Halloween is over. Bring on November, and for a lot of folks I know, bring on NanoWriMo. For those who haven’t heard of it (or have only heard of it in passing), Nano is National Novel Writing Month, wherein aspiring authors can sign up to the challenge of completing 50,000 words of writing on a project in the 30 days of November. It can be a daunting task, but it is far from impossible.
Both Stacia D. Kelly and I have completed Nano projects in the past. It is not the only time we write (a discussion on that topic can be read HERE), but we have both found it productive for getting words on to the page, advancing and expanding on ideas we’ve had in our heads, and introducing new ones. I am not participating this year, and I just released “Catwalk: Mercy Killing” on Halloween, and I’m working on publicity for that book. However, I wanted to share a couple of things that I have found helpful in my past NanoWriMo engagements.
- Writing Sprints. The folks behind Nano do a great job of providing structure and rewards for participation and for meeting goals. Writers can earn badges (virtual or physical), stickers, motivational quotes, etc. There is no shortage of positive reinforcement. For the folks who need structure, or just need to fit in that extra bit of effort to reach a word count goal, writing sprints are a nice tool. Typically, a Nano representative will declare a sprint, a session of 10 or 15 minutes, where participants should put aside everything else and just write. They even offer creative prompts for those who are stuck. These quick 10-15 minute sessions can add up over the days, weeks, and the month itself to help writers move their projects along.
- Write, Don’t Edit. The 50,000 word goal isn’t intended to be the final draft. Edits take time, and are incredibly important. The first draft of a story is almost never going to serve the story and the characters to the fullest extent. Get the ideas down. You have plenty of time to revise later. Remember, the goal is to write 50,000 words, not necessarily to publish on December 1.
- Don’t Worry if your Characters Surprise You. They often will. Sometimes, while writing, especially in a stream of consciousness effort like a sprint, you may be surprised when the characters do something that you don’t expect. This is often a wonderful surprise and can open the story up in any number of ways. You may not keep everything you write, but you may find that the story expands so much that you have your next potential work in progress.
- Use the Tools. You can track the word count in the NanoWriMo site itself, but the majority of writing tools will track the word count as well. Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or other tools will track word and character count as you go. Whatever tool you choose, save often. Have a backup of your work. When you hit a goal, it’s okay to celebrate. But, no one wants to lose all of the investment they’ve made into a project, especially if you’re posting on Nano and on social media about your progress.
Any other pointers I missed? Feel free to open the discussion.
All the best,