It's that time of year...
NaNoWriMo is almost here!While I am thrilled for Halloween this year, there is also the looming marathon of writing, NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.
I love costuming, so any excuse to dress up and spook other folks is always welcome!
The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you have the entire month of November to write a 50,000-word novel. Well, by the end of the month of November, you should have a First Draft of a 50,000-word novel.
Preparing yourself for a month-long marathon requires commitment, determination and daily goals that are achievable. 30 days. 50,000 words. It means a daily goal of 1,667 words. If you follow these prepping steps, you'll be on track to getting through NaNoWriMo like a boss.
Step One : Concept
Do you already have an idea of what YOU want to write about?
People say write what you know and it's kinda true. I tell people "Write the novel you would want to read." You're writing this for yourself. Your friends and family will likely be proud of you for taking on this task of writing a bunch of words strung together into a meaningful story, but that is nothing compared to the sense of pride you will get from completing it, for yourself.
A marathon is always an instance of You vs You. You are the only limitation.
Is it too early to develop an outline?
These are valid questions. Technically, the marathon begins on November 1st, so any development that occurs ahead of time is probably considered cheating. However, you have to take into consideration that developing an outline is a huge tool to getting your first draft done.
The reason why an outline is important is that you will always have something to write about.
Every minute that you spend sitting in front of your screen trying to think of what to write is a minute you are not putting down words. At first, it doesn't matter too much, but soon enough, those wasted minutes will add up, which in turn can feel discouraging and overwhelming.
Do you have a title in mind? A cool protagonist? Write these details down!
My point is, if you have ideas and they are developing before NaNoWriMo actually begins, don't feel bad about putting some basic concepts down on paper. Character names, character traits, general plot ideas, challenges, antagonists, drama points. If you have a brilliant idea, WRITE IT DOWN!
Sure, it's not November 1st just yet, but that's alright, you're just stretching your imagination muscles ahead of the game. Nothing wrong with that AND chances are, you'll come up with more brilliant ideas during the process of writing out your first draft that will replace your original concept (but that will be the subject of another blog post with plenty of advice for what to do DURING NaNoWriMo).
Step Two : Make Time
All praise the almighty word count!
The most important part of NaNoWriMo is getting through it and the best way to do it is to dedicate at least 1 HOUR each day to just sit down and write. Now that November is just around the corner, take a look at your calendar. Take a close look at what you've got coming up. If you're like me, you already have a packed schedule, with work, social activities, family dinners (Thanksgiving is in November, d'oh!) and other unforeseen events you might want to attend!
That doesn't mean that an hour each day is impossible. You could choose to wake up early each day to write, or stay up an extra hour each night, but that's going to prove very taxing on your general well-being, and eventually on your happiness. That's no way to run this marathon.
Additionally, you are going to want longer blocks of time, especially on weekends or days off (assuming you have a full-time job and responsibilities during the week). Even if you intend on mostly working on your draft on the weekends, you should still plan on setting aside 1 HOUR EACH DAY. This will save you later on. Take a look at that calendar again and make appointments for writing, get those blocks of time figured out, knowing that on some days, you might write 2,000 words in a day, while on other days, that single hour brings you a mere 300 words. It's tough, but the more time you have set aside, the better off you will be.
You have to MAKE TIME. That means canceling plans or rescheduling. Perhaps encourage your social circle to compete in this marathon with you so it doesn't feel like you're missing out, which brings us to the next step...
Step Three : Form a Crew
Reach out to friends who have an interest in creative writing. Here's a clue: that's most people. Creative endeavors are exciting for all sorts of reasons, and I guarantee that there are plenty of people in your social circles who have always dreamed of writing a novel. This is your chance to reach out, and ask if folks want to participate in NaNoWriMo.
If they decline, ask if they can help keep you accountable and ask you what you're writing about today. Another cool thing to do is to share your writing with them and have them keep up as you're writing. You will find that they will want to know what happens next, and thus encourage you to keep going.
I hear you: "Oh, no! What if they judge my terrible writing!" The fear that they will judge you is real, I get it, but keep in mind that it's your first draft. It's not supposed to be perfect, and if they start being judgmental—they probably won't, they'll just keep encouraging you, but just in case—just remind them that they can participate too, or that they should focus on encouraging you to keep writing.
NaNoWriMo is a marathon, you will NOT be going back and reading things, or fixing something here and there, that is all part of the editing process and will not figure in your first draft so don't even go there!
If you don't have any friends (forever alone), or none that want to participate, check out the NaNoWriMo website for some forum pals to join and form a crew with THEM!
Step Four : Commit
This is probably the most important step. Commit to yourself that you will finish writing that novel's first draft. This is a test of your strength, courage and determination. Be stubborn! Be creative! Have fun! But once you take these steps toward reaching your goal, go all the way! You will not regret it!