As many of you know, I’ve come to the realization that I can, and will be, doing NaNoWriMo this year.
The event has been around for a good amount of time now, and like anything else, it has its fans and its detractors. I’ve heard the arguments against the event. There are some nasty pieces out there, complaining that Nano does nothing more than flood the fiction field with hundreds of crappy novels that are poorly edited and rushed. I’ve heard other writers say that it makes no sense to rush your creative process by trying to compete to make 50,000 words in a month.
The first argument is actually really insulting. Just because I write 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean that I’m going to just toss it out. Any decent writer will take those words and rewrite them. NaNoWriMo isn’t about finishing a novel in a month. It’s about getting 50,000 words on the page in a month. It’s about maybe finishing a rough draft. I say maybe because my last novel topped out at 97,942 words. People who actually participate in NaNoWriMo know this.
But if you don’t feel like you get anything out of Nano, that’s fine. If you’re already churning out words on the regular, awesome. I am too, actually. No writer’s block here.
I do Nano for two reasons. One, to push myself because I like a challenge, and to join in the loving camaraderie of my fellow authors.
Here are two things you learn about writing that you think you already know, but you don’t really grasp until it’s happening. One, there is no one holding you accountable to write another book unless you’re in a contract. If you want to work today, that’s great. If you don’t there’s no one who’s going to make you. Unless you’re living off your writing money, there are no overt negative repercussions to not writing. There’s no one checking your weekly word count, and giving you a stern but loving talking to if you don’t get it done.
That can cause some serious motivation issues, especially if you’re just starting to write. Once you’ve been at it for a while, hopefully, you learn the self-discipline that is vital for being a successful writer. Or maybe you’re like me. Sure, I mean to write every day. But some days it just doesn’t happen. Some days I’m busy, damn it. You all know I have a full-time job in addition to selling my books. The NaNoWriMo challenge makes me stretch to make a certain number of words every day, no matter what. And it works. I’ve never entered NaNoWriMo or NanoEdmo and not won. (The official NanoEdmo, by the way, is in February. I and some author friends of mine have been doing NanoEdmo in November for a couple of years because we wanted to participate with everyone else, but didn’t have a rough draft to work on right then.)
The second thing you learn about writing is that it is lonely work. You aren’t writing with a team, you are writing alone. Even if you have a support team, the writing itself is solitary. Participating in big challenges like NaNoWriMo makes me feel like I’m really a part of the writing community. And that feels pretty great. I like feeling like I’m part of something, not just out here on my own typing my little stories.
Now, it’s the middle of October, and if you’re going to participate in NaNoWriMo, you’ve got some work to do right now. I’m in the middle of doing the same work. So, yay working together!
Step one, take a look at your schedule and map out any commitments or plans you have for November that might keep you from writing.
For me, that includes a three-day mini vacation, book launch, and Thanksgiving. I know that I won’t be writing while I’m on vacation, and won’t be able to write a much during the day before, during and after the holiday. So if I were to just write the prescribed 1,667 words a day, that’s not going to happen.
You might have any sort of responsibilities, and before you make a commitment to 50,000 words you need to see what other commitments you’ve already committed to.
Step two, finish up any projects you have going on right now.
I’m working on a novella right now, and I’d like to get it wrapped up before I start on my next novel. I also might get some extra blog posts done so I can spend November writing almost nothing but my new novel.
Start by making a list of anything you’ve been working on. See what you really should be getting off your plate before you start a new project.
Step three, make your game plan for Nano.
I posted my own game plan recently. It was based on the previous steps we’ve already discussed. I took a look at the days I’ll for sure be able to write, and then divide by 50,000 goal by just those days. I’ll also make sure that all of my pre-writing is done before November first.
Now, my plan is based on writing every day except for while I’m on vacation. Yours should be based around whatever it is you have going on in November. Maybe you’re the main cook in your house and you live in America, so you’ll be pretty busy for Thanksgiving. It’s all very personal. Just make sure you’re being realistic about what you can do.
Step four, let people in your life know what you’re doing.
This is a step that I think a lot of people overlook. Writers may write by themselves, but we don’t usually live by ourselves. And even if you do live by yourself, your life is still intertwined with other people.
So if you’re going to commit to doing NaNoWriMo, maybe you should, I don’t know, let people know you’re going to do that.
If you’re living with someone, let them know that you might be a little busier than normal this month. Depending on your relationship and home structure, they’ll probably be perfectly happy to help you out with this. At very least, they can be warned not to hinder.
It can also help to have a few people who love you enough to keep you accountable.
Step five, brainstorm, make an outline and get any pre-writing research done.
Writing is so much more than getting words on the page. During NaNoWriMo, that’s what we’re focusing on, but most of us need to pregame a little first. Now, I don’t do a ton of research, but I do do a good amount of outlining and brainstorming. I want that as done as possible before November first. So I’ll be spending the week before getting that done.
Step six, get your supplies.
What do you need to write? I need composition notebooks, coffee, Marvy Le Pens, and lots of oven dinners so I can handle dinner on my nights to cook easily.
Whatever it is you need, make sure you lay in a good supply before November first. Yes, you can use this as an excuse to buy a bunch of stationery supplies.
Here’s the thing you need to understand most about NaNoWriMo; it’s fun. Challenges are fun, doing challenges with other people is fun. Writing is fun. I mean, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point. There are way easier ways to make money, after all. If I just cared about making money, I’d go do something else. But writing is the most fun thing I do. So I love NaNoWriMo because I get to do my favorite thing for longer than I usually do for a whole month. It’s like when a new game comes out and half of my friends drop off the planet for three days until they beat the damn thing. NaNoWriMo, my writing brothers, and sisters, is our game launch. Let’s have fun with it, and try to beat each other’s high score.
By the way, if you ever doubt that NanoWrimo works, here’s my first NanoWrimo project.