NaNoWriMo Strategy– From Someone With No Actual Experience


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?


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15 Responses to “NaNoWriMo Strategy– From Someone With No Actual Experience”

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  1. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas
    says:

    Excellent tips! Definitely no editing. Just write.
    I’m going to be living a little vicariously as you do this. Can’t wait to hear about it!

  2. Doyce
    Twitter: doycet
    says:

    Great collection of tips. I worked from an outline for the first time last year (after a half-dozen or so pantster…ing. Pantsing? Whatever.)

    In some ways, it was easier, but DEFINITELY don’t freak out if you wander away from the outline for awhile. If you combine the outline with rule #3, and remember that there’s some stuff in the story that you didn’t know about (so it didn’t get into the outline), you’ll be great.

    Good luck, and most of all have fun.

  3. Fire Wife Katie
    Twitter: firewifekatie
    says:

    Thanks for sharing, this is inspiring… I may have to take advantage of this and start actually writing the stories I have floating around in my head!

  4. Nichole
    Twitter: ITSMoments
    says:

    Great tips!
    I can’t believe I’m going to do it…I’m freaking out a bit, so this list helped me tons!

    Good luck…

  5. Natalie
    Twitter: mommyofamonster
    says:

    Awesome list!! I love the no editing tip as well as the stop in the middle. And I’m definitely going to check out the other post you mentioned…thanks!

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Thanks! Definitely check out the other posts. There’s actually 30 of them, one for each day of NaNo last year. I haven’t read them all, yet. I loved the stop in the middle one too.

  6. NotJustAnotherJennifer
    Twitter: MidwestMomments
    says:

    I can’t believe I just signed up for this. Now could not be a worse time, but I was so excited to see it, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been putting off getting back to writing for too long. (Read 10 years) Clearly jumping into an IMPOSSIBLE writing challenge is the best bet for me. Anyway, I was worrying about getting started and am so glad I found your list! Thanks, and good luck!

  7. Casey
    Twitter: MaritimeMom
    says:

    Jessica Anne- I am so excited to see you go through this journey. You are absolutely crazy, I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole, but glad you are doing. I hope you get a chance to blog a little about your progress in Nov, but would understand if you fell off the face of the earth. No tips from me, except to validate the no editing rule. I’d go so far as say no spell checking either. Best of luck. :-)

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Thanks! I hope to blog about it a little too. We’ll see. I’ve been a blog slacker lately anyway, adding this is probably not going to help that. Don’t know if I could go no spell check, it would drive me crazy(er).

  8. Amanda
    Twitter: godaisies
    says:

    I heard about NaNoWriMo three years ago as well and this is my third attempt at it. I’m in graduate school now and have two 15-20 page papers due this month but I’m all about being a masochist this year!

    Do you have any NaNoWriMo buddies on the website yet?