Planning to do NaNoWriMo next month and want to know the secrets of not only surviving, but thriving? Take it from a veteran and NaNoWriMo “winner” – a little preparation goes a long way. I’ve watched many innocent writers wander into NanoLand with a few ideas and lofty goals only to give up a week in after they run out of inspiration under the merciless whip of NaNoWriMo’s tight schedule. Whether you’re a pantser or plotter, taking some time beforehand to prepare will ensure you not only finish but also survive with your sanity intact and novel completed.
- Lay down your story concept, characters, and as much of the plot as you’re comfortable with beforehand. I know you pantsers are wincing at this, and is a fellow pantser I feel your pain, but I believe it is worthwhile. Minimal preparation might be a logline and a few quick character worksheets. If you’re feeling a little more ambitious you might add goal, motivation, and conflict outlines for your characters, and sketch out some of the plot. If you have more time and a higher comfort level with preparation, add in world building and outlining.
- Set aside time in your schedule each day during NaNoWriMo for writing. Pick a time that you know you will have free and uninterrupted. In other words, don’t pick that hour when the kids come home from school or your mom insists on calling every day. If you need to go to a coffee house or some other public place to write, do it. My local writer’s organization sponsors get-togethers every week during NaNoWriMo — chances are good somebody in your city does, too.
- Know your goal and work towards it. To make that 50,000 word goal at the end of November, you’ll need to write an average of 1667 words per day. If you can’t write every day, you’ll need to work more on the days that you can’t. Plan for this in advance by scheduling blocks of time on your calendar during weekends and other days when you can write for longer periods. Your manuscript will thank you.
- Go with the flow. Don’t try to edit while you write — banish your inner editor and let the words come as they will. If you followed my first tip, and have some idea of what your story is and who your characters are, let that preparation be your guide as you write. Trust your instincts, and don’t worry about whether you’ve written everything just right or not. That’s for the rewriting process – perfectionism has no place during NaNoWriMo.
- Minimalize cheating. Resist the urge to pad your manuscript with superfluous words to up your word count. It won’t help you meet your word count as much as you think, and it detracts from helping you to write a better book. Having said that, the occasional gratuitous sex scene (or pick your favorite guilty writing pleasure) can make the writing go faster
- Use the NaNoWriMo community. The forum is a great help for research, support, and inspiration. You’ll find people there who can answer your questions about everything from species of cave dwelling bats to Russian swear words, challenge you to writings sprints, and be a shoulder to cry on when your computer just ate the only copy of your book (did I mention you should backup your work?)
Are you planning to participate this year? What are your favorite tips for NaNoWriMo? Leave me a comment and let’s chat.