How to win NaNoWriMo 2015 (and beyond)
This November, thousands of newbie novelists will be banging out 50,000 words of novel in just 30 days with NaNoWriMo, formally known as National Novel Writing Month. Why not join them?
Impossible, you say? Never. It sounds difficult, but it can be done. I’ve attacked NaNoWriMo for several years and despite juggling full time jobs, volunteer roles, and family responsibilities, I still managed to get my 50,000 words down every year. All it requires is a little bit of planning, a cool story idea, and a lot of coffee. Let me give you some tips on getting your story written and becoming that badass novelist for real…
No, but seriously. Get on the NaNoWriMo website and sign yourself up for this year’s adventure. You can’t win if you don’t take the first step! Plus, you get to hang with everybody else who’s gearing up to spend a slightly unhealthy amount of time with their laptop. I follow the West Midlands groups on Facebook and Twitter, who organise weekly get togethers and other cool stuff to keep you motivated.
Tell your friends
Hell, tell everybody. Get on Facebook and Twitter, and shout about your novelling dreams to the world. make sure everyone knows. This has two purposes: firstly, your friends will know where you’ve disappeared to when you lock yourself away and all they can hear is furious scribbling, and secondly, it holds you accountable. Nothing will drive you more than the fact everybody will be expecting a finished novel out of you on November 30th.
Choose your weapon
What do you like to write with best? Computers? Paper and pen? Speech to text programs? Whatever it is, make sure you have the tools handy come the first of the month. Buy yourself a pretty (and sturdy!) notebook and the perfect novelling pen. If you’re more into typing, make sure your machine’s up to speed, and that you have several USB drives or other methods for backing up your work. Maybe a combination of both suits you? Personally, I like to scribble my ideas and a (very) vague plan into a fancy notebook, then type the story properly on my laptop.
Trust me, if you drink coffee at all, you’re going to start drinking a lot of coffee. At the end of October, stock up on food, drinks and snacks as you’ll be needing them during your novelling run. Maybe cook yourself a batch of meals that you can easily freeze and reheat later. You’ll be so busy typing away that you’ll find you won’t have an awful lot of time for cooking, so make sure there’s plenty of fruit and veggies lying around to snack on (including the odd chocolate bar, obviously. I’m not a monster).
Clear your schedule
Speaking of time, you’re going to need a lot of it. Look over your daily schedule and see what you can clear out, just for the month. Obviously, don’t shirk the most important duties, such as childcare, homework or actually going to work every day. However, how much time do you spend idly browsing the web, refreshing Facebook, or ‘accidentally’ watching TV? Bin it all off and dedicate the time to writing. It’s OK, they’ll all be there waiting for you on December 1st. I have to give up the hours I usually spend playing The Sims 2 and watching Let’s Play videos on Youtube. It’s hard, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Think about your writing style
I don’t mean the words you put down, but how you attack them. Do you like to spend hours hammering away, or would you rather pick away at your novel in small chunks throughout the day? Either method is fine (getting the words down is the important thing, at the end of the day), but remember that you’ll have to fit writing around work/school/kids/responsibilities. Get up extra early to get your 1,667 words in for the day, or tap out a hundred or two during your breaks at work.
Disown the backspace button
The NaNoWriMo overlords recommend ignoring your ‘inner editor’, and with good reason. The point of this month is to gleefully write your novel without looking back or even correcting spelling mistakes. This month, getting the story down is the important thing. Come December you can edit to your heart’s content, but for now, don’t worry about mistakes or passages that you don’t like. Leave them in, as they all count towards your word count.
Back up your work
I’m not kidding. Nothing is worse than a laptop crashing or a hard drive up and dying, taking all your hard work with it. It will be awful and you will cry. To avoid such calamities, make several copies of your work. Back it up on your USB stick, email copies of your work to yourself, or if you’re feeling technical like me, upload copies onto a cloud storage service such as Google Drive. Whatever you prefer to do, make sure it’s backed up. If your computer dies, you’ll be grateful you did.
There’s a huge NaNoWriMo community out there, just waiting for you to get in touch. Fellow writers from all around the world can give you support and advice on the forums, as well as a kindly kick up the bum when you start flagging. There are also local groups, so search for your nearest one and meet up to novel frantically together! (If you’re really struggling, you’re more than welcome to send me your tales of woe on Twitter; you’ll find me on there as @beatrix_plotter).
This is the most important point. Don’t worry if you feel like you’ve made lots of mistakes, or you don’t like the way your novel’s going. NaNoWriMo isn’t about accuracy or beautiful prose – it’s about telling the story. Your first draft is never going to win prizes, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, just throw yourself in and write the story. Once you hit 50,000 words, pat yourself on the back. Make yourself a badge. Have a celebratory coffee. You’re officially a novelist!