Maybe you’re stuck with a little writer’s block. Maybe a new plot is toying with you, asking to be written soon, or the spark of an idea needs some serious love if it’s going to be for real. For whatever reason, you need to get a jumpstart into a certain story. This is where NaNoWriMo comes in. You’ve got the entire month of November to push yourself, probably harder than usual in some cases (guilty), and really accomplish something special. Trust me – this intensive writing process is going to hurt, but you’ll come away as a stronger writer because of it.
Spend the last weekend of October – or the prior week(s), however long it takes you – to outline the proposed story. Sketch out your characters, the setting, how you want things to begin and end. Fill in the middle as best you can, but don’t worry if you prefer to let it unroll during the process. Totally up to you as every writer is different with their prep (pantser vs plotter!). When it’s finally November, game on. Write thousands of words in a few days, write hundreds over the weeks, whatever that means to you, just get to 50,000 words. Ass in chair, people. You write 50K words for breakfast, right?
Now, granted you could do this every month (I don’t recommend it for sanity reasons), but what is it about NaNoWriMo that makes it different?
Of course the big thing is you get your story down on paper. Whether you finish or it’s a giant chunk, you’re one step closer to completing a huge goal. The difference is the community. At any given time in this National Novel Writing Month, you’re practically guaranteed to feel involved. Not only will having writing buddies (both in real life and online) encourage you to keep going, but it’ll hold you accountable (something that I personally need to get a project done).
Chat up those writing buddies through the #NaNoWriMo tags and encourage each other to keep going; set up competitive word sprints or share funny memes during the mini-breaks. Chat about it on Twitter, keep up with the NaNoWriMo advice on their social media, or see how others are doing with their goals (though don’t compare their daily word counts to yours; another sanity suggestion).
I’m giving it a go again this year with a little idea that came up last month. I prefer to start fresh rather than work on the others in the queue, since I tend to get caught up in self-edits on work that’s already been done. (It’s great that I have 35K of one already written, but that means bits and pieces are already done, which requires my going through every chapter to make sure the new parts make sense; a clean slate keeps the pauses to a minimum and I get to see if the idea is worth a damn – what do I have to lose besides 30 days when I’m between releases, anyway?)
It’s been a couple years since I participated, but I managed to “win” in 2012 and 2013 with Witch Hearts and A Reaper Made. I made sure to follow all those things I listed above – outlined the stories first, wrote the first scenes that came to mind as fast as I could, and filled in the blanks as they came to me. Now, each story wound up at around 75,000 words, so obviously those first 50K acted as a foundation. Should you have a lower word count goal such as a novella, you’re in the right area.
Now, of course this is just a first draft. I would never want to publish the first draft of anything (and strongly suggest you heed that advice, too), but getting the words on paper is usually the hardest part. Once you have something to work with, the edits are easier: you take time to develop every chapter; the scenes become clearer and characters grow depth. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get that ish done. No excuses, no whining, just forcing yourself on the path you want to be on anyway. Even if it’s half of the novel (hopefully epic high fantasy because whoa), you’ve made progress.
Sleep will be lost. Family dinners forgotten. Spouses neglected. Sweatpants covered in chip dust because you were too busy typing to use a napkin. And at the end of it, you have the ability to say you did it, and hopefully have a future book release on your hands. Sounds like a win to me.
See you kids on the other side. Feel free to become my “buddy” on NaNoWriMo here. We’ll celebrate on December 1!