It’s that time of the year again…time to talk all things National Novel Writing Month. It feels strange to be writing a blog about NaNoWriMo while the world continues to fall apart around us. But as many wiser authors have said before me, one of the best ways to get ideas, conversations, and solutions out into the world is by writing books. So with that said: who’s in for NaNoWriMo this year?
In case you don't live on Twitter, National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is this strange time when a whole bunch of writers across the country all try to write a novel in a month. It happens in November. I imagine a good portion of the country stops sleeping. I’ve done NaNo before, and it’s an amazing experience. While it intermittently makes me want to stick needles in my eyes, it definitely pushes you to build your writing discipline and hold yourself to deadlines. I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year because I accidentally sort of just did my own NaNo in September…a muse attacked, which is basically the best thing that can happen to a writer, and I churned out more writing than I had in months. BUT THEN. This idea for the sequel came to me.
So I think I’m going to try writing that sequel in November.
Right now I’m in what I call “NaNo prep mode,” which is basically where I spend a few weeks obsessing about all the ways I can pre-plan my NaNo project in order to make the experience better. You know, so I can throw the whole plan out in the first week of November when I decide it isn’t working. Super productive, right?
Anyway, in case you too are a writing masochist and are considering taking on NaNo this year, here are some things I like to have planned ahead of time.
1. Character sketches
When one is trying to write 50,000 words in a month, one hardly wants to waste time figuring out what color hair their MC has. One’s time would be better spent figuring out why one is referring to oneself with such a ridiculous pronoun.
2. General plot outlines
I’m not talking a detailed chapter-by-chapter summary here, unless that’s how your brain rolls. My brain works well in acts, so right now I’m just sketching out the general arc for the three acts of my novel. Obviously things will change as I go, but at least I’ll have some general directions to steer my characters in while I’m sobbing over my computer every morning.
3. A writing schedule and goals
Writing 50k in a month can feel overwhelming if you haven’t broken down how you’re going to tackle that on a daily or weekly basis. Are you going to shoot for 2k a day every day? 13k every weekend? 5k three times a week? It helps me to plan what my smaller writing goals are and then block the days and times on the calendar when I will be doing nothing but frantically typing. Obviously I can’t stick to the same schedule every single week—Thanksgiving is the great interrupter of NaNo schedules everywhere—but if I know my word deadlines for each week, I know I can always adjust my writing times and days accordingly.
4. Ice cream deliveries
I love NaNo, but it can be a rough go if the muses aren’t working in your favor. It definitely forces you to put your characters on paper when they just don’t want to be there. So stock up on whatever gets you through the rough times, and don't be afraid to up your calorie intake where necessary.
I am basically a non-functioning human if someone isn’t holding me accountable for my goals, so I know I need wider accountability when I launch projects like this. With some projects, I’ve sent my weekly writing to a friend on certain days. Some people join NaNo groups where everyone posts and shares their word counts on a regular basis. Between Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Insta, there is no shortage of places where you can publicly or privately share your writing goals with others and give yourself some accountability.
This time, I’m trying out a different type of accountability: I’m holding myself accountable through this blog. A few times a week I’ll update here with my progress (or lack thereof). Because for some reason right now it seems like a great idea to add more writing on top of my NaNo goals themselves. We’ll see how long that feeling lasts.
So, who’s in? Join the masochism and finally write that novel you've been talking about writing for months. Come NaNo with us, and in December we can all whine together about what a terrible idea it was.