It would not surprise me if you are thinking: What on earth is NaNoWriMo?
A perfectly good question and one I asked myself this time last year.
Last year, I joined millions of other people from around the world to participate in National Novel Writing Month. This entails signing up to commit to writing 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.
NaNoWriMo first began in 1999 with twenty people writing in a cafe, each with the aim of producing 50,000 words in a month. Over time the challenge spread through word of mouth and via the internet, and now it is bigger than ever. A number of authors who participate, go on to publish their books after the event. You may recognise some below:
- Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
- The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
- Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
- Wool, by Hugh Howey
- The Darwin Elevator, by Jason M. Hough
- Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer
So what is my experience of NaNoWriMo?
Last year, I participated in NaNo for the very first time. I’d heard about the challenge before from other authors in Facebook groups and on websites. Up until I participated, the thought of writing daily was a challenge, but writing 50,000 words in a month was out of the question. But I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to want to attempt the challenge.
At the time, I was working on the last few thousand words of The Voyeur and had sketched out an idea for Isla’s Game, but I wanted to write something different. It occurred to me that this could be a great opportunity to try writing in a different genre.
After some deliberation, I wrote the outline and beats in preparation for the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
1,667 words a day is the expected goal for a writer to achieve to be in with a chance of reaching the final deadline in time. As you can imagine, writers approach this deadline in a variety of ways. I tried to keep to the daily deadline as much as possible, but on day thirty I had to write 6,540 words to ensure I was a winner.
A challenge I had taken on half-heartedly soon became an important goal which I was desperate to achieve. I can only describe a feeling of pride when I completed 50,000 words of Misty Magic, an Urban Fantasy story. Misty Magic, the first draft, is now a finished an 80,000-word manuscript awaits editing.
It was a post by a fellow writer on Facebook that encouraged me to consider taking part in the challenge this year. She simply asked who was participating and how we were preparing (that was all the encouragement I needed).
I am in the process of editing The Voyeur, but do not have a giveaway for my website to encourage readers to sample my writing. So I thought, why not use the month of November to produce a novella? The work is titled The Cop Catcher (working title) and is based on an idea I’ve been playing with for two years, so it’s long overdue.
NaNoWriMo game plan for this year?
I learned so much in my rookie year, so I thought it may be a good idea to put my knowledge in writing, just as a survival kit to help me and others be 2017 winners.
In 2016, before the challenge began, during October, I wrote a short synopsis and beats for the story. As a result, I rarely sat in front of the computer wondering which direction the story would take next.
This year, I would like to go further. Next week I will write character and setting sheets as well as structure an outline for the 50,000-word story
Build in time to write
How do twenty-four hours a day equate in your life? You will each have a different answer, but one thing I’m sure about is you will all say you have busy lives.
Joanna Penn, an online mentor of mine, encourages writers to schedule writing time (yes, actually make an appointment with yourself) in your calendar.
For me this process works, it’s as if you are giving yourself permission to write on a specific day at a set time. This is very important for those participating in NaNoWriMo. If you plan your writing time daily and turn up for the appointment you have more chance of success.
Start with a splash
Although the outcome of the challenge was a success last year, there were times (especially during week 3 and on the final few sessions) when I thought I would fail. I noticed that many of the other participants made a swift start, some completing 25,000 words in the first week.
Rather than start with a goal of 1,667 words a day, I am going to aim for 2,000 words a day and 3,000 on Saturday and Sunday. This way, if for any reason I cannot write on a particular day, I will not be in deficit at a later date. You never know, I could even complete 50,000 words before the deadline.
Stop part way through a scene
I picked this piece of advice up for a prolific writer Stacey Caflin. Not only did she participate in NaNoWriMo a number of years ago, but she also wrote 150,000 words in a month during CampNaNoWriMo. Stacey suggests that it is always best to stop writing partway through a scene so it is easy to pick up and continue writing the next day.
Last year I often finished writing at the end of a chapter and found it difficult to begin afresh the next day, staring at a blank page. So I will follow this piece of advice daily and I will hopefully find it easier to start writing each new session.
Plan for the next day
Another way to ensure you make a quick start to the writing day is to plan what you wish to write the following day at the end of your writing session.
This does not have to be detailed, no doubt tiredness will have crept in, but a few bullet-pointed notes should make all the difference to a smooth, speedy start to the next writing session.
Have breaks, exercise, relax, and sleep.
If as a writer you are not used to writing over 1,000 words a day, each and every day, the expectations of NaNoWriMo can be daunting. It is important that you build in time to exercise, have breaks, and relax.
When I write I use an app called ClearFocus. The idea is that you write for three stints of twenty-five minutes with five minutes break between the first two writing sessions and twenty-five minutes rest after the third session. I find this very useful. This app also allows you to disconnect from the internet and disables sounds and vibrations, which means no distractions-pure writing time.
It is important to stop for meals and ensure you drink plenty of fluids to keep a focused and clear head when you’re writing. Often when you flag during a writing session it’s because you’ve neglected food and fluids.
Exercise is refreshing between writing sessions. Not only is it a way to get rid of niggly aches and pains, but a long walk can clear your mind and give you opportunities to iron out any problems you are having with your story. You can also use the time to plan the next part of the story in your mind before committing it to the screen.
It’s tempting to stay up into the early hours of the morning and get up at the crack of dawn to write as many words as possible, especially if you find yourself well below word count. Lack of sleep will not help you move forward, if anything you will burn yourself out, and all of your hard work will be nil and void. Rather than skimp on shut-eye, use pockets of time to play catch up. It’s surprising how quickly the word count builds when you write in snippets of clawed back time.
It is very important to take stock of all the little achievements you reach during NaNoWriMo. On the National Novel Writing Month website, you can collect badges for word count achievements which give the writer something to work towards.
As well as rewards the website provides, this year I am going to enforce self-imposed targets which I will duly reward once reached. It will be fun writing a list of rewards to work towards, great for self-motivation!
Posts to record progress
I aim to post updates to the website at least twice a week throughout the month of November. I am unsure of how this will look, at the moment, but I will post the good, the bad and the ugly.
Accountability, and how you can help.
Challenges often work better when people are aware of the task you are undertaking. Being accountable to others can make all the difference.
My first attempt, last year, was a quiet affair. Only my close family and a few work colleagues knew I was even taking part in the event. It was low key probably because I feared I’d fail. This year I would like to be accountable to more people and share the journey here, on the website.
Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month?
I’d love to hear from you if you have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, we can cheer each other on to the finish line.
Can you be my cheerleaders?
If you are not taking part, I would really appreciate your support on this month-long writing journey as I share the ups and downs of this challenge.
You can comments below or contact me via email, on my Facebook page, through Twitter or on Instagram. As I have just joined Instagram I’m still finding my feet with this social media site, so please bear with me.
Keep in contact.
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