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Catch NaNoWriMo Fever!

Catch NaNoWriMo Fever
If you are curious about NaNoWriMo or considering hopping into this crazy-fun event, I wrote about the what and why. Here’s an excerpt:

There are nay-sayers (as with anything) who complain it’s not the best way to learn to write. it’s not good for quality.  I think they  miss two key points.

It’s not about quality. It’s about the doing and the finishing.

NaNoWriMo can help you gain the habit of writing daily. I don’t know the current number used by the experts, but it’s somewhere between 28-45 times you need to do something to form a new habit. I would argue that a daily writing routine is the cornerstone of a writer’s life. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself if you are serious about writing.

How many writers out there have half-completed manuscripts and stories littered about? No need to raise your hand. I saw your furtive glance. Finishing is hard. Until you’ve done it a few times, finishing is a major lifetime achievement. It puts you into a small percentage of writers in the world  who have actually completed a novel.

The advantage of NaNoWriMo is that it brings together a unique combination of commitment, competition, and community to motivate new writers and those who haven’t written in a while. 1667 words a day feels like a lot at first, but it doesn’t give the inner editor time to squawk and fuss. And, once you establish a regular writing routine, you’ll find 1667 is not only an achievable daily goal, it might be on the low side.

It’s fun!

Sometimes it’s just fun to  participate in something big with other writers. NaNoWriMo is broken up into regions and these regions host write-ins, celebrations, and forums.  It’s fun to watch your word count bar fill up. It’s fun to see “Winner!” on your screen and collect your badge. And, for most of us, it’s fun to pound the keys and produce something new.

Keeping momentum during the month of November is a key aspect of NaNoWriMo. I’ve included the full text here.

During the month of November, the goal is to get the story down. To do that, you need to keep up your momentum. Instead of psyching yourself out over what might seem a daunting task, psych yourself up. Get excited. Let anticipation built. Eagerness and a good start on November 1 can get you a really good jump on your word count.

Riding the anticipation and excitement of beginning NaNoWriMo does carry you through a lot of words, but it will fade. This is when most first-time writers quit. Don’t quit. Keep up your momentum. Here are a few ways that work for myself and several writer friends.

Outline or pre-write the last week of October. Doing this close to the start of November ensures that your characters and plot details are fresh in your mind. As a pantser, I pre-write up to one third to one half of the draft’s final word count before I  ever begin the draft. This writing is not the story. It’s about the story, the characters, the relationships, the back story, and where the characters are a year after the novel ends. My plotter friends create a list of scenes needed to move the characters from point A to point B. Neither of us stick to our pre-conceived story ideas if the writing goes another direction, but it does give us the necessary roadmap to get well into the novel.

Send your inner editor to the Bahamas. Don’t worry about tangents, scenes that don’t fit, or details. Forget spelling and punctuation errors. Just concentrate on getting all your raw material into your rough draft. Later, you’ll have plenty of time to structure the scenes and decide what to leave in. If necessary, don’t read what you have written. Keep forging ahead.

Choose a writing prompt and adapt it to your characters and plot. Even if you end up discarding the scene in December, you can usually pull a few nuggets from it, including insight into a character or the thread of a sub-plot.

Plan ahead several scenes. I pre-write a great deal, so I know my characters and story fairly well by the time I begin the draft, but it helps to plan out 3-5 scenes ahead, or make notes at the end of a writing session. I’ll read over the pre-write as necessary and plan the work for the next several sessions whenever the momentum slows.

Be prepared to hit the wall. Experienced writers do this between 20,000-30,000 words.  You may find yourself at the wall at 10k or 15k. Expect it. It’s normal. The initial fun wears off and the middle section is upon you. Here is where the work begins. Plotters have an outline to work from. Pantsers start to do their own form of plotting at this point (and it’s as individual as the pantser). This year I’m trying something different. I created 80 scenes in Scrivener and made a descriptive note on about 50 of them. When I hit the wall, I have the option of picking the most interesting of these scenes to work on.

Work backwards, out of order, or write what Holly Lisle calls “candy bar scenes.” Plotters and pantsers alike might choose to jump to the end and work backwards, building the reason for each scene in reverse. Others like to write out of order or as scenes come to them, reserving the sorting out for after NaNoWriMo ends. Still others write the scenes that excite them, the ones that made them want to write this novel in the first place. Whichever you prefer, working out of order can help keep your momentum and excitement from bottoming out.

