If you’re a writer and use the internet (duh) you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo. (Well, maybe not. Today I mentioned it to a co-worker who’s a writer and he never heard of it. But then, he still uses Juno for email and he’s not even as old as I am.) If not, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month where writers of all ilk strive, struggle, and sacrifice to write 50,000 words in November. It’s how the writing bug bit me and has yet to let go. It’s become more and more respectable each year since its first in 1999. If your an introverted dork like myself, it’s the social event of the year. Some folks write because they just like to. Some, like me, besides the like part, write to share their stories through traditional or self-publication.
Fifty thousand words average out to be 1667 words a day. I write all the time now and sometimes I write that much, but often I don’t.
NaNo is like a writing marathon you run around your day job, your family, obligations you can’t put on hold, and Thanksgiving. Some years, I worked full time, other years I had no job. This year I have a parttime, I’m judging films for the local film festival and I have person/people coming for Thanksgiving. I also like to do my Christmas decorating by the end of the month.
To succeed, it’s important to be willing to make changes to your lifestyle for these 30 days including:
Coffee: Or caffeinated beverage of choice. Mine is coffee. Morning, noon and evening. when writing at home, it’s a good reason to extract my butt from my chair. Pepsi is great, too, but I have to limit that.
Write-ins: When you sign up for NaNo (here) you’re encouraged to connect with the region where you find yourself. Municipal Liaisons (self-sacrificing NaNo heroes) set up and run meetings where WriMos (NaNo writers) get together and conduct word sprints and other challenges to get your word count up. They are motivating and a lot of fun. You get to meet people who are crazy and dorky in your kind of way and they become your friends. You can also set up your own if the MLs times and places don’t suit you. Most regions have Facebook groups, too. Some hold virtual write-ins that are fun and helpful, too.
TV: Plan on giving it up for November. DVR The Walking Dead or whatever you think you can’t live without. You know how you mindlessly watch one show after the other without thinking? Stop it and write. Whoever wrote what you watch didn’t watch much TV at the beginning of their careers.
Tell a few trusted people: Most people are going to think you’re crazy. Seriously, they will. The kind of people who don’t have a story burning a hole in their brain. They’ll want you to keep showing up at work, to keep cooking and washing their clothes and changing their diapers. They won’t care you’ve decided to write a book. Tell people who will understand that. If you don’t have any right off, tell people you’re close to and maybe one or two will care. Well, tell them anyway so when you say, “One more sentence,” before you get up and cook dinner, they’ll know why.
Facebook Groups: As I said earlier, your region probably has a group so you can connect with local peeps. You can search “writing” and such on FB and see what you find. Also, look for groups who write the genre you’re in. Some pages belong to associations you have to pay money to join, but there are plenty others. Like all FB groups, there are some filled with negative people, and others brimming with lovely folk. Keep looking until you find your tribe or two. But don’t spend too much time in November looking. We all know what a timesuck FB is! NaNoWriMo has an FB page, too.
Late Nights and Weekends: You can’t be a writer and not lose sleep and not give up social events. It’s against the rules of the secret NaNo Writers league. Art is suffering (often). Suck it up, make fresh coffee, grab some M&Ms and stop thinking about going to bed or that party where everyone is only making small talk, anyway.
Snacks of the healthy and unhealthy variety. It’s important their easy to handle and don’t make your fingers sticky and messy. Like my favorite, Crunchy Cheetos. That orange craps sticks to my fingers. Healthy snacks could be celery sticks with peanut butter to dip in, veggies of any kind. Dip makes them less healthy, but make sure yo control it so it doesn’t blop on your keyboard. I like lightly salted nuts, too. For the unhealthy stuff, I like M&Ms, Skittles, jelly beans, licorice all sorts. Those aren’t too messy. It’s good to drink water while you write, too. Ice, lemon, fruit or veggie infused, all good.
No Editing: One of the rules of NaNoWriMo is to turn off your inner editor. Put it in a soundproof room. Pretend it’s your high school Comp. teacher who fussed over commas and dependent clauses and the subjunctive tense. Lock that fool up so you can’t hear her/him. You never paid attention anyway so you still don’t know if it’s who or whom. You can’t write 50,000 in 30 days if you keep going back over the ones you already wrote. There will be time for that before next November.
Save Research For Later: Some people (usually plotters) will plot out and plan their novels and begin researching long before November 1. Not me. I’m a pantser–I write by the seat of my pants. Searching on Google for the largest alligator ever of how do they use the bathroom in Japan doesn’t add to your word count. I usually just as a note in the text, bold it so I can find it later, then write on. Or you can make something up and bold it, adding to your word count and fact check starton on Dec. 1.
Cheat a Little: For the desperate. Copy and paste the lyrics to the song your character has in her head that may or may not pertain to her current situation. Write meaningless dialogue that won’t make the final cut.
And Did I Say Coffee? Also chocolate, wine, beer, and booze at the right time.
You’re not going to come out of November with 50,000 shiny words publishers will kill for at an auction. At best, you’ll have a very rough draft that will need more than a month of TLC to get ready for anyone to want to read. But you have more than you started with. And when you tell people you wrote a book, they’ll be awestuck and find you the most amazing person they met that day, even if they haven’t read a book since high school.
Because of NaNoWriMo, I have 4 completed novels and 3 others in various stages of drafts. Two, I have self-published, one I am shopping for an agent with, and one is my very first NaNo novel that I revised but haven’t decided to go further with. NaNo is how I write my rough drafts. I love the fast pace, the time challenge, the way the characters show up and tell me their stories.
No, I’m not a best-seller. Yet. But National Novel Writing Month has shown me I can put my stories on paper, I can learn the craft of writing, and I can finish large projects for myself.
If you have questions, post them here, or on my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/tamunroe/