The first week of September is upon us already. This is when I will begin prepping for my tenth year of participating in November’s National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, and my ninth as a municipal liaison.
The primary goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word (or more) novel in 30 days. Of course, the end result will require serious rewriting and editing, the same as any first draft. But having the bones of a novel finished, with a beginning, middle, and end is a huge accomplishment.
That month of merry madness forces me to become disciplined, to lose the bad writing habits I slip into during the rest of the year.
Most importantly, having to maintain daily word count output forces me to ignore the inner editor, that unpleasant little voice that slows my productivity down and squashes my creativity.
Also, for this one month of the year, nothing comes before writing. In past years flu season hit me hard despite having gotten my flu shots, and I was unable to attend write-ins for part of the time.
Nevertheless, I still wrote and got my word count. Trying to use my laptop while obeying orders to stay in bed gave me an impetus to get well quick.
This year will be very different. Due to the pandemic, NaNoWriMo headquarters has declared that there will be no sanctioned in-person write-ins. My co-liaison, author Lee French, and I agree whole-heartedly with this the sense behind the decision.
Instead, we will meet via a service called Discord, which we began using last year. We may do some through Zoom Video Conferencing or Google Meet. I also have MS Teams, which I personally think is the best of the bunch.
Coming together to write might seem like an awkwardly silent meeting. Still, these meetings help push word counts and get writers closer to their finished manuscript. Writing in a group situation, even in a virtual environment, enables participants to stay connected. It lessens the feeling of aloneness that writers have historically suffered from since long before Covid19 made everyone else feel isolated.
This sense of belonging keeps us on track and helps us to burn through the roughest spots, days when all we can think to write looks like so much “blah blah blah.”
Our Facebook page will be a place for staying connected, and in past years we’ve had many fun writing sprints and virtual write-ins there.
I’ve posted these before, but here are my rules for succeeding at writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days:
Write every day, no matter if you have an idea worth writing about or not. If you are really committed, you will do it even if you have to get up at 4:00 am to find the time. Don’t let anything derail you.
If you are stuck for what to write next, talk about how your day went and how you are feeling about things that are happening in your life, or write that grocery list. Use this time as a brainstorming session and just write about the direction you would like to take your story. This will loosen up your ideas, and you will be fired up all over again.
Don’t delete those ruminations, though. Every sentence you write counts toward your goal of 50,000 words. Passages you want to delete later can be highlighted, and the font turned to red or blue, so you can easily separate them out later.
Check-in on the national threads at http://www.NaNoWriMo.org and also your regional thread. You need to keep in contact with other writers, and the forums are fun to participate in.
Join a virtual write-in at NaNoWriMo on Facebook. This will keep you enthused about your project.
Remember, not every story is a novel. If your story comes to an end and you are only at 7,000 words, start a new story in the same manuscript. Use a different font or a different color of font, and you can always separate the sections later. That way, you won’t lose your word count.
Validate your word count every day on the national website. You will gain achievement badges for this, but more importantly, you will know if your word-processor counts the same way as the Validator App at NaNoWriMo. You don’t want to get an ugly surprise at midnight on November 30th!
As writers, we go through stages where we tend to focus too much on the quality of what we have already written and forget that output is important too. NaNoWriMo reminds us that if we don’t write new material every day, we stagnate. Nothing is worse than going over the same stale passages and wondering why you can’t move the story forward.
I write to a loose outline, but the pressure of having to get my word count means I don’t always follow it. The act of sitting down and just writing whatever comes into your mind is liberating.
Even if you don’t want the world to see what you write during the 30 days of NaNoWriMo, you have an outlet for your creative mind, a sounding board for your opinions and ideas. Rant about politics and religion to your heart’s content—no one will be offended if you are only writing for yourself.
If you are getting into genealogy through Ancestry, this is your golden opportunity to write about what you have learned, compiling the information for your own records.
Watching TV and playing video games all evening long doesn’t allow for creative thinking. Your mind doesn’t get to rest from the daily grind.
Creative thinking—assembling puzzles, quilting, writing, painting, building Lego cities—these activities are far more relaxing than vegetating in front of the TV. Putting together jigsaw puzzles is a great way to organize your mind and sort out plot points.
Something I have found over the years is that by getting away from the TV for a while, your mind becomes sharper. By doing something different, you give your active mind a vacation. You rest better, and your whole body benefits from having done something positive and restful in your free time.
Over the next 60 days, I will be plotting several short stories and a novella, all of which I hope to write in November. They may all get written, or some may be shelved, but either way, I will finish November with new fodder for my short-story submission mill.