Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It’s Almost NaNoWriMo Time Again!

Over the weekend, I wrote up a rather lengthy response to a question about National Novel Writing Month, the annual event taking place each November and with which we are now on a collision course. The person posing the question wanted to know how they might go about organizing themselves in preparation for taking the NaNoWriMo plunge and writing fifty thousand words in a month. Basically, the question boiled down to: “How you do you prepare to write a book, or at least a good chunk of a book?”

Questions like this aren’t the easiest to answer, because there really is no one “right” answer. What’s right is what’s right for you, based on your writing style or regimen, along with your schedule and the other demands on your life. Even that’s a moving target, because what may have worked for you a year ago might not be worth squat this time around.

That said, I think there are a few general things that most writers looking to tackle NaNoWriMo can do to gear up for the forthcoming challenge. I’m going to borrow from the answer I composed for the original question I received, in which I offered up a few basic hints. Bear in mind that these originally were aimed at writers who might be attempting the contest for the first time. Your mileage may vary:

Have a plan. Most writers looking to tackle NaNoWriMo have probably written up some kind of outline or synopsis, or a list of story beats, or other semi-readable scribblings which might pass for their story’s rough idea. I have no doubt that there are writers who plan to start cold on November 1st, putting fingers to keys (or even pen to paper) and just seeing what happens, but I’m definitely in the “outline camp.” For short stories, I don’t need the whole thing mapped out, but I prefer to at least have a few bullet points and a few other brief, informal notes to give me some kind of direction before I get started. When I plan a novel, the level of detail definitely increases. Might things change as the writing gets underway and words are flying about? Sure, but that’s part of the fun, right?

Make a schedule. This is aimed more toward trying to instill a semblance of consistency and the month wears on. November can be a crazy time of year, with Thanksgiving, kids out of school, travel—yours, or relatives and friends coming to you—and so on. Try to anticipate these interruptions to your writing routine, and factor them in to whatever schedule you might be attempting with respect to daily or weekly word count goals. You’ll hopefully avoid at least some stress while trying to make up for lost time later in the month.

Hold yourself accountable. No, this doesn’t mean punishing yourself if you miss a day’s writing goal, or even if you get to the end of November and you haven’t hit the 50k mark. Just by announcing your intentions on your blog, or your Facebook or Twitter feed, your friends and followers will know what you’re up to. People do the same thing with diet and exercise goals, so why not for writing? Post regular updates about your progress, good or bad. Celebrate when you hit or pass your daily mark, and be honest if a day’s writing falls short of expectations. Keep your circle in the loop, and let them give you encouragement and support.

So, who's taking up the challenge? If you’re one of the brave souls setting out on this year’s NaNoWriMo quest, I wish you the best of luck.


Charles Gramlich said...

I don't even seem able to do the work I've got going now, much less take on something new. Sigh.

Julie Luek said...

I'm participating in NaNonFiWriMo -- the nonfiction version. I am working on a few smaller projects rather than one large one this year. All the best to everyone participating!

Liane Spicer said...

...Runs away screaming...