It’s that time of year again! The wind is chilling, the leaves are turning, and it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo.
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. The idea is that for one month, you put aside all of the obstacles that stop you from writing—not enough time, writer’s block, etc.—and commit to writing a 50,000+ word novel in one month. It sounds intimidating, but hundreds of thousands of people participate each year.
There are two types of NaNo Writers: those that like to prepare beforehand and those who fly by the seat of their pants. If you’re the former, here are our top tips to prep ahead of time.
- Sign up ahead of time
Yes, you could just write it on your own, but it’s so much more fun when you’re a part of a community. You can meet other writers from all over the world, and be each other’s support group. You can also join your region and attend events in your area. Write-ins can be a lot of fun. Plus, there are webcasts by authors on their tips to prep leading up to November 1.
- Outline with sticky notes
When your idea is less than fleshed out, but you know the major plot points and a few scenes, write down a few scenes on separate sticky notes. This allows for you to rearrange them as you work, and add more sticky notes as you go until your plot is cohesive. Think of this as a more malleable outline. Obviously, if you’re comfortable with a traditional outline, then you can make that instead.
Many people become intimidated by traditional outlines, seeming them as stagnant and fixed. Putting it all on sticky notes feels less permanent. If you like an order you have, but want to see what a different arrangement would look like, simply take a picture before rearranging them. That way, you can always go back to the way it was.
- Follow NaNoWriMo (and NaNo veterans) on Twitter
You may think that you won’t be on twitter while writing, but let’s be honest, procrastination is a part of writing. NaNoWriMo’s Twitter accounts occasionally host writing sprints and offer encouraging words, and some of the NaNo vets with bigger platforms have followed suit. These sprints will help snap you out of procrastination.
A few accounts to get you started:
- Schedule your time
Make sure to allow yourself time to write every day. If you have a day when you’re not going to be able to write much (Thanksgiving anyone?), plan accordingly. Allow yourself some extra time on other days that week. Let your loved ones know you might be a little MIA during November.
- Set goals for yourself
Fifty thousand words over thirty days is about 1,667 words a day. That’s a good place to start, but it can get overwhelming if you get behind—especially later in the month. Many people set their daily goal for 2,000; still an achievable goal, but will only take 25 days to reach 50,000 words. This allows more of a cushion. You may also find that 50,000 words is not enough to finish your novel, so you may need that extra time to wrap it up.
- Write plot bunnies
Sometimes, you’re going to get stuck. A great way to prepare for a case of writer’s block is to push the story you’re working on out of your mind and write down some general plot points that would throw a curveball into any story. Put each down on a separate piece of paper, fold them up, and place them in a hat or bowl of some sort. That way, when you hit a wall, you can pull one out and get back to writing. Trying to incorporate some ridiculous situation will get your creative juices flowing again.
Some plot bunnies to get you started:
- The next thing they know, your character wakes up and find themselves, mildly scraped up, in a dumpster 30 miles outside of town.
- Your character finds the body of their best friend.
- A witch puts a curse on your character, making them age backwards.
- Switch perspectives.
- Two characters find themselves locked in a small space together.
If you want to get really creative, you can even fold your plot bunnies into origami bunnies using this tutorial.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or used it to complete your work in the past? Let us know what works for you!