Since 2011, I've participated in NaNoWriMo.org's November challenge to write a novel in 30 days. I "won" (wrote 50K words) my first year, and since then have written everywhere from 0 words to 15,000 words during the challenge. Although my goal isn't always to complete a novel (sometimes I'm working on revisions), I do have some tips for those who want to write a novel in a month.
1. Be prepared.
This goes for everyone: Make sure you have an idea of where you want your story to end and where you want your story to start. As an anti-pantster, I like to have at least a detailed synopsis for my story, but ideally a detailed outline and character sketches too. Whatever your preparations entail, having some of the bones of your story figured out will help make hitting 50K far more manageable.
2. Start strong (if you can).
The end of November might be peaceful and calm, full of time to write and hit your word count goals … Or it might be epically busy, full of work deadlines, family gatherings, epic baking, and time with the kids home from school. Get more writing done in the beginning of the month and you’ll give yourself a little padding for whatever the end of November may hold.
3. If you can’t start strong, don’t let it hold you back.
In 2011, I was working long hours, had the normal family commitments to keep things exciting, and the beginning of November just wasn’t happening. Watching everyone’s word counts go up and up while mine was embarrassingly low was demoralizing, and I thought about quitting. But I didn’t. I figured out what I needed to write on the days I actually could write, made my goals, wrote until the very last minute, and I’m pretty sure I cried when I hit 50K. All this to say - don’t give up just because you get a slow start. Anything is possible.
4. Focus on the end.
When I write, I tend to edit as I go, but not when I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. I keep a brief synopsis at hand, sometimes with the end (the resolution) outlined and starred, just to keep my focus on moving forward; no stops to edit or re-write the beginning to get it just right. If I’m not sure how a scene will go, I’ll write a placeholder (i.e. “Jane goes to hospital with Veronica.”), or if something isn’t at it’s best, I’ll a note for myself (i.e. “Make this more awesome and exciting.”) There isn’t always time to make it perfect, but there is time to get to the end (if you keep moving towards it).
5. Have fun.
The whole point of this event is to get people writing. To me, it doesn’t matter if you write a 50,000-word first draft, revise a current novel, or use all the NaNo momentum and energy to outline your next novel. As long as you’re having fun and meeting your own writing goals (whatever those may be), then I consider it a success.
What advice would you give to first time NaNoWriMos? Or, if this is your first year, any questions you’d like to ask?
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