Cue “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” because it’s almost
Christmas National Novel Writing month, otherwise known as NaNoWrMo. Over 250,000 writers sign on with the hopes to create a 50K novel in 30 days. The participants range from those who have no writing experience and want to join the madness to published authors who need to crank out the first draft of their next work.
I started in 2010 with a “win,” because I hit the magic 50,000. Spectacular Falls is a contemporary romance probably in an 8th draft as I take it through two critique groups affiliated with ACFW. It’s nowhere near what I started with that crazy NaNoWriMo experience, and that’s a good thing. More on that in a bit.
My 2011 attempt wasn’t a win, but a good lesson. I tried to write Discovering Nancy Struthers without plotting ahead of time, and in a month’s time, I only logged 16k. Now I know I have to plot. I guess deep down I knew that, but wanted to try.
This year I’m excited because while editing Spectacular Falls, a secondary character started waving at me, trying to get my attention. When I finally looked her way I realized she has a story. I have To Protect and Serve plotted out, and I’m ready to go. My typing fingers are twitching and I’ve been adding extra caffeine to my already insane intake as part of my pre NaNo training regiment. If you participate, you know what it feels like.
If you plan to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo, here are resources and tips to make the most of your month.
1. Sign up at nanowrimo.org and take advantage of the forums. Every genre you can think of has a forum. There are threads for plot questions, venting, music choices while writing, and more. There are regional forums where you not only connect online, but can attend local write-ins.
2. But don’t go too crazy with your new friends. Like Facebook, the NaNoWriMo site gives the option of friending people, although I think the term might be buddy. Your personal page allows sharing information about your novel, right down to creating a cover for it. This is fun, but if you start this in November, you’re wasting precious writing time. If you get social with your friends on the NaNo site, you’re setting yourself up for frustration at the end of the month when you are low on your word count. Use connections for questions, not social time.
3. Join My Book Therapy and take advantage of their resources. Susan May Warren and her cream-of-the-crop team are the best cheerleaders with amazing writing helps. Susie has a discount on her Book Buddy for MBT-WriMo participants. She has an incredible graphic that takes your novel from start to finish that I saw on their blog this week. They have accountability where you log every day, even if your count is 0, but by logging in, you have a shot at winning prizes. Again, watch your time, but the resources are great. My “winning” year I listened to the soundtrack they had available every day.
4. If you plot, Scrivener has a free trial that consistently receives rave reviews. I’m trying yWriter this year. It’s free and I read good things about it.
5. Look at your calendar and plan accordingly. The NaNoWriMo friends I know are college students. Wives. Parents. They caregive for aging parents. Take children to appointments. There is this day in November called Thanksgiving where family expect a turkey. There will be certain days you won’t write a lot, if at all. That’s okay. There are excel programs that color code the word counts and do the math to help you stay on track for a win. A Google search should help locate one, or one of the forums.
6. Don’t turn into Chevy Chase or Jack Nicholson. It’s been a few years since I watched “Funny Farm,” but I remember Chevy Chase’s character was determined to write the great American novel. It didn’t take long before he was impossible to be around, and he lost everyone and everything around him. If there is a Christian version of Jack Nicholson’s character from “The Shining” (Okay, probably not,) I was delirious my first year. A complete recluse who answered my family’s requests for food and clean clothes with grunts. I don’t even remember Thanksgiving beyond retreating to a quiet room away from my family I rarely get to see. Take breaks. Enjoy life. After November 30 comes December. You will have to face your family again. Don’t forget them during NaNoWriMo.
7. Write totally, really, crazy, badly. A newbie writer is full of flowery adjectives and adverbs. One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen King who said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” When you get the courage to share your baby, it’s heartbreaking to learn your words are going on the chopping block. Under normal circumstances, you’ll be grateful for their editing. If you have writing experience the temptation is to pen your November novel with your self-editor ready to go, scanning your pages to delete the adjectives and adverbs. You’ll fight the urge to polish the sentences. NaNoWriMo is the one time you have permission to go crazy with the adverbs. Write whatever comes to mind. It will be bad. The goal is to get it written in November. You have to turn your editing off and re-live your beginner writing days. Cringe and move on.
8. Get in the mood. I work better with candles lit, preferably a balsam scent because my work is set in the Adirondack Mountains. Sometimes I use my Pandora playlist. My writing space is a recliner. Be comfortable.
9. Exercise. My muscle tone took a hit my first year. Exercising gets the brain circulating as well. I ended up having ideas for my work when I got my sad body moving. Keep snacks beyond arm’s reach. I tend to become so consumed that I can polish off a bag of cookies without knowing. Make yourself get up, take only a couple snacks, and return without the bag.
10. Have fun. Yes, there are success stories where NaNo writers found publishing bliss. First they had to write it. Use November to, as Larry the Cable Guy says, “Git ‘er done.”
Are you NaNo’ing? I’m on the official site and My Book Therapy as JulieArduini. Just remember #2.