National Novel Writing Month is a fun challenge for fiction writers the world round. By signing up on www.nanowrimo.org, you can set up your own page, fill in some details about a book you are going to write in November, and buckle in for a fun ride!
This fall will mark my 7th year in participating in NaNoWriMo and perhaps my 2nd year actually succeeding in the challenge of writing 50,000 words for a single work. I've perfected this challenge over the years and have a few tips to share with you. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned NaNoWriMo participant, we could all use a few pointers. If you have a trick or two up your sleeve that has helped you write more, please share!
1. Set a writing schedule. Here's a November Calendar that you can mark up specifically for your N.aNoWriMo adventure. Fill in all the things you still need to do, because the rest of the world doesn't understand NaNoWriMo. Between those 'have-to's' set up your writing times. Try for a minimum of an hour a day.
2. Within that schedule, set long stretches of time to devote to writing because an hour a day will not generate 50,000 words in a month. Select one day a week where you will write for a longer stretch of time. For some people, an hour is a long time to write. For others, eight hours is just that warm up. Decide what's right for you.
3. Find and attend a NaNoWriMo event near you. Meet the people who are crazy...I mean, motivated like you! Listen to the speakers they have. Tap into their creative energies and crank out as much as you can during the writing times.
4. Set a series of small goals for yourself. Write 15,000 words during one week. Write for three hours without a break. For those who love fitness: Run or Walk 2 miles between writing stretches. For those who tend to snack during writing: wait for a sweet treat until 3,000 words have been added to you novel.
5. Set up a reward for yourself when you reach your smaller goals. Order a pizza. Buy a new notebook. Get that Dr. Grip pen with the cushy grip to go with the new notebook. A mocha latte with chocolate sprinkles. A glass of wine. A nap.
4. Parents: Set up babysitters or trade 'play dates' with other parents during November.
5. Parents: Dust off that crock pot and prepare meals in advance. I will be Googling meal plans, shopping in advance, and filling the freezer with pre-made meals that I can just toss in the slow cooker at lunch time. This is not my strength so I have nothing specific to share. If it's your strength, please share!
6. Students: Get ahead on school work. NaNoWriMo will not be a success if you fall behind in your school work.
7. Students: Set a writing goal that is reasonable. There are many adults who take a week off of work to participate in NaNoWriMo. I don't think your parents will be thrilled if you ask to take a week off of school. Get ahead. Stay up on your school work. Try for 20,000 words. If you reach that, keep going.
8. Students and Parents: Say no to social events. It's only a month and there's Thanksgiving. Well, maybe that's not a comfort, but there is turkey and pumpkin desserts. And if Thanksgiving starts to tank, bring a notebook and write out the drama playing itself out before you.
9. Set up a soundtrack/playlist of instrumental music. This is my favorite thing to do for my NaNoWriMo prep. In October, I buy a new instrumental soundtrack and add it to my current writing playlist. Now that I've written that out, it seems such a simple thing, but it is something I look forward to each year.
10. Unplug. Stay off line. Don't check Facebook or Twitter. Don't allow yourself to be sucked into the eye candy of Pinterest and Instagram. Just turn on your computer and write. The world will go on without your knowledge of the latest memes and political commentary.
11. On November 8th, take a break and vote! Bring a notebook and make character sketches while you stand in line.
12. Find new places to write. That new bookstore, a different library, the attic or the basement. Try one place that has few people and another spot that is crowded. See what a new location can do for your imagination.
13. Bring Ear buds or headphones. Even if you don't listen to any music while you write, the presence of headphones alerts other people to the fact that you are working. I use them to be anti-social, yet productive.
14. Take time on the NaNoWriMo website to connect with other writers. Be safe - don't go and meet people you've never met, but listen to what they have to say about writing and scheduling. Writers are sometimes known for being introverts. There's nothing wrong with that. Just reach out a little and find inspiration and wisdom from others. (And there's the chance you'll find some depressing ideas and a complete idiot out there who is off his rocker. That happens everywhere. That's why we have instincts. Use them.)
15. Don't forget to read! Select a book that is the same genre as what you plan on writing. Keep it on your desk. When you hit a wall with your story, don't waste time. Stop writing and start reading. It will kick start an idea and you'll be off again!
16. Keep a journal of where you are in your story. This can be a small notebook or even a post-it a day. When you're at the end of your writing time for the day, jot down a few notes of what you want to work on tomorrow and any ideas you have yet to hash out. This method has saved me dozens of times. Although I intend on writing every day, life happens and I can't. These journal notes help me remember where I was going with the story the same way GPS directs us to our goal and recalculates our direction when we miss a turn.
17. Go to fiverr.com and order a book cover. For $5, you can give a few details about your book and purchase a book cover to keep you focused and motivated. Even if you decide not to publish this book or to use a different cover, there is something absolutely amazing about seeing your title and your name on your book cover.
18. Plan your story. When you go on vacation, you know where you are going. If you need to travel to a new place, you use a map. Writing is the same way. It's a destination and a journey, so for goodness sake, have a plan! I highly recommend The Story Template by Amy Deardon. It's a fantastic resource for writers and I've used my copy for every book I have written. (I'm not paid to promote this book. It's just that good!)
19. BICAW - Butt In Chair And Write! You've cleared the schedule, filled the crock pot, shipped the kids off to a friend's house, cleaned your desk and sharpened your pencils. Now get to it!