Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NaNoWriMo Success 1 - Preparation

Since 1999, November has been National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Not surprisingly, I'm an enthusiast. Many of the things that are dear to my heart happen for thousands - most recently, hundreds of thousands -- of eager participants. As they strive to complete a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days writers:
  • Build the habit of writing regularly - Practice makes perfect.
  • Write forward - Avoiding looping, and getting words on paper. As Nora Roberts said, "You can fix anything but a blank page."
  • Build confidence - Getting a book written counters all the voices that say you can't do it, including the one in your own head.
  • Clarify their commitment to writing - It is possible to start this task on a whim, but difficult to grit it out without a deeper understanding of why you must write.
  • Build relationships with other writers - Writing can be a lonely business. NaNoWriMo creates the perfect opportunity to connect with other writers who will acknowledge, encourage, and support you.
  • Discover or rediscover the joy of writing - You may have days you struggle, but, over a thirty-day period, it is highly unlikely that you won't have crazy wonderful experiences when the words flow and something new comes to life.
The demands of NaNoWriMo are crazy for most people. Getting almost 2,000 words on paper each day is double the commitment Stephen King asks of writers in his terrific book, On Writing. Even for a professional writer, NaNoWriMo is an Ironman Triathalon. With a few weeks to go before the starting gun goes off, it's time to go into training. I'll present a few suggestions on preparation here. In future articles, I'll write about drafting practices during NaNoWriMo, and what to do when December 1 rolls around, and its over for another year.
  • The heart has its reasons - Answer the question of why you write (or intend to write). Multiple answers are great. Saying "for the money" will only get me laughing.
  • Place, time, goals - Where will you write? Will you be able to close the door? Can you set aside the minutes or hours you need each day to get this done? Are they marked off on your calendar? Do you have word count goals? Chapter goals? Personal goals for this event?
  • Tools - Will you use any special software, like Scrivener? Will the Emotional Thesaurus be ready in your browser? Will you use an application to make the Web inaccessible? Have you set up a way to track your word count? Will you use dictation? Are you fluent with using the tools you intend to use?
  • Distractions - Do family members know they need to give you the time? Are you sacrificing FaceBook for the month of November? Have you thought about what can come off your to-do list for the month?
  • Rituals and prompts - Have you picked out your lucky socks? Will you chant and burn incense? Play music? Do you have maps of the city where the story will take place? Have you cut a picture of your heroine out of People Magazine?
  • Buddies - Do you have a fellow writer at hand to talk with, bounce ideas off of, complain to, and share good news with during the thirty days? Do you know how to find one? Do you know what your criteria are?
  • Finger exercises - Are you doing a little bit more actual writing (not planning or character studies) each day, working yourself up to the daily word count you'll need? Are you practicing brainstorming, doing research, and making observations?
  • Celebrations - Do you know how you'll celebrate daily success? Do you have confetti ready for the day you write "The End"?
If you get all of these just right, you will be well prepared to take on this challenge. You'll have the process in place, means, opportunity, and motivation. Do one more thing: set your expectations.

Realize that when it gets rolling, you may need to improvise. If your buddy bails on you, resolve now that you won't give up. You'll find someone else to work with (and keep writing in the meantime). Expect that life will get in the way and you'll miss a day. Be ready to shrug it off, and get back on task. Thirty days is a long period of time. Not everything you set up will go as planned, but if you expect hiccups, you'll be better able to have NaNoWriMo success.

Success doesn't necessarily mean finishing the 50,000 words and getting the certificate. It might mean coming out of the month with more capabilities and good writing habits.

Will you participate in NaNoWriMo? Are you getting ready? 
What do you expect to get out of it?


  1. YES!!! I'm doing NaNo this year, and this will be the first time in a few years that I will WIN (I've won a few times in the past, but the past couple years have been rough).

    I'm getting ready by trying to tie up loose ends with my current project so I can face the new one in November with a clear conscience. I'm also preparing by having some writing time carved out SPECIFICALLY for NaNo writing. So even if I do need to revise some old stuff for submission, even if I need to do some outlining or planning work, I will have this time in addition to some of my normal work time. I'm a big fan of really planning out some things so that when the unexpected comes (and in my life, it always comes!), I have a cushion. I plan so I can be adaptable, if that makes sense. :)

    Good luck, Peter!

    1. Sounds industrious. And smart. Have a good NaNo!

  2. Great stuff, Peter. I'll be doing NaNo this year again. Going for win #3. I've been trying to figure out which story I'm going to work on and making sure the basic elements are in place.