I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November (that’d be in one week). The idea, write 50,000 words in thirty days.
I first heard about it three years ago, and wanted to do it, but I always thought I wouldn’t have time. It was one of those things I’d do “someday” when the kids were older, in school, whatever. I came to the realization this year that I have three kids. There’s never going to be an un-busy time in my life. Might as well do it now. Worst case scenario, I quit and try again later. Best case scenario, I have a first draft completed ready for some editing and I get a cool certificate (which I will frame).
I’ve never written more than twenty pages. Fifty thousand words is about 200 pages, I believe. I’m not so great with the math there, so correct me if I’m wrong. I have a story, characters, and a basic idea of where it’s going. I always thought I’d be an organic kind of novel writer. Just let the story flow, let the characters take the lead, etc. That’s how I write my short stories. No outlining, no prep work, just pure, unadulterated writing. (The term I’ve learned is pantster. One who writes by the seat of their pants.)
Well, then I started looking into NaNoWriMo a little more. There are lots of blogs talking about it, forums, Twitter streams, and there is a lot of talk about using October as a prep month to improve the odds of actually completing the 50,000 words. Since I like to gather information and be prepared, (also known as procrastinating) I’ve been reading a lot, trying to determine what will work for me, and have come to the conclusion that I need to outline and I need a basic strategy. In my readings I’ve come across some tips that I think will help me “win”. I thought I’d share.
Never having done this before, I have no idea what I’m doing, so I have no idea if it will work. But, I do think there are some good ideas here that might help.
1. No Editing
None. At all. None. I’ve read this over and over again. December (or January) is for editing. If you edit in November you’re going to get behind and not finish. It’s a first draft. It will not be suitable for publishing. It will, however, be written and suitable for editing, just not in November.
2. No Adverbs
I got this one from Doyce Testerman’s blog. He blogged about his experience last November. He has a lot of tips that are funnier, written from experience, and better written than my list. Read it if you get a chance. This was one of my favorite tips. No adverbs will increase your word count. Plus, adverbs are not necessarily the best writing. They should be used sparingly, so you’ll have less editing to do when you’re done.
3. You don’t have to write in a linear order
I thought this was just genius. Just because a story has a beginning, middle, and end doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. If you get stuck somewhere and don’t know where the story goes next, don’t stop writing and dwell on it, go to a part of the story you do know. You’re going to have to write it anyway. You can piece the story together later. Maybe in writing something that comes later you’ll figure out what’s missing.
4. Write when you have time
If you have fifteen minutes, write. Stay off Facebook, Twitter, and your e-mail account. You may not get a lot of words at one time, but four fifteen minute sessions is an hour of writing.
5. Have a solid outline
It will help you stay focused and you’ll already know where the story is going. You can do a chapter outline or conflict outline or whatever works for you. It will probably save some time having a solid idea of where the story is going. You’ll be able to work out the kinks before you start writing so you can just write it.
I wasn’t sure I was going to outline, but I’m really enjoying it. Although I know basically where I want the story to go, I have run into some places where I’m not sure how to get from point A to point B. Figuring it out now should save me time when actually writing. I’ve been plotting out scenes. It never occurred to me before that books have scenes but, of course, they do.
6. Stop in the Middle
When you’re finishing your writing session, stop in the middle. In the middle of the action, in the middle of a sentence, just in the middle. It will bug you and keep your brain thinking. If you stop at the end of a chapter or the end of an intense scene, you’re giving yourself a chance to relax. In the middle, you know what’s coming next, so when you start again you can just keep going, keep your momentum, and hopefully avoid any time spent pondering what comes next. (Of course, if you have a solid outline, you should have a decent idea what’s coming next.)
7. It’s okay to add some padding if you need
Of course, we all want to write something that isn’t total crap and needs to have whole sections edited out. But, if you’re really struggling, add some extra description. Describe the character’s clothes in detail. What do their buttons look like? What color? Square, round, triangular? Have one character dictate a grocery list to another character. Contractions. You do not need them. It’s not the best writing, but the goal is, in part, the word count, so pad away. Remember, edit later.
8. Have some writing buddies/join in on the forums
Encourage each other, support each other, commiserate with each other. (Apparently week 2 sucks.) If it works for your personality, find some writing buddies and race to finish. Nothing like a little adrenaline to get the words flowing. Or, smack talk each other if it works for you. I’m going to try to get to some write ins in my area. The point, you don’t have to do it alone.
That is my basic strategy. That, and not go crazy. This is going to be an educational experience if nothing else. 1667 words a day, totally doable.
Who else is doing this? Are you planning or just planning on winging it? Anyone have any other strategies or thoughts? Anyone done it before have any encouraging words or thoughts you’d care to share?