So you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo and want to breach the 50k mark? Do you have what it takes? I did not my first year. I figured 50k words would be so easy that I could do it by writing an epic poem in 50k words during the month of November; when Thanksgiving and family/friends want your time. The weather became too cold for me to go outside and write as I had been accustomed to with poetry and frankly, I had no outline or plan. Last year, I took advice of those who regularly write 50k in a month and manage to have a full-time job (they even spend time with their family). I want you to be one of “winners” of NaNoWriMo with me this year.
I. BEFORE YOU GET STARTED
01. Take A Movie/TV Break
November is always an epic month for movies. I’m sure you have a backlog of shows in your Netflix queue as well. They can wait. Determine ahead of time that you are going to focus on writing. You can rent the movies you missed and your queue will hopefully be there when November ends.
02. Character Sheets
Being a character actor, I find going into details of your character before you start writing gives you a springboard. Even if you prefer to let the story develop your characters, having a good “first impressions” for each character gives them depth. I created a character sheet that I takes me close to an hour to complete (click here).
03. 3/15 Outline
If you are not a “pantser” (writing a rough draft at the seat of your pants) and like to have structure in your life, this is one of the best models to use. I have gone into further details about this outline and how it improved my current WIP (hint: click this sentence). Some pantsers have switched to an outline and have found it brings in a higher word count. If you know where you want to go, you have less roadblocks and are able to write through the slumps. Please be advised: detours can and will happen, follow them.
04. Let Social Media Know
This is often a task you cannot do alone and will need support from others to accomplish. By telling your followed friends and networked neighbors you are undergoing this feat, you will also have an excuse as to why you are avoiding them most of the month. Or the, “hey, let’s hang out at a coffee shop; I’ll be writing so bring something to do,” speech works too. This will also cause them to worry less about you as status updates start to wane or turn into frantic cries from the insanity of keeping up your word count.
II. STAYING MOTIVATED
05. Community Of Writers (Social Media Support)
The NaNoWriMo.com site offers a fantastic community of others who have signed up for the challenge. If you have not joined and stalked your local region forum for meet-ups, do so now. If you cannot make it to any or prefer the solitude approach, social media can provide needed support as well. The hashtag #NaNoProblems works if you don’t know what to post. We’ll understand and commiserate with you; we’ve all been there (why they decided to have it during the month of THANKSGIVING!!@?, I’ll never know).
06. Reward The Little Things
1,667 words a day is not something to toss around lightly; especially if you are working a full-time job, going to school, or have little ones running around and jumping into your lap (or laptop). You’re doing great! Keep it up!
07. 25 On / 5 Off (Writing Zen)
Some have said that it is healthy for you to limit your writing to 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Although this may seem a waste of time for many of us, we should probably do this… probably. I also want to talk for a moment about the writing “zen” mode. If you are in the groove with the right music/atmosphere, don’t stop.
08. Never Give Up, Never Surrender
We have heard this countless times: Writing is 90% not being distracted by the internet. This is a word war and we will not back down with all of the attention the worldwide web wants from us. “I can’t, I’m writing,” is an excuse everyone will be expecting to hear this month if you’ve informed them ahead of time (see #4).
09. Write Through The Slumps
One of the best ways to get through a writing block is to simply flood it with words until you get one that fits. This is an improv exercise we use to warm up before our comedy shows, but it works in writing too. ROLODEX: Come up with five or more possible lines that you could use in the given scene. If you don’t like the sentence, keep writing and rewriting it until you find one that fits. It adds to the word count and you can cut the others out later.
III. GETTING THE NUMBERS UP
10. Write Rough Draft Roughly
This is the only time in your story-writing process where you have permission to suck. It's your rough draft, not your magnum opus. Make it rough, raw, and downright disgusting. As you edit it, you will find more satisfaction in the, “wow, this edit is exponentially better than my rough draft,” moment. If you have that inner editor that abhors the massacre of words happening on the screen, shut the screen off to write. I find closing the laptop low enough works best for me. THIS SOMETIMES HAPPENS IF YOU HIT CAPS INSTEAD OF SPACE, BUT DON’T EDIT IT YET.
11. 10k Day (Tosca Lee Inspired)
Are you up for the challenge? Plan yourself a day (weekend if you are like me and work the 9-5) to write. Going into this without a plan can cause serious damage to any of your relationships… sorry honey. Let your friends and loved ones know you are going to be spending the day with your imaginary friends, but in a good way. Use the 25/5 rule and take longer breaks when needed. I suggest doing something else creative or exercising related. Remember to stay away from those YouTube holes. This is also one of those “Reward The Little Things” moments where you can even get a shirt! (shirt link here)
12. Change Scenery
Inspiration may be lacking because you need to get out and change your writing location. This is why finding a local NaNo meet-up is important. They often happen in different venues. Although it’s cold (another reason… why November!?), find a new place to let the muse run free.
13. The Numbers In The Details
If you have an important point in your story that you aren't ready to write, go into character and scene detail (aka info dump time). Describe, using all five senses, the area where the scene is taking place and the characteristics of each person present. This may have been started on your character sheets, but now is the time to go into depth. You could also write the protag or antag’s backstory. Every word counts.
14. Talk To Yourself… I Mean Your Characters… In Your Head
Any NaNo coach will tell you that dialogue is a great way to add the needed word count to your work. You are probably talking to yourself anyway if you are at that “crazy” time, so why not have a conversation with your characters? Tell them what you really think of them and let them tell you what they think of you. It’s okay if they hate you, you can get them back later… (I may or may not be permanently stuck in the “crazy” time).
15. Aim Past Your Goals
I hoped to pass the 50k mark last year and get around 75k words. So I planned to get 100k words during the month of THANKSGIVING! (seriously, do they think we have no families?) I tried for 3,334 words a day, gave myself time to do a few 10k days, and went for the insanity mark. My wife knew that I would be writing and I had a great community to encourage me. Although I did not reach the 100k I had boasted of reaching, I made it to the 75k mark I hoped for!
I'd love to join you in you NaNoWriMo adventure. You can add me as a buddy (matthewenordin) or just let me know in the comments below.