4 Tips to Help You Win NaNoWriMo
NaNoWiMo, for any writers unaware, is National Novel Writing Month! November is filled with the cries of anguished writers attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days (okay there's probably some happy crying in there too!). I've been doing NaNo on and off since 2012, the only time I won was that first time! Since then I've been unable to make that 50K, but this year I seem to be on track. So, I thought I would make a post to encourage you to keep going, get started, or not give up.
Remember: Even if the goal of NaNo is to write 50K words, it's also a feat just to start your project. That's what it's really about! Get your butt in a chair and get typing!
1. Planning helps immensely, but it isn't for everyone.
When I had won NaNo in 2012, I did so with Shimmering (the first book I published in The Dark Origins). I'd planned it nearly beginning to end in a notebook, chapter by chapter, in October. So when I started writing it in detail the words came easily. It's the same this year--I haven't planned as far ahead as I would have liked, but I did enough to get me going.
I'm still plotting out scenes as I write others, taking short notes in a notebook between duties at work, or telling Siri to quickly jot something down while I'm driving. So when I do finally sit down, I know where I'm going.
That said, planning isn't for everyone. Many writers like to "pants" the novel, meaning they just sit down and start writing without notes or planning. This method can create some wild scenes, in my opinion, and the story can flow in ways you wouldn't have thought of while planning. Why did he say that? Why did she go left instead of right? Characters get to shine a little more in this way, I think. So if you're unsure what method to use, why not try pantsing it?
2. Change your method of writing.
Always on a laptop? Try writing with a pen and paper—even if it’s just jotting down notes, it can be enough to get you going. I usually do this when I’m at work and don’t have the time to just whip out Word and write a scene.
Who knows, maybe you’ll end up writing the entire thing in a notebook!
3. Sprints can seriously help.
You’ve probably seen around Twitter and the internet in general that some people are doing sprints. These are timed writing sessions in which you don’t pay any attention to the word count and just write as much as possible before the timer goes off. Many writers do these with others (it’s quite fun to log on Twitter how much you were able to do!) but you can also do them on your own. The NaNo website has a little timer you can use if you’re so inclined, and you can set it to however many minutes you like. Personally, I find it more satisfying to do them in ten minute bursts, but I’ve seen many do up to two hours. It all depends on how much time you have.
As someone that is also working a full time job, Monday to Friday, I find it easiest to write a little before work—though I don’t have much space to do so. I’ll put the timer on for about ten to twenty minutes, get writing, and then make a mad rush for the door so I’m not late.
Sprints may feel rushed or improvised, but if it gets you writing, it’s all worth it, right?
4. It's a first draft--it will be FAR from perfect.
One of the hardest things to remember as a writer is that your first draft isn't going to be perfect. All those amazing books you've been reading didn't start out so amazing; they've gone through numerous edits by the author, as well as editors at the publishers! They've been polished and shined into that state, so when you're typing out your first draft for NaNo, there are going to be parts you want to change. Maybe it's a scene that needs more passion, or a chapter that feels too much like filler, you're going to want to go back and change it up.
I'm here to tell you to STOP.
This skeleton draft doesn’t need its meat just yet, so note down things you want to change later and keep moving forward with the story. This’ll help you keep on track with your word count, and ensure you don’t fall into the hole of editing the first chapter 80 times before the end of November.
I hope these tips help you stay writing! We’re already halfway through NaNoWriMo 2020, so just keep going!