It’s October. It’s that time of the year again. No, not Halloween. It’s the month before NaNoWriMo!
What’s NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s short of National Novel Writing Month, and it’s where writers pledge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s not an easy task, but it’s not insurmountable either. I’ve done it for the last two years and I’ve come through the other end and hit the target. And based on my experience, how you spend your October is important and goes a long way in helping you reach that 50,000 word count.
Wrimos should begin their preparation to conquer the summit in October. Making sure you have a lot of free time in November is one of the first things you should do. Got that report due in November? Or that presentation that you still haven’t prepared for? Do it now. The less things you have to worry about in November, the better your creative juices can flow and that means more words per day. Yeah!
If you’re one of those outliners, you can start outlining your novel today. Even if you’re not, it helps to spend some time thinking about your story’s key plot events and how it will flow from start to the end. You don’t have to know every detail of every scene, just enough bits and pieces to help guide you from start to finish. Think about the setting and the tone of your novel and do a little bit of research on what you might need. Is your novel reliant on Aztec history? Be sure to do some prior research too. The clearer you are about your story, the less work you’ll have to do later on to try and untangle plot knots and waste time staring at your screen wondering how you should connect this scene to the next one.
Prepare the people around you for it. Your friends and your family. You’ll be seeing a lot less of them in November. Bring them out for dinner at the end of October, so when December comes around, it’ll just be a little over a month. It won’t feel that long. Probably. I think. Either way, NaNoWriMo is going to cut into your social time, so best prepare for that. And for social media account holders, make sure to buffer your tweets and posts. The less time you spend checking social media, the more time you can spend on writing. And we all know how much of a black hole social media can be.
Get lots of rest at the end of October. Being well rested will power you through the first weeks of November because you’ll be spending some sleepless nights trying to churn out words every night, especially if that’s the only time available for you to write. Oh, and just be ready for the fact that November will be a stressful time if you decide to take the NaNoWriMo challenge.
The first few days of November can make or break the entire month. Staying atop that 1667 daily word goal can be motivating while dipping below it can make you feel like you’re struggling to catch up for the rest of the month. Set a target of 2000 words every day. Inevitably, you’ll miss some writing days, due to work or sickness, or just plain tired of writing. Setting a buffer can let you relax for a day or two without worrying about the word goal. In fact, if at all possible, try to hit 10,000 words within the first three days. That’s my plan of attack. Building a high enough buffer to not feel stressed about not hitting the daily word count for the rest of the month.
Setting aside time every day to write is important. And pick the best time for you to write. Don’t set aside your mornings when you’re not a morning person. Do it at night. And make sure you do your best to free that time. And if you have a few minutes after lunch break or waiting for the bus? Get out your phone and start tapping away at your novel. Every little helps. As does coffee. Nothing says I’m a writer on a deadline like the smell of coffee on your breath.
Powering through is another important thing to do. Turning off your internal editor is one of the best ways to churn out words. Don’t struggle with the best way to write a sentence or how to remove that adverb. You can always fix them later in December. And for heaven’s sake, never ever, ever, ever read through what you’ve written. The last thing you want is to have the urge to change something. And if you do somehow end up with that urge, make a note about what you want to change and write the rest of the novel pretending you’ve already changed it. NaNoWriMo is about producing your novel’s first draft. And first drafts are usually messy. They are just the foundation on which you’ll build your novel.
It’s December! And you’ve hopefully hit your 50,000 goal! It’s finally over! Or is it? There are a few things to check before deciding to shut your writing mood down. Is your novel finish? No? Get your ass back on the writing chair and finish that book. You don’t have to work as hard as you did in November, but do finish that book. It will be an awesome feeling when you’ve finally completed it.
Finished your book? Did you change your story midway like I mentioned when I talked about powering through? Now is the time to fix the first parts of your book so it matches the rest of your story. In fact, read through the whole book once and make notes about things that you’re not changing straightaway. And then let it rest for a while. It’s important to set aside the draft for at least a month or two to gain some perspective.
And lastly, it’s time to reunite with your long lost family and friends. Make up for the times you’ve said no to hanging out with them because of NaNoWriMo. In fact, just have a party and invite them over to celebrate your achievement.
Still here? Hopefully I’ve not scared you off. It’s really not that bad and I think every aspiring writer should give NaNoWriMo a try, I think it will help instill a habit of writing. If nothing else, just the fact that it will help you in getting that first draft off the table should be reason enough. It doesn’t matter if you failed, thousands of people do, even authors who are published or go on to be published fail. But through NaNoWriMo, you’ll figure out what works or doesn’t work for you. Especially in the architect vs gardener spectrum of things.
That’s all I have to say. I hope that after reading this, you’ll be using October wisely to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Good luck!