How To, Writing Tips

How-To: NaNoWriMo

So November is creeping ever nearer, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month. A month of tapping away at your computer, gulping through cup upon cup of coffee and losing sleep to make sure you get your word count.

But it’s fun, I swear.

So I thought I’d do a bit of a ‘how-to’ guide for anyone who’s thinking about trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, or for anyone who has done it but feels they need a bit of advice.

Tip 1 – Plan

This is a big NaNoWriMo question, are you a planner or a panster? For the first two years I was a panster. For most of my writing life I’ve been a panster, if I’m perfectly honest, and it’s never worked out for me. So last year I was a planner, for the most part anyway. I wasn’t meticulous, but I had more than the bare bones of a story; I knew the beginning and I knew the end and I had a bit of an idea how I was going to get there. I planned a little more as I went along, and of course, bits changed along the way.

But it worked for me last year so I’m doing it again this year. I’ve started to do a vague chapter plan, but I have a fair idea what’s going to happen from beginning to end (famous last words, perhaps, we’ll find out in December). Hopefully it’ll work out as well as it did last year.

So as someone who’s been both a planner and a pantser, I would definitely recommend planning. Obviously it depends person to person, some writers find just jumping straight in works for them. But with the time limit element of NaNoWriMo, you’ve got less time to think about what’s going to happen as you write.

Tip 2: Forget About Your Social Life…

…To a certain extent anyway. I’m not saying you need to lock yourself away for a month, never speaking to another human being until you get to 50,000 words. But you definitely have to make sure you’re setting time aside to write, and it will take away from your normal social life. Especially if you’ve got a full-time job or college to keep up with as well.

My weekdays last year involved me coming home from work at 5.30, making a quick dinner, and sitting in front of my laptop for the rest of the evening, ignoring my poor flatmate and missing a lot of Hollyoaks.

Weekends are a different story. You’ve obviously got more time and you can choose to do one of two things: either get your normal 1,700 daily word-count done and use the rest of the time to catch up on everything you’ve missed during the week. Or spend more time writing, getting more than your daily word-count and have a stash of words for the days when something crops up that stops you from being able to write (this is handy. Trust me, these days happen).

So be prepared to see your social life take a bit of a dip, but to be fair, this is writing. You need to dedicate time every day to write, so it’s a good habit to get used to. If your friends are good people, they’ll understand they need to book you in advance if they want to see you.

Tip 3: Get Rid Of Your Inner Editor

All writers have one. That niggling voice that tells you the sentence you’ve written could be better, that there’s probably a better word you could use, or there should be a comma there instead of a semicolon. Your inner editor is a bit of a pain sometimes, but you know he’s useful in his own little way.

Well, he’s taking some time off in November because he has no place in NaNoWriMo. This month is not about writing your best work. It’s not even necessarily about writing good work. It’s just about writing. If you spend too much time worrying about the perfect word to describe something, or if you should cut out a sentence to make it all flow better, then you’re wasting precious word-count time.

November is about getting something onto paper, December and January are for editing. Don’t worry about how good or bad your writing is, just write.

Tip 4: Take 20 Minutes

So this is just something that I started doing halfway through the month last year, and I found it really worked for me. Simply write for 20 minutes at a time. Put a timer on your phone and just write until it runs down.

I find that I get distracted very easily. The slightest inkling of Facebook or Instagram and I’ve suddenly lost half an hour. Making myself write for 20 minutes, and telling myself that I can take a quick break at the end, means that I won’t be tempted to stop before. I averaged out at about 500-600 words in 20 minutes, so I would tell myself that I only had to do three or four 20 minute stints, and it would be done.

If you’re like me and you’re prone to distractions, it’s a good idea to give yourself a block of time, not too long or it’ll seem like a chore, but not too short or you won’t get enough writing done. You’re less likely to give in to the distractions and you might find that you get into the flow and don’t want to stop after the 20 minutes, which can only be a good thing.

These are just some of the things that worked for me last year. I did none of them the two previous years and didn’t manage the 50,000 words. Maybe it’s all just a coincidence, maybe I was just more motivated last year, but I do believe these tips helped me. Hopefully they’ll help you too.

So good luck to anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year. Just remember, any words are better than no words. Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, get something on paper. You’ll still be closer to having your novel written than you are now. So sure feck it, what’s stopping you.

If you fancy following along with my progress here’s my author page. Good luck xx

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