Touch your story every day. Even if you just get a few sentences down, write every single day and keep your story in your thoughts. In other words, stay engaged in your work.

A last thought on keeping up momentum: get an accountability partner or set some friends up to be your cheer squad. It helps, and a little encouragement goes a long way.

Looking for practical tips for NaNoWriMo? Here’s what I’ve learned and gleaned from five years of novel madness along with an excerpt.
Before NaNoWriMo:
  • Cook ahead or allow more takeout.
  • Get any big shopping trips out of the way.
  • Clean the house if it will help you relax.
  • Explain to family and friends that you will be occupied (tell them why and get some encouragement, too!).
 During NaNoWriMo:
  •  Carry a notebook everywhere and take advantage of spare moments to jot notes or dialog.
  • Connect with others. Sometimes you need to let off steam or have a good laugh.
  • Take things one scene at a time. One day at a time. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
  •  Think about your scene as you go about your day and spend the last 5 min of each session jotting down what happens next.
  •  Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you need a character name or fact of some kind, type ELEPHANT into your MS as a placeholder. After NaNo, do a search for ELEPHANT and plug in the missing information.
  • One very important piece of advice. Don’t skip a day! Touch your story one way or another every day. Even if you only add a sentence, do something. Thinking you can catch up is often a mistake. One day turns into two or more. Now you’re behind and for lots of people it’s easier to give up than catch up.
  • Having said that, if you know you’ll be busy, try to hit 2000 words a day and pull ahead so those one paragraph or one sentence days don’t hurt
  • Don’t skip exercise and lay in a supply of healthy snacks and rewards. Do let someone else host Thanksgiving (or accept help) if this is your first NaNo.
  • Do let people know what you are up to so 1) you have support and 2) they don’t get hurt if you feel you need to decline lunch or coffee.
  • Unless you are a night owl or have energy late in the day, try not to wait until nighttime ot write. Whenever possible, write during a part of the day when your energy is naturally higher. Lunch hours, mass transit, early morning, an hour after or before work at your desk—do what you can to not come to the page drooping and ready for sleep.
  • Make your writing space comfortable, but not cozy. Most of us work better if we sit up. Well that may not be true. A friend of mine does her best writing in a big chair. Just make sure it isn’t so comfortable you doze off. Hey, it happens.
  • If possible, restrict internet and other distractions during your writing time and don’t hang out in your writing space unless you’re writing. This trains your brain to switch to writing mode when you sit down.
  • If you think about your scene and jot notes during the day, you’ll be ready to write and it should only take an hour to hit your 1667. Make notes for the next session and go on about your day, keeping the next scene in the back of your mind.

Each of these posts was originally published at RobynLaRue.com.

What is your favorite tip for reaching the winner’s badge for NaNoWriMo? If you haven’t done it, which elements make you curious?

12 thoughts on “Catch NaNoWriMo Fever!

  1. What a great post! I love the “elephant” idea.
    Question: I’ve only ever participated in the Camp Nano version. Have you ever done that one? If so, how does it compare? I always kind of worried that the real thing would be really intimidating compared to camp.

    • It’s about the same in terms of the writing, but there’s a lot more buzz and activities. The pep talks from authors are pretty cool and the regional stuff can be a lot of fun. 🙂

  2. I’m so excited for NaNoWriMo to start!!
    and I also like the “elephant” idea, I never would have thought to do that. I usually just plug in random ideas/names and then after NaNo is done, I go back to edit for the first time and fill that in/fix it. Also, I keep my cell off and away from me and turn off my wifi which really helps to keep my focused on the task at hand. Then I write down anything I need to research AFTER I’ve hit my desired daily word count.

  3. I’m happy you are encouraging people to get out and write. I think four great lessons writers can learn from NaNoWriMo is writing several thousand words each and every day, finishing their stories, revising their first drafts to turn it into something resembling their plot, and edit edit edit. Silent

    • Finishing is key for so many writers. NaNoWriMo is famous for saying we write in November. We edit in December. They even do a few emails and things to encourage people to edit.

  4. I agree 100% with everything you said. I did NaNoWriMo once in 2012 when I signed with my agent, but had to rewrite my whole friggin’ book. I desperately needed support and camaraderie. It helped me find my mojo and get that novel DONE!

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