On Your Mark, Get Set…..NaNo!

As I’ve previously posted, each November a bunch of people around the world sit down and try to bang out 50,000 words before 1 December.  We call this phenomenon NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month). I am one of these brave (or crazy) souls.   It’s Day 3 (at least where I am) and I’m up on my word count (yay!) so I thought I’d indulge in a Blog Post.  I’ve seen so many blogs and Tweets with advice that I thought I’d share my own.  I won last year and this year I’m on track to win again (though it’s only early right?).  

Here’s what I’ve learnt from my own experience last year but what I’ve also picked up from others:

1. Keep It Simple

This has been a real lesson for me this year.  The piece I worked on last year required a lot of world building and decisions.  Set not only in the future but not only on Earth, there are planets to design, aliens to create, social structures, economic structures etc.  All of that on top of the basic beats of a story.  Being YA I thought it wouldn’t be so complicated.  I was wrong.  While I churned out my 50,000 most days they came pretty hard.  While some of the concepts I made up on the fly I really like, it needs so much more work including the rest of the story.  In 50,000 words I barely got off this planet.

I decided this year to simplify it right down.  I’m doing a classic boy meets girl story.  The idea being that I get some practice in pulling a story together, hitting those plots points and pulling the story forward.  I have found it a much simpler process and I am well ahead on the word count and have not yet hit a “I have no idea what happens yet” point.  Interesting given last year I’d had a story half mapped out and this year I pretty much settled on what to write on Day 1.

So, if you are using NaNo to improve your skills, Keep It Simple and get the words flowing.

2. Go Hard Early

Anyone who has successfully won at NaNo will agree that one of the best strategies is to Go Hard Early.  The first few days your enthusiasm is up, the ideas are flowing.  You are doing this thing!  The further ahead you can get on word count early the better off you will be later in the month when the inevitable Road Blocks come up.  The longer you are ahead, the more you can deal with and absorb those road blocks.  

Road blocks happen to everyone.  Stuff comes up in a month.  If you’ve got kids there’s even more chance something will crop up.  Last year my blocks included being in a New Job, a weekend away and a 3 day migraine.  On those migraine days I was especially glad I had gotten ahead.  Real life does not stop just because you are doing NaNo but real life doesn’t have to stop NaNo either.

3. Find Inspiration and encouragement

I like to keep notebooks with pictures and notes on the stories I am working on.  Characters, places that kind of thing.  Some people use vision boards.  Some have their goals printed up in front of them.  Find what works for you.  Here are a few examples I found that work for people.  Whatever it takes to get those words down:



Other sources of inspiration and encouragement include:

  • Facebook – tell all your friends what you are doing.  They’ll cheer you on and keep you accountable.  They’ll also call you crazy but that’s ok.
  • Twitter – there’s a huge writing and NaNo presence on Twitter.  Use the #NaNoWriMo hashtage and connect with thousands of others slogging away just like you are
  • Instagram – use the #NaNoWriMo for a bit of visual encouragement and inspiration
  • Blogs – there are hundreds of blogs with writing advice, NaNo advice, NaNo war stories.  You aren’t in this alone.  Try this one.
  • You – be your own Cheerleader.  Set your goals and meet them.  Reward yourself.  You can do it.

4.   Allow yourself to be Terrible

At the end of the month you have a novel right?  You can take your brilliant piece and be the next JK Rowling right?  Wrong.  Despite the name, what you have at the end of the month is effectively the first draft (or most of it).  Agents and Editors don’t want to see the rough words you have just churned out.

Now that you know that you can relax and enjoy.  It doesn’t matter if what you write is the worst book ever.  It probably isn’t but even if it was, it’s only a DRAFT!  That means  you get to fix it later.  Have you really considered what that means?  It means you are free!  You are free to write whatever comes out without worrying if it ‘s any good, if it fits into the story, if any of it works.  

Last year I realised that I’d have to get rid of the first third of what I’d written.  I had started the story too early and there was a bunch of stuff about my protagonist getting ready to go to school (as an example).  Who cares?  I realised later where the story should have started but I’d had to write the rest of it to understand where to start it.  Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus came out of a story that was going nowhere so she sent her characters to the circus out of boredom.  Then it got interesting.

So let yourself go.  Get out all that stuff that isn’t needed by anyone but you.  Use your crazy draft that is a huge mess to work out what the true story is.  

5.  Write Every Day

Part of the premise of NaNoWriMo is the daily word goal.  If you write 1667 words daily you will meet your 50,000 word goal by the end of the month.  For some they do big catch up sessions on the weekend rather than write during the week.

For me NaNo is about writing every single day.  I did it in the first place to start a habit of writing daily.  I’ve been pretty spotty since I have to admit so I am trying again to get it as a habit for me.  During the month last year though I did indeed write daily.  Even during the migraine days.  One of those days I managed 20 words but I was proud that I had done even that.  

Write Every Single Day.  It can’t get much simpler than that.

Finally the best piece of advice ever.  Just Do It.  You will never make it if you don’t have a go.

To sign up and join in the madness go here.


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