Last week I told you about nanowrimo – the equivalent of a marathon for writers.
Marathoners pull on their trainers each day and practice. If this is the marathon of writing challenges, the key to success is in the preparation. With November nearly here, it’s time to get started (if you haven’t already) on your Nanowrimo training plan:
1.Decide how you will be writing your novel.
I use the Scrivener app. Here’s 10 reasons 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 your nanowrimo novel 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?
2. Have a back up strategy…and use it
Be paranoid. I back up to a hard drive and also to dropbox – just to be sure.
3. Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. I use a moleskine. It makes me feel like a real writer.
4. 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.
5. Set your targets
Dig your calendar out from wherever it is languishing and mark in your writing days for November. Decide how many days a week can you write? (Hint: be realistic)
This will determine your nanowrimo 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 airports, during lunch hours. Wherever, whenever. The year my daughter did the HSC I got heaps of words written waiting outside maths tutorials. I felt like I’d been called to the headmaster’s office.
While you have your calendar out, mark in all your commitments – places that you know you have to be. Be honest, and be realistic.
Maybe you can manage a half an hour in the morning before the kids get up and all hell breaks loose, or an hour at night after they go to bed. You might choose to fit it in on a weekend, or get together with friends for a marathon writing session.
However you schedule it, keep to it.
6. Schedule in your down-time
You have to. Getting out for a walk, or a coffee or whatever will help keep the creative juices flowing – and ensure you stay sane. If you want to stay inspired while you’re walking, listen to your favourite podcasts.
7. 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. Houses will still need cleaning, clothes will still need washing, gardens will still need weeding, and arguments will still need mediating.
In the same vein, there is no perfect year to do nano – it’s what you make of it.
8. 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.
In 2015 I spent most of November road-tripping around England, and in 2016 I was climbing a mountain in New Zealand – or, rather, walking Milford Track, which is much the same thing.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. What if my story gets stuck?
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.
I don’t happen to believe in writer’s block – I’m way too busy for that. If, however, you feel that you’re suffering from this malaise, check out this post: 8 ways to beat writer’s block.
12. What if I don’t know if my idea has legs?
That’s what makes nanowrimo 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. Nanowrimo 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 Nanowrimo for precisely that purpose.
13. 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.
Nanowrimo 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?
14. Don’t edit
The point of nanowrino is to get the words out, so resist the urge to edit as you go.
15. What if I don’t make the 50,000 words?
So what? You’ll still have more words than you started with.
Nanowrimo 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 – and hopefully more of them by November 30 than there was at November 1.