ahead of time. (See my tips on plotting.) Get your November menus planned, autopilot routines figured out, kids’ snowsuits hung at the door, Christmas list written down, and maybe some gifts bought and cards addressed, and make sure your kids’ Hallowe’en candy is all sorted and put away right on the 31st so on the morning of November 1st you’re ready to go. Wrap up your loose ends so you won’t feel the need to worry about them during Nanowrimo. Then plan to focus on this one thing.
Nanowrimo’s website is good for this—it tells you how many words to write each day if you want to finish on time, what your total word count should be for each day, and has badges for major milestones. If you write 1,667 words each day, you can finish in 30 days. That doesn’t sound so impossible, does it?
Despite setting word count goals, there will be days that you don’t quite get that 1,667 word quota. That’s okay. Don’t worry about falling behind. Because there will be days when you can get a few solid hours of writing flow going and make it all up again. This is for practice, for fun, and for exercising your creativity, not for beating yourself up.
If writing in a straight line has you hitting a writer’s block, take a detour around it. Jump ahead to a future scene that captures your imagination today, and go back to that tricky part tomorrow. You may find you’ve figured out a way through in the meantime.
There will be days when no little tricks will help and it feels like a slog. Keep going. Force yourself to write. Fighting through the writing slump will open up better days on the other side. Besides, you’re going to edit this later anyway. This kind of discipline is the point of Nanowrimo. Run with it!
Nanowrimo can be a really positive experience with a little work and the right attitude. If you’re interested in participating, check out nanowrimo.org and maybe we can be writing buddies. :)
Erin E.M. Hatton is the author of Otherworld and Across the Deep, winner of the 2014 Free Publishing Contest for Fiction. She has also authored several short stories and novellas. She graduated from Redeemer University College and lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband Kevin and four children.
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