It is almost time for the annual NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. It begins at midnight October 31, and runs through the last day of November.
The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words (and complete a novel) in 30 days.
Don’t stress out yet. The numbers divide down to 1,667 words a day, typically 60-90 minutes of writing.
Join more than 300,000 people globally, and Writers in the Grove members, by participating actively or passively. This can be a solo experience or a highly social one. You can connect online and/or connect in person through the many local activities, events, and write-ins where people gather in a social space to write and get to know each other.
Go to the NaNoWriMo site for more information, and check out last year’s “It’s NaNoWriMo Time: How To, Tips, Techniques, and Survival Advice.”
Last year, Writers in the Grove had about eight people participating, some openly, some secretly, not willing to go public because they were afraid of failure. Let’s clear something up right from the start. There is no failing with this. The goal is to write, and anything that gets you writing, and keeps you writing, is a good thing, whether or not you achieve the 50K goal. Many never reach it, but keep trying year after year.
NaNoWriMo is not just about the word count. It is about the writing.
To handle the diverse Writers in the Grove membership needs, we are once again challenging our members to do one of the following:
- Write a minimum of 1,667 words a day.
- Write for an hour minimum a day.
What You Will Learn From Participating in NaNoWriMo
Last year was the first year we had many members participating and we all learned so much, it was an amazing journey. Here are some samples:
- I learned I could write consistently every day.
- I learned how to write consistently daily.
- I discovered some fears and road blocks I didn’t know I had.
- I figured out how to work harder with less research.
- I just wrote. Usually I spend too much time in my head and less writing, but I just wrote.
- I learned it isn’t as hard as it sounds.
- I learned that I had something to say, a story to tell.
- I realized how much I allow life to get in my way. I sit down to write and the phone rings, doorbell goes off, email pings, thoughts roam – and how much I need to just say no.
- I realized that the true art in writing is editing after you write.
NaNoWriMo is a chance to note all the things that get in your writing way. Keep a notebook and jot them down when you encounter them, and make a plan around or through them. You will always need those solutions as you charge ahead with your writing career.
What Do I Write About?
It’s fascinating to see how much people struggled with what to write about. The answer? Write anything. Fiction, non-fiction, truth, or made-up stuff. No one cares if you write on one thing or many things. Just write.
While the concept behind NaNoWriMo is to write a novel, who cares as long as you are writing. It’s about the word count, the discipline, the commitment to write every day, and learning how to keep your writing going.
Start writing stories from your childhood, or stories passed down through generations.
Start writing down all the lessons you learned in life, be they general life lessons, child-raising, relationships, hobbies, or work.
Do you have a hobby in which you’ve invested years of study and expertise? Write about that, how it works, how to do it, why you got involved with it, and what others are doing with it.
Have an idea for a book? Write out an outline and follow that, or just take that idea and run with it. Torture it. Twist it this way and that. Take the main character and write a chapter about their back history to identify their strongest character traits one day, then later write that chapter again to reverse those character traits, seeing the character in a new light. Describe a scene, the place, the weather, the sights, and sounds, the smells, without any characters in it. Write the history of the world in which your story occurs. What is going on in the world when this happens? Does it influence the story? Dig into the other characters in the novel and write their back stories and history. Describe them. How do they fit into the story? Write that out.
From these individual elements of story, you can patch quilt them together later in the editing stage, and who knows what you might discover as you flesh out all the different layers of the tale.
Be Aware and Learn More About Yourself and Your Writing
Being cornered into the box of 1,667 words a day can test the will of most people, but that is a starting point. As it gets closer to the holidays, many will double or triple that number so they have days off, their eyes on the 50K not the specific day rate.
This is just one of the many games people play with themselves and their writing as they pursue the goals of NaNoWriMo. What games will you play with yourself, and how will you get into your own way?
We all have bad habits, distractions, and procrastination in our lives. Many of us lack writing disciplines, trusting the muse to guide us whenever, or surrounding ourselves with excuses that get in our way.
Use NaNoWriMo to flesh them out.
Personally, I discovered that I used research and character names as an excuse to delay writing. I couldn’t write about something unless I’d fully researched it. I couldn’t create a character until I fully understood who they were, their personality, and found a name that matched.
Using the powerful writing tool, Scrivener, I took advantage of the Research folder in the binder to save the research references I needed to write ahead of NaNoWriMo, and gave myself a limit of ten minutes a day to research something before returning back to the writing. I realized I could always fact-check later during the editing process.
Scrivener also features a naming tool, which allows you to generate a variety of names by sex, ethnicity, etc. Before the start of NaNoWriMo, I used the tool to generate a list of 40 names, male and female, and added the list to a Research file in Scrivener. When I needed a name, I took the next one on the list. No time wasted researching the name.
Some of the most common NaNoWriMo writing tips include:
- Don’t edit. Just write. You can always edit after December 1.
- Schedule time to write, limit all distractions and interruptions.
- If you get stuck, write on something else, or switch positions and come at this from another perpsective such as the point-of-view of another character or an inanimate element in the scene such as a car or rock.
- Write the back story and history of the characters and world.
- Work on multiple projects not just one.
- Risk. Take chances. Put your character in a place where they would never find themselves and describe the results.
- Hold yourself accountable. Either use the NaNoWriMo site to track your numbers and compare them to how others are doing in our area, or report in during our Writers in the Grove meetings, or to a supportive friend or partner.
- Use the NaNoWriMo Novel Template for Scrivener and the NaNoWriMo forms, trackers, and spreadsheets found in last year’s tips and guide.
If you are using Scrivener, we have a ton of tutorials and guides on our site to help you learn more about how to use it.
We’re Here to Help You Through NaNoWriMo
Writers in the Grove members will be meeting before and during NaNoWriMo to support each other through the process. Remember, the only rules you face are the ones you set for yourself. For our group, we just want to encourage you to write every day.
We’ve more articles with tips on handling NaNoWriMo:
- It’s NaNoWriMo Time: How To, Tips, Techniques, and Survival Advice
- A Prompt-a-Day for NaNoWriMo
- NaNoWriMo Novel Template for Scrivener
- NaNoWriMo: Beat Sheets and Story Engineering Worksheets
- NaNoWriMo: How to Write a Novel in 67 Steps
- NaNoWriMo: Let Your Character Take You on a Month Long Journey
- How to Blog NaNoWriMo
- NaNoWriMo: The Half-Way Point with the Tips, Tricks, Tools, and Resources to Finish