We are less than a week away from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. If you are thinking of throwing your hat in the ring for the first time this year, or maybe you are prepping to tackle a new year of the writing challenge, I thought I would offer some pointers to make this year a success.
First, What IS NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is a challenge each November to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Why 50K? Usually this is the target word count you want to hit as a first draft of your novel. Depending on what genre you are writing, the total word count will vary, but to get your idea out there in written form to mold and sculpt into the final piece of literary mastery, this is a great place to start. For many, 50,000 words is a very scary number. I mean, that’s a lot of words. Broken down by day, that comes to 1667 words each day. I would encourage anyone wanting to write this year not to focus on the big 50K number and look towards the smaller numbers that are more attainable. If you do enough days at 1667 a day, then guess what? You got your book. I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and managed to come in with about 55,000 words at the end of my thirty days. I promise this thing is doable people, you just need to be ready for it.
Make a Plan
There is a classic debate of how much planning should go into preparing for a task such as this one. What I would say is, make a plan that works for you. You know your schedule better than anyone so you know when you will have the time to sit down and write. Do you have more time on the weekends? Cool. Schedule your time to sit down and write. Make a daily plan on when you are purposely going to sit down and knock those words out. When you sit down to do it, write! If you hit a stride and go over your goal, that’s great! Having a little lead on your goal can take some of the edge off and encourage you to keep your stride. Don’t forget, there are other things going on in November, so plan around those. I know that my time is going to be taken up with family stuff on Thanksgiving weekend at the end of the month, so I won’t plan to get any writing done then. With that in mind, I know I need to make up that lost time somewhere else in the month. Take a look at your month as a whole and plan accordingly.
To Outline or Not to Outline?
The debate over planners vs pantsers is another one that has gone back and forth for a while, and whatever way you prefer to write, I just recommend this: have a general idea of where your book is going. I don’t mean you need to note where all your beats are in each chapter, but it is helpful to know where your beginning, middle, and end will hit in your story. Know who your characters are and how they will act in different situations. Be flexible. I’ve written enough to know that I’ll be going along with my notes but the story will move somewhere else. Usually the new idea will be better than what I had to begin with and I need to take another look at my larger story. Some changes need to be made or sometimes it still fits within the larger narrative and it’s all good. Either way, I had a loose plan for what I wanted my story to be. It’s hard to start on your journey when you don’t know where you are going. Remember, you will have plenty of time to come back to your book after you are done and edit to your heart’s content, but you can’t edit an empty page.
Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen
Say you’ve started out with a strong week but life reared its ugly head and now you find yourself behind in your word count. As much as you try over the next few days you can’t find the rhythm you used to have and now it looks impossible to hit your word count goal in time. Guess what? That’s okay. Remember: this is only a word count goal. Keyword: GOAL. If you manage to hit your 50K by November’s end (if you do, kudos) or not, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing. If all you’ve managed to do with the challenge is get your book started and your ideas on the page, then mission accomplished. You started, and that’s more than a lot of people manage to do. After the challenge is over, there will still be lots of writing and rewriting to do before you are finished anyway (LOTS of rewriting. Holy crap, lots of rewriting) so if you aren’t quite done after 30 days, keep going. Make a new plan for yourself and keep on with your progress.
When you look back at the work you will have done at the end of NaNoWriMo, winner or not, you will have a lot to be proud of. You should be, you wrote all that stuff. A word count goal of 50,000 words over 30 days is a good goal, and it’s very achievable if you make a realistic plan and stick to it. If you fall behind, don’t sweat it. Dust yourself off and keep at it. You can plan a word sprint to make up for lost time, or add in 30 minutes here or there to pad some of your writing schedule. You can do this! I’m writing again this year. This novel is a rewrite of last year’s book that I have outlined after some great beta reader feedback and I’m excited to get started. NaNoWriMo is a great catalyst to writing your own novel and it can work for you if you let it. So, get out there and do the dang thing!
Keep me posted on your progress. Are you a NaNoWriMo rookie, or are you a seasoned veteran coming back for more? If you are participating, friend me on the NaNo website; I’m under the username marvelzombie. Happy writing!