Alright, so November is just around the corner and you know what that means. Or maybe you don’t know what that means, in which case, let me tell you. November is the National Novel Writing Month, where people from all over the world come together to write a 50 000 word novel starting on November 1st and ending on November 30th.
Visit the official NaNoWriMo website for more information. This is where you have your user profile and there is also a large handy-dandy forum where you can discuss plot ideas, get help, ask fellow writers how to best get rid of a dead body or how the muscle structure of a human with wings would work, critique and get critiqued, or just chat about general nonsense.
I’ve done NaNo every year since 2009 and won every time. “Won” means I got to 50k and the prize is that you wrote 50k in a month and you feel super accomplished and now have major bragging rights. Yay! However, there are some things winners (and regular participants) do get. Take a look at the sponsor offers. I made use of my 50% off on Scrivener a couple years ago and I haven’t regretted it. You can also download free trials of various things that you can use through November.
Now to my tips and tricks.
Ideally you do this before November begins, but if you decide to join NaNo on November 1st then just power through.
Do you prefer to plan things out before you begin to write or do you just want to sit down on November 1st and see what happens? If you’re a planner, start planning. Start now. Some make notes, some draw maps and/or their characters, some fill out character sheets, some do a full outline, some do all of the above and more. Find out what works for you.
However, do not begin to write anything of the story itself before November 1st. Notes and ideas are fine, but NaNoWriMo means you should write 50k totally new words.
Personally, I’m more of a pantser. I know the general gist of what I’m writing, but I don’t have many details except maybe a few scenes that I just keep in my head until it’s time to write them.
Check out the Adoption Society! Here people post plots, pieces of dialogue, names, titles, etc., that are free for you to “adopt” and use. I’ve found several pieces of clever or funny dialogue that I’ve tweaked or used for inspiration. You should be able to find something that sparks your inspiration.
You should try to get as much as a head start as possible in the beginning of November. The daily goal is 1,667 words each day, but try to go above that. Write as much as you can. The second week is often the hardest, so you’ll be doing yourself a favor with a head start.
Join writing sprints on twitter, on the forum, or have your own sprints with your friends. This helps a lot, suddenly you’ve written 2k in one hour.
Stuck on this one scene in chapter 2? You’re not sure what’s going to happen and you keep staring at that blinking cursor, completely out of ideas? Don’t worry about it, just skip it! Make a little note in your document like “[WRITE MORE HERE]” so you’ll remember it later, and go work on a different scene or a different chapter. Maybe write the ending, if you know how it’s going to end. No one’s forcing you to write chronologically.
Try to avoid going back and editing what you’ve written, unless you’re ahead of the game and/or you know you have time for it (but really, try not to). I do it sometimes, but I make sure I’m adding words instead of deleting them. Sometimes if I’m stuck I’ll go back and add to an earlier scenes that I know I rushed through. Do not delete anything you’ve written. If you wrote a sentence or a passage you think is absolutely horrible, so horrible you know it will be deleted in the editing stage, just
cross it out or make it a different color. Do not delete.
NaNoWriMo is essentially about getting all your ideas out there in their rawest form, if you start editing too much you might forget what you wanted to write next or you might start thinking about it too hard and it won’t flow as easily.
If you’re writing about something that needs research, do as much as you need to do to know at least the basics of what you’re writing about. Ideally try to do this before November. Try not to drown in research so you end up spending whole days in November doing just that. Get the basics done and then polish and correct in December. The clue is not to slow down your writing, you still want to try to get those 1,667 words (or more) a day.
The forum is awesome and a great help if you need it. Make friends on the forum, it can motivate you to finish. Also remember to join your region, a community for your country/state/city. After you’ve joined a region you’ll find it at the bottom of the forums. It could be a good idea to keep an eye on whether or not anyone’s arranging a writing meet-up near you.
Write on the phone while you’re waiting for the bus or while you’re out an about in general. You can email it to yourself or transcribe it later. Or write by hand in a notebook, I tended to do that in school and uni.
If you are really desperate to reach that word count, skip the contractions. Instead of “don’t”, write “do not”, instead of “he’s”, write “he is”, etc. It will sound stilted, but editing is for later. You do what you gotta do. I usually only do this during really intense word sprints that I want to win, heh.
My stats last year (picture) were pathetic because of my exams and it looked pretty intimidating for a while, but just try your hardest to catch up. Join ALL THE SPRINTS, turn off your internet connection, or try some of the tools I’ve listed at the end of this post. You can do it. Just push yourself a little every day until you’re back on track. Or maybe do one giant sprint and push through those 20k all in one day! Don’t worry about the quality just yet, that’s what December is for.
No one escapes November with a complete best-selling novel. No one. Do not be that person that sends their manuscript to publishers on December 1st thinking you’ll blow their minds (there are a lot of those people…). You’ve written a first draft, and that’s awesome. Put it away for a while and then get back to it and edit and revise it within an inch of its life.
Also don’t worry about completing your story at 50k. I haven’t completed any of mine at 50k, some weren’t even halfway done at that point.
Yes and yes! In the first case, you will be what we call a NaNo Rebel. Technically you’re supposed to write something completely new, as in not continue on something you’ve already started, but being a rebel is fine and the police won’t show up at your door. Writing fanfiction is also perfectly fine, it doesn’t even make you a rebel, I’ve done that for all but two of my NaNo stories.
Do not despair! There is also Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July where you create your own word goal. 10k? 25k? 50k? 100k? Up to you! I joined the July Camp NaNo for the first time last year with a 25k goal.
There is also the Young Writers Progam for writers under 17 where you also decide your own word count goal for November.
- Write or Die: A classic. Decide how many words you want to write in what time and stick to it or else... There is a paid version now too, but the free one is enough for me.
- Written? Kitten! Another classic. If write or die is too stressful for you, try these motivational kittens instead. You set your word goal, and every time you hit it you get a new kitten! If kittens don’t do it for you you can actually decide for yourself what you want to see pictures of by replacing the search term. For example: Written? Puppy!, Written? Turtle!, Written? Johnny Depp!.
- 750 words: I haven’t tried this one before, but here your goal is to write at least 750 words (3 pages) every day. The cool thing about this is that it has stats and analyzes the “feelings” in your writing. Seems fun, I might try this come November.
- Don’t Look Back: For Mac only. This app prevents you from using the delete key, so it forces you to keep on writing and leave editing for later. Perfect for November!
- Writing the Perfect Scene: Detailed “how to” when it comes to writing a scene. Very useful!
- Character bio sheet: I don’t do these, but I know bio sheets help a lot of people when it comes to fleshing out their characters. Never feel like you have to fill out everything though.
- Mind Map: Do you use mind maps for planning? This is a really neat online one.
- Rainy Mood: Does bad weather and storms inspire you? Listen to the sound of the rain while you write!
- My Noise: All kinds of noises! Pick what you want to listen to while you’re working and customize it. There’s rain, other nature sounds, white noise, café sounds, etc. Click “online noises” to see all your options or pick one of the presets.
- And in case you missed it earlier, here is the official NaNo forum.
I might post more about NaNo during November and I might have more tips to add then.
Was this helpful? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Do you have any other tips to add?