I have wanted to write a novel since I was very young. The task is daunting. Almost every published author will agree. I never believe those authors that say they wrote a book in the span of two days, fueling themselves on nothing but caffeine and the excitement of what they were doing. Over the years I’ve taken a few cracks at writing a novel. As you can imagine, I didn’t get very far. When I started blogging, I started seeing NaNoWriMo badges and that’s how I learned about the challenge.
Writing a novel, or rather fifty thousand words, in thirty days seems easy at first. You do the math and see that it’s only one thousand six hundred sixty-seven words per day. Too easy, right? Then you sit down to type out your first words on November 1st and by November 2nd realize this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. And then you panic. Or worse give it up. I did exactly this, twice.
I took on NaNoWriMo again last year and swore it was going to be different. And it was. I completed NaNoWriMo in 2015. I’m not going to lie. It was difficult. There were days that I fell significantly behind. There were days that I didn’t think I would get it done. But I did it. I caught up. I finished. I not only finished but I finished strong with over sixty-three thousand words. It was an awesome feeling.
How did I do it? There’s not a simple a+b=c formula but I’m going to share the things I did to get to the finish line.
No one likes to fail let alone fail publically. Telling someone that you’re going to take part in a challenge, any challenge, gives each of us just a little more motivation to keep going when we start struggling. I didn’t tell anyone that I was attempting NaNoWriMo the first two times because I didn’t want to feel the pressure of people asking me how it was going or answer questions if I failed. I didn’t even tell Tim.
I failed my first two attempts because it did get hard and I had no repercussions or accountability. I also had no one to cheer me on. Imagine running a marathon without a single person on the route yelling an encouraging word to you. Last year, I wrote a post about whether or not I was going to do this for real. I put myself out there and when I started to struggle I turned not only to my own cheering section but I also returned to the words I wrote. “Do I want this or not?”
You’ll hear this over and over again in the NaNoWriMo world: pansters v. planners. Pansters are the types of writers who simply sit down at a blank screen or piece of paper and start writing away. I do not know how they do it. I am a planner. Last year I didn’t have a formal outline but I did have a general form I wanted my novel to take and I filled in the details as I went.
One of the things that did slow me down were obvious details about my characters. Things such as names, ages, key timeline information are good to have prepared before you start the challenge so you don’t waste time having to sort through your words to find that key detail that will help spur on your writing.
Make It Your Job
I work for myself in addition to being a stay at home parent. My plate runeth over
most some days. But one of the best things I did last year was set aside time every day for writing. Most of the days it was the two hours during nap time but sometimes I had to squeeze it in after dinner or even after the kids went to bed. I wrote for NaNoWriMo every day though. If you set aside specific time for it every day you’re making it a priority. If it’s not a priority then you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance to complete the challenge.
Believe In Yourself
I know, it sounds pretty cheesy but hear me out. Why would you sabotage yourself by not being your biggest supporter? It’s tempting to think “I can’t do this” when you hit a snag or some writer’s block but as soon as you hear it, kill it. You can do this. The only requirement of NaNoWriMo is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. They don’t need to be Nobel Prize worthy words. They don’t need to be publishable words. They just need to be words; one after another. You can do that.
Stock Your Toolbox
How you’re going to write your novel matters just as much as what you write. Are you going to write by hand with paper and pen? A typewriter? A computer? Figure it out before November 1st and make sure your tools are ready for you. I usually write in a word document but I think I’m going to switch it up this year and try Evernote. They just released their desktop version and I already have the app on my phone. All of these versions sync up with one another so if I’m on my laptop and don’t have a WiFi signal I can still pickup where I left off and if I have a stroke of inspiration while I’m at school pickup I can whip out my phone and add it to my manuscript.
Follow Your Instincts
Writing isn’t a science and for every rule there’s another rule that contradicts it. If you find your plan isn’t working for you, change it up. You’re not always going to love sitting down to write. There were days last year that I had to force myself to type out five hundred words before I calling it a day. Listen to yourself and your needs and your imagination. This is your project and no one is going to do it exactly like you.
Is this your first year participating in NaNoWriMo? What are some of your tips for writing?