I”m almost halfway through NaNoWriMo month and it’s been quite eye opening. Unlike most who spend October, also known as Preptober, planning their novel and project, I did my prep in about a week. The idea to participate came to me while I was on vacation in New York and building my three year life plan. I’ve been toying with writing a novel and figuring out the concept for years. While scrolling Instagram, I saw many of the book related accounts that I follow mentioning NaNoWriMo and after some research was instantly hooked. The idea of buckling down the whole month of November and drumming out the first draft of my book was mesmerizing. Apparently I’m addicted to deadlines. Go figure.
Two weeks into the process there are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful for others when they start the journey to their first draft.
1. Bank your words. Writing 1667 words a day on its surface doesn’t seem like much but when you bake in adulting, parenting and life, it can easily become an insurmountable task. As with most projects, in the beginning you’re gung ho and excited and you should definitely use that enthusiasm to your advantage. Get ahead. I “bank” words on the weekends. During the week I can get about 800-1000 words done depending on how terrible my work day is, but on the weekends I try to get at least 3-4k a day. This gives me some cushion during the week and I don’t feel down when I can’t hit the target.
2. Buy “SavetheCat! Writes a Novel”. This was also a recommendation from Instagram. I saw that everyone had copies of the book by Jessica Brody as their main source planning. I went over to Amazon and saw it had very high reviews. Everyone seemed to agree that this book was a must when planning your novel. Ten minutes into reading and I was hooked. As a person who had been feeling there was something my premise was missing, this book was a god send. Within a week of having the book, I had my entire novel outlined and a synopsis. That was more than I accomplished in a year. I was also able to figure out my plot and my “A Story” and “B Story”. By using real book examples that I happened to be familiar with, it helped me to understand how each section should be divided and what every story needs to have to work. Using this outline has helped me to write scene by scene and not necessarily in chronological order.
3. Freedom to write, not edit. I was a person that woud try to make as much sense as I could when I initially wrote something so I wouldn’t have to edit as much later. When I tried to write without thinking when publishing FanFiction, it would take me 4x as long to publish a chapter due to editing. However, with NaNo you are encouraged to keep writing. Of course, the project is different than FanFiction where it’s important to keep a consistent publishing schedule. In this case you are publishing your whole book at once, so there’s no need to write in order or as best as you can because you have to hurry and get it out. As one quote said, “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” And that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do. I barely backspace. Not having to worry about spelling, grammar or using the same word twice in a sentence, or sentence structure, etc has allowed me to pump out more words in a writing session. At the moment, all that matters is getting my ideas and visualization of the scene on the page. You can go back and edit later.
4. Word Sprints. I’m normally not a word prompt type of girl so when I read that there was a twitter account dedicated to sprinting while writing and providing prompts, I wasn’t overly excited but figured I would give it a try. There’s something about the competition aspect of being given 10, 15, or 30 minutes to just write as much as you can and then report how many words you write. It’s good to see what your writing speed is but also if you have a competitive streak, it’s nice to see how you measure up against others. Also, their prompts have been super helpful if you’re in a rut and can’t think of what to write. Several prompts over the past week have turned into scenes for me and helped me create a backstory and depth for some of my characters that I didn’t have before.
5. No Distractions. When I signed up on the NaNo website, I went into the forums and saw people talking about some of the tools they use for writing. Until the past couple of weeks I had no idea what a distracted writer I was. On my laptop I get texts, emails, twitter notifications and start surfing the web. Next thing I know, all the motivation I had to keep working on my scene has disappeared and real life has seeped in. I saw people were talking about using Downtime on their Macs or disabling everything on their laptops so they could just focus. For me, the breakthrough came by way of a Word processor. An Alphasmart Neo 2 to be exact. They are only about $25 on ebay and work on batteries. It also sounds like a typewriter which is oddly satisfying. One week with my Neo 2 and I wrote more than I did probably all of last year. You only have a couple of lines on a screen at a time so you can’t go back and obsess about what you wrote before. No internet, no text messages. Just you and the words and during a time like NaNo that is extremely helpful.
As you delve into the NaNo world or just get into the habit of writing everyday, you will find more and more tips that work for you. No matter what happens, the most important thing is to KEEP WRITING!