It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and writers are either outlining their latest and greatest masterpiece or waiting until the last minute when inspiration strikes at midnight. Each year I talk a little bit about NaNo, so I thought I’d share some preparation information that Alex and I wrote for The Writers’ Rooms and has been modified for classroom use. A lot of these tips can actually be used in your everyday writing as well, so even if you’re not doing NaNo, you can still benefit.
If you’re looking to add a buddy to your list, I’m SilverRose Brighteye.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month! Writers get together and attempt to write 50k words (1667/day) in the month of November. NaNo has spawned a ton of offshoots as well: NaPoWriMo (poetry), NaNoEdMo (editing), and… more (http://www.wikiwrimo.org/wiki/List_of_timed_artistic_challenges)
Camp NaNo: A less-stressful version of NaNo that is held twice over the spring/summer months that allows you to set your own word count or editing goal.
Story A Day: Write one short story a day for the month of May–there’s no word limit, and if you don’t finish your story you move on to the next one at midnight.
YeahWrite: Online community which provides weekly writing challenges, and editorial review with a membership.
52-Week Writing Challenge: Write something (anything!) once a week for a year.
NaNoWriMo Website: https://nanowrimo.org/
Perks of Signing Up on the Website:
- Finding your community through the Region feature
- Meeting and friending fellow writers
- Keeping track of your word count
- Receiving updates on local group meetups (Iowa City and Cedar Rapids both have NaNo groups).
- Validating word count and receiving awesome rewards (discount on Scrivener, discounts on editing and publishing programs, etc).
- Do your research on your challenge.
- What are some pitfalls other writers fall into? NaNo usually provides helpful tips through the month on how to get through the challenge.
- What are your general goals?
- What resources does NaNo provide?
- Think about your goals.
- Are you going to stick hard and fast to the challenge’s goals, or are you going to adjust them for yourself? (ie. will you write 1667 words a day, or will you aim to write more on the weekend to create buffers?)
- How are you hoping to grow as a writer?
- What would you like to do with the finished product?
- Create a schedule.
- Check your calendar for days you’ll be able to write vs days you can’t get much done.
- Schedule sleep (seriously, you need rest).
- Hold yourself accountable.
Are you a plotter?
- Think about how much work you want to do before NaNo starts.
- Do you want to worldbuild?
- Do you want to outline?
- Do you want to create character biographies?
- Do the structural work.
- Plan out your daily writing time.
- Get your Scrivener project (or whatever file system you use) in order and ready for your writing spree.
- Put together your world-building materials and research so they’re at hand when you’re writing.
- Have your outline ready to go.
Are you a pantser?
- Gather inspiration.
- When it hits you, write down sketches of ideas or characters.
- Put together a playlist of music for your book.
- Read or watch works that you’re going to get inspiration from–what has similar tones, settings, or magic/tech systems to your writing?
- Get ideas together.
- Set up mini-challenges for yourself for when things get tough.
- Set up a quiet, inspirational space to write in.
- Set up self-care plans so you take care of yourself mentally and physically during the challenge.
Tips During NaNo:
- Create buffers:
- If you have days you can write more, fill up that word counter just in case you have to take breaks later on.
- Participate in writing sprints:
- NaNo is all about writing and not editing. Schedule 10 minute writing sprints with friends where you race to write as much as you can in 10 uninterrupted minutes.
- Find a support team:
- Find friends who write NaNo too so you can commiserate with them when your characters are driving you nuts. Turn to them for support and guidance.
- Set up writing “meetings”:
- Set up times for yourself that you treat like meetings. Do homework, clubs, social events around that time so you can be sure to have enough time to write.
- Don’t Edit:
- NaNo is a time for writing. You can clean up the language and any errors later one. Editing will slow you down and possibly cause you to lose words.
- Update Your Word count:
- Make sure to update your word count every night so you can see the progress you’re making. Even if you don’t think you can make 50,000 words, be proud of the work that you end up doing. Whether you write 2,000 words or 50,000, that’s still more than what you had before.
- Sleep, eat, and breathe:
- Remember to go to meals, get rest, and take breaks here and there. A 50,000 word challenge is intense, but you need to take care of yourself.
- Write or Die (or other pressure inducing apps): These apps encourage you to write without stopping, otherwise your text will be erased.
- (Offtime) app: Disables specific apps on your mobile phone, but allows you to access apps you may still need. Difficult to disable, so it forces you to stay focused. You can use Forest app which allows you to grow a tree while you work and kills it when you stop.
- (Internet blocker): An online app that will block you from using the internet for a certain amount of time.
- Motivational posters/memes/calendars: Have these set up in your work area, so if you start feeling stressed or down, take a break and look at those.
- Musical playlist: Put together music that inspires you to write. You can make specific ones for different stories/books.
- Take care of yourself. Life gets hard. If you feel like you’re pushing yourself or writing is stressing you out too much, take a break and step back.
- It’s okay to change projects. You’re not a failure for not completing one before moving on to another. Sometimes we need a change of pace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. NaNo challenges you to write 50,000 words in a month. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to one project.
- Don’t let your goals get in the way of you taking care of yourself. The better rested and fed you are, the better you’ll be able to think and write.
- Reach out to your writing support group when you’re having a hard time so they can remind you that you can do this!
- Jot down an emergency list of “What to Write When You Hate What You’re Writing”: Specific world building questions, backstory notes for a project, things to research later, or just your feelings on why writing is difficult for you right now.
- Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare your progress to the progress of other writers. Work to your own pace. That’s what matters.