It’s that time of year again when people kiss goodbye to their families, put the takeaway numbers on speed dial, stock up on coffee and chocolate, and launch themselves into NaNoWriMo.
This is my fifth year and most of my novels started life in November. For those of you who have never heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writers Month, and is about “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon” (or writing 50,000 words in the month of November, but that doesn’t sound as poetic or inspiring!)
There are plenty of blog posts better than mine that will tell you how to structure your NaNoWriMo novel, or how to edit it when it’s all over. [Oh my, turns out there is actually a National Novel Editing Month, held in March. And I thought it was just my wishful thinking. Count me in!]
There are discussions as to whether you can really write a novel in 30 days and whether it is insulting to “proper” writers for people to think they can. I don’t feel qualified to write on any of those things, even if it hadn’t already been done. I guess everything to do with NaNoWriMo has been done, given what a phenomenon it is. However, for those that have no idea what NaNo is, or are contemplating trying it for the first time this year, I thought I would tap out my top tips.
My NaNoWriMo Top Tips:
1. Write something on Day One. Anything. Even if you’re a Pantser and your mind is blank, make up a character from five items in your work space and think of something awful that might be happening to them. The longer you leave it before getting words on the page the less likely you are to start at all.
2 Try and keep up with the word-count chart but don’t panic if you fall behind. Once you get some momentum you can do astounding things (I wrote something like 17k words in my last 36 hours last year.)
3. Do not re-read more than your last line (just to see where you got to). Even better, end your writing session with a couple of notes about what might happen next so you can start writing the minute you sit at your desk.
4. DO NOT EDIT. If you can handle it by all means leave spell check on and fix as you go. If that causes you to re-read, worry, and question the quality of your work, turn spell check off or – better still – write in Notepad or equivalent.
5. Engage with the community. Read some Facebook posts, follow on Twitter. If you can afford it, donate to NaNo and get all the motivational emails. They’re the reason I come back each year.
At the end of November you won’t have a finished novel. As most novels are nearer 100k than 50k you won’t even have a finished first draft. But you’ll have something. Even if you bin half, or put the whole thing in a hidden folder on your computer, you will still have something to be proud of.
Before discovering NaNoWriMo I was convinced I couldn’t write a novel because I had no imagination. I was wrong. I may not have the sharpest literary mind in the world but I can spin a yarn. I’ve discovered I’m more Pantser than Plotter and my main weakness is generating conflict. I know I can write good dialogue and that I can churn out 50k words of reasonable first draft in 4 weeks, even when it isn’t November.
I have no idea what I’m writing about this year (as you’ll see in my guest interview on Findingmycreature in a couple of weeks) but I’m unfazed. In fact, after weeks of tedious editing, I’m so excited I’m counting down the days. To switch off my brain, commune with my subconscious, tell my inner editor to eff off, & just write?
Bring it on!
- NaNoWriMo: I’m Only Going To Say This Once, Okay? (catherineryanhoward.com)