As the end of October draws near, I get unreasonably excited. This is in part because I love both autumn and Christmas, both of which feel very real in the end of October. But mostly, it’s because of NaNoWriMo.
Don’t know what NaNo is? It’s a mad mayhem of writers trying to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s a challenge you set for yourself to commit to writing for the month of November. And it’s hard and messy and glorious.
I have been participating in NaNo since 2014, and honestly, it has changed my (writing) life. It brought me from faffing around with writing sometimes, writing the beginning of a novel then stopping, having multiple drafts of ideas and random notes lying around, and into a life where I am actually, actively writing for most of the year.
I’m not saying it’s been easy. NaNo in itself is super hard and to keep on writing for the rest of the year is even harder. All I’m saying is that if you want to write, NaNo could be the perfect catalyst for you.
So, whether you’re a veteran WriMo (NaNoWriMo participants are called WriMos, nobody really knows why) or just starting out, here’s my main tips to survive:
I know this might be a little too late for this year, but NaNo Prep is a Godsend for people like me who otherwise end up with really shitty, overly complicated stories. But try to at least have an idea of an outline, even if you’re a pantser (non-plotter). Know at least a character and a climax.
Prepare the logistics. Do laundry, clean and do a grocery run to stock up on easy meals. And try to get someone else to do the chores for the next month. Or just accept that your life will be a bit of a mess come December 1st.
If you didn’t get around to prepping, don’t panic. Just do some low-key planning in off moments during the month. When you don’t know what to write next, maybe brainstorm some storyline or try to come up with an ending. Every little helps.
- Don’t panic
On the same note, don’t panic. Don’t panic if you’re woefully under-prepared, don’t panic if you’re behind on word count or have to go on a business trip or your writing muse has vanished. Just keep writing, trusting that it will work out in the end. And hey, even if things go totally awry and you “only” write 10,000 words, that’s still a lot more than you would have if you haven’t tried, right?
- If that fails, panic and drop everything else
Sometimes, you just have to focus. And yes, this means if you’re 10,000 words behind and your mum just called, you officially have permission to tell her a white lie, turn off your phone and write all night. Or skip class. Call in sick. Live on coffee and ready meals. Just do whatever it takes. Sometimes, a little panic can be just what you need to actually get stuff done.
- Remember to love it
Write about something that interests you. Write about characters you find compelling and write a plot that excites you. Don’t force yourself to write something just because it feels more ‘real’ or ‘fancy’. Trust me, at 25,000 words, only your deep wish to see the ninja hamster defeat the bad guys will get you to keep writing. So write about the freaking ninja hamster and not something you think will ‘sell’ or be showy. Write about the things you can’t help writing about.
- Write crap
If you’re gonna try and write 50,000 words in a month you have to realise that some (or most) of them are going to be a bit crappy. Relax. Throw out your inner editor for the month. Just get the words down. Revisions are magic, trust me. Right now you just need to pound out those words so you can maybe rewrite it into something glorious, sometime in the future. It will probably end up as a vastly different story anyway, so don’t sweat it. Just write down what comes to mind right now, however clichéd and crappy, and be proud of your quantity, not quality this month. If you end up with just a vague outline of a story, you’re good. That’s the start. And that’s what we’re looking for.
Those are my best, tried-and-true tips for NaNo. As I’m going into my fourth year, I’ve definitely learned a lot since I started. Right now, I feel quite confident that I can win. Let’s hope it lasts. At the end of the month, I’m just happy if I can say that I’ve done my best.
So, here’s to NaNo! And to writing shitty first drafts.