National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an event where writers all over the world come together with a shared goal of each writing a fifty-thousand word novel. As the name implies, it takes place within a single month. For those that haven’t written anything of a comparable length before it can be daunting, but these ten tips will help you hit your target.
1. Plan – Some writers don’t need a plan, and some keep it there as a safety net. Even a brief plan with plot points and potential character names can give you direction, and save you time.
2. Have a schedule – Fifty-thousand words is just shy of seventeen-hundred per day. Use every spare minute you have, because every word counts. A head-start on the word count in the first few days will also give you room to breathe.
3. Warn your friends and family – Nobody wants to get to December 1st and find that their loved ones are cross with them. Let them know your time is especially valuable in November, and step away from the internet. The NaNoWriMo forums are allowable, to a point.
4. Be Flexible – Whatever your plan says, or whatever your idea, new ones will come while you’re writing. Let the story you’re writing grow and change. It can develop in ways you haven’t yet considered, and even surprise you.
5. Write something that matters – While it’s no obstacle to writing out the required words, not caring about what you’re writing means at the end, you have a document you’ll never want to see again. NaNoWriMo is difficult, but it’s more rewarding if you’re writing a first draft, rather than an only draft.
6. Write something new – This is one of the few ‘rules’ of NaNoWriMo, and it’s intended to help. If you’re working on the potential best-seller you’ve been planning for years, you’ll be too invested to write freely.
7. Socialise – Come to the events! This is especially important if you don’t feel like a writer, because everyone you meet at NaNoWriMo events will know you first and foremost as a writer. It’s meant to be hard, but it’s also meant to be fun. Suffering together actually helps, and you may also make new friends.
8. Sprints, Wars and Challenges – Word sprints and word wars are races between participants that take place at write-ins and over social media, in which each attempt to write as many words as possible within a fifteen or thirty minute time frame. Taking part in these can boost your word count significantly.
9. Quantity not quality – Don’t try to be perfect. The elusive perfect word is always in the second (or third, seventh, etc) draft, and the five-ten minutes spent chasing it will interrupt your flow. Write a close-enough word in capitals so you’ll be sure to catch it in revision, and move on. Don’t try to sound clever, and don’t listen to your internal critic. Instead, write.
10. Finish the story – If your story isn’t finished by December, regardless of your word count, keep writing. It will be harder to come back to an unfinished first draft at a later date.
NaNoWriMo 2013 begins on November 1st, and a Kick-Off Party will be held at the NSW Writer’s Centre on Sunday, 27th of October. More information can be found at www.nanowrimo.org
This guest post was written by Nick Hudson, one of the Municipal Liaisons for NaNo in Sydney.