It’s Day 2 of NaNoWriMo!
I’m on target but only just – it was a bit of a struggle to reach my words this evening. (I kept being distracted by YouTube. Darn you, YouTube.)
This is my fifth year doing NaNoWriMo, and there’s only one year that I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, so I feel fairly qualified to share some tips.
I’ll briefly explain what NaNoWriMo is: it’s short for National Novel Writing Month and is an online event that takes place every November, where people aim to write 50,000 words, usually of a novel, in 30 days. Click here if you’d like to know more.
It’s not a case of not having time – MAKE time.
I hate it when people say they don’t have time to do stuff. I love me a bit of Gogglebox, and on it once they were watching an arts and crafts programme. One of them shouted at the TV, ‘We don’t have TIME! We have JOBS! We don’t have TIME!’ Er, you do have time. You have time to sit and watch the TV, so you have time to hand-make Christmas decorations.
When you say you don’t have time, what you mean is, you have bigger priorities. I get this: there are hundreds of reasons why writing might not be high on our to-do lists. But don’t tell me you don’t have time! We all have the same number of hours in the day!
Luckily I don’t have kids vying for my attention and I don’t have many commitments outside of work, but I do have a full-time job and don’t always feel like writing in the evenings. So I try to get it done on the bus and on my lunch breaks. Then I just have to type it up when I get in. (Sometimes I can’t even be bothered to do that – usually around the middle of the month…)
Writing in a notebook also really helps me, because I don’t focus on my word count, but on reaching the end of each page. Obviously I still have to write the same number of words, but it doesn’t feel like such an enormous task. (I’ve worked out about 10 pages in an A5 notebook is a good target for NaNoWriMo, but obviously you’ll need to work it out according to your handwriting.)
Plan the crap out of your novel.
Normally I do this religiously, but this year I wasn’t sure if I was going to take part in NaNoWriMo so have ignored my own advice and left it all until the last minute… oops.
If you’ve planned beforehand, you won’t stall so much while working out where the story’s going, but if like me you’ve ending up pantsing in 2016, take moments, like when you’re folding laundry, to think about where your plot’s headed and what your next big events will be in your story. That way, you have a mini goal to work towards and you can treat your novel like you’re writing in ‘sections’ rather than just loping towards 50K like a zombie with the scent of blood in your nostrils.
(I’m writing a supernatural story this year.)
Write utter nonsense. Use bad grammar and bad writing if that’s what keeps you going towards your next milestone. Today I wrote:
They both let out a yell each and Adrastos nearly toppled into the grave below in his sudden fright: Mr. Whipsnade had appeared all of a sudden as if out of thin air behind the two of them.
I mean, that is a pile of shit. 90% of that sentence will be deleted later, but right now I don’t care: I need to get the first draft written.
Sprint, sprint, sprint!
Writing sprints are amazing: you won’t believe how much you can write in such short bursts. My best writing days are always when I’ve got no reason to leave the house and I can just sit and sprint for hours.
What is a sprint? I don’t run. A sprint is where a group of you all write together, either online or in a public place, and you write nonstop for a specific amount of time (usually between 10 and 30 mins) and then you tell each other how many words you managed. The competition is friendly but it really helps to egg you on.
How can I sprint? Choose your region on the NaNoWriMo website and they’ll tell you where to find your local group’s Facebook page. They will host sprints online and will also arrange meet-ups where you can all write together. You can also follow NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, who do sprints all day every day during November.
Treat yo’self. I told myself I couldn’t write this blog post until I finished my 1667 words today!
Keep reading as well. A really good book is a lovely treat after you’ve been writing all day. Plus, it helps keep the ideas flowing and it can be inspiring to think that, if you keep hitting your daily target, you could be publishing one of those soon!
Obviously your treat could also be a delicious cake, or a new episode on Netflix, or a glass of wine – anything that keeps you going!
Don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re really not feeling it, go do something else. Come back later and look at it with fresh, less grumpy, eyes.