How to train for nanowrimo…

Hipster desktop with male hands

So anyways, I’ve given you some reasons why you should be doing NaNoWriMo- the equivalent of a marathon for writers.

Marathoners pull on their trainers each day and practice. So do writers. With November nearly here, it’s time to get started (if you haven’t already) on your Nano training plan. If this is the marathon of writing challenges, the key to success is in the preparation.

Decide how you will be writing your novel.

I use the Scrivener app. Here’s why. I love how it sets session targets. I especially love the corkboard- so much that I might just manage a separate post on it.

If you’re writing in MSword or freehand, simply enter your word count daily into the nano website. You can stay on track- and the graph is cool. I told you about the graph, didn’t I?

Have a back up strategy…and use it. Be paranoid. I back up to a hard drive and also dropbox- just to be sure.

Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. I use a moleskine. It makes me feel like a real writer.

Have coffee- or wine- on hand. I tend to subscribe to the “write drunk, edit sober” theory… not that I take this literally, but you get the idea.

Set your targets

Dig your calendar out from wherever it is languishing and mark in your writing days for November.

How many days a week can you write? (Hint: be realistic)…

5 days?

7 days?

This will determine your daily target.

If you intend writing 7 days a week, you’ll be heading for a target of 1667 words a day.

I go to bed an hour earlier and write there. It works for me- just don’t tell my chiropractor. Quite often I dream what happens next.

I also tend to grab moments wherever I can- in the hairdressers, waiting at maths tutorials, during lunch hours… This year I’ll be on a plane for about 30 hours- if I can’t knock a few thousand words out then, there’ll be something dreadfully wrong.

Expect life to get in the way– it will.

There will be some days where you can sit down uninterrupted at the keyboard and others where you’re clawing 5 minutes here, there or anywhere. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re doing this. In the same vein, there is no perfect year to do nano- it’s what you make of it. If you really want to do it, you will make time.

I recall finishing my first nano experience in 2009 in the airport at Perth. As well as the normal demands of home and my full-time job, the relocation project I was working on for Perth (and managing largely from Sydney) had blown wide open.

2010 was much the same, although this time the relocation was in Hong Kong and the final chapter was finished at that airport.

On both occasions I carried my notebook with me and scribbled during coffee and lunch breaks. Back in my hotel bed each night I’d transpose my scribbles into real words.

Somehow the word total grew. Having so much on added to the sense of achievement.

Run your own race. I’Il go hard the first week of the challenge and, despite the session targets I set myself, usually end the first week well ahead of schedule. This is good because I tend to hit my personal wall at about the 25,000 word mark- and things slow from there.

The middle 2 weeks are hard.

Most stories are abandoned somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 words. The story is often in the saggy doldrums- enthusiasm is waning and the end is still a long way off. I find that the efforts of the first week get me through the middle two.

When I get really stuck, I jump scenes- sometimes writing the end first, other times writing another scene that has jumped into my head. It works for me.

What if I don’t know if my idea has legs?

That’s what makes nano so great- it allows you to explore an idea and determine whether there is really a 85-100k novel in it.

My effort in 2009 was largely semi-autobiographical. It was 50,000 words that will never see the light of day (heaven forbid), but needed to come out of my head. Nano was the best time to do that. Once those words were out, other ideas started to flood in. I now have a board full of potential stories- most of which consist of a single line. If you want to write something, but need to clear some space in your head first, I’d urge you to use this years Nano for precisely that purpose.

Plotter or Pantser?

If you like to know where you’re going to go with the story and how you’re going to get there, you’re probably a plotter. If you’re starting with the germ of an idea, maybe a character or two, and just seeing where it leads you, you’re a pantser. Perhaps you’re a combination of the two? I’m definitely a pantser.

Nano is a great time to play with something different. If you’re a plotter, why not give yourself the freedom to see what happens? If you’re a pantser, why not experiment with a different technique?

Don’t edit

The point of this exercise is to get the words out, so resist the urge to edit as you go.

What if I don’t make the 50,000 words?

So what? You’ll still have more words than you started with.

And finally…

This is meant to be fun, so try not to be too hard on yourself, or do the analysis paralysis thing. Just write.

There’s no judgment, or right or wrong. There are just words.

So….are you in????