No matter where you are in the process, the act of writing daily is an important thing. Many people participate in NaNoWriMo because having a visible goal forces them to find the time to write.
I have been a Municipal Liaison for my region since 2011, and my co-ML is author Lee French. Between us, we keep the writers in our area stoked about their projects and help them get through the rough spots. In the past, we have hosted write-ins, both virtual and at libraries and coffee shops.
This year, due to the pandemic, we are going completely virtual, hosting meetups through Discord and Zoom.
As established authors, we have learned a few tricks that we’re always happy to share with those planning to “do” NaNoWriMo for the first time.
If you are just embarking on this literary joyride for the first time, here are a few quick tips and resources to help you stay organized:
Things you want to have at your fingertips, so you don’t have to stop and look it up:
MAPS: If you are writing a story set in our real world and your characters will be traveling, walking a particular city, or visiting landmarks, bookmark google maps for that area and refer back to it regularly to make sure you are writing it correctly.
If you are writing about a fantasy world and your characters will be traveling, quickly sketch a rough map. Refer back to it to ensure the town names and places remain the same from the first page to the last. Update it as new locations are added.
TECH: Many people are writing sci-fi novels. In hard sci-fi, technology and science are the central core of the stories, so it’s a good idea to know what tech is available to your characters well in advance of writing their scenes. A little planning now will aid you greatly in the writing process.
- Magic without rules is both impossible and creates a story with no tension. No one wants to read a story where the characters have nothing to struggle against. Working within the rules develops opportunities for growth.
- Each character should have limits to their abilities. Because they are not individually all-powerful, they will need to interact and work with each other and the protagonist. Establishing boundaries can drive your story in some creative and unusual directions.
Looking things up on the internet can suck up an enormous amount of your writing time. Do yourself a favor and bookmark your resources well in advance, so all you have to do is click on a link to get the information you want. Then you can quickly get back to writing.
Resources to kickstart stalled creativity:
- Fantasy/Real Name Generator (some are amazing and hokey but fun.)
- Ye Olde Map Maker (not free, but cheap and excellent)
- Medieval City Generator (free and excellent)
Resources to bookmark in general:
- www.Thesaurus.Com (What’s another word that means the same as this but isn’t repetitive?)
- Oxford Dictionary (What does this word mean? Am I using it correctly?)
- Wikipedia (The font of all knowledge. I did not know that.)
Three websites a beginner should go to if they want instant answers about grammar, written in plain English:
Never delete, do not self-edit as you go. Don’t waste time re-reading your work. You can do all that in December when you go back to look at what you have written. If you don’t like it, change the font color or use strike-out. Those words will all count when you go to upload the manuscript, even those using the strike out. You wrote them, so count them!
Make a style sheet: If you love your sanity, make a list of all the names and words you invent as you go and update it each time you create a new one, so the spellings don’t evolve as the story does. Save this to your desktop, so all you have to do is click on the icon to open it for updating.
My co-ML Lee French and I have found that setting a goal of 1667 words a day really is the best way to meet the goal of 50,000 words by November 30th.
However, if the stress of writing that many words a day is too much, step back and write at a speed you are comfortable with.
Sure, there’s a contest full of personal goals involved. Still, NaNoWriMo is really about encouraging the act of writing and developing the discipline to set aside time to write daily.
Every word you write is essential because it gets you closer to having a book you can hold in your hand and say, “I wrote this.” By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you will get your first draft finished.
Here is a list of earned badges we who participate hope to acquire from the national website:
- (this one is the easiest) Update your progress! If you want some of the later badges, do it on day 1, and then do it every day after that.
- Update more than once in one day!
- Start a streak – update two days in a row (do you see a pattern here?)
- Update 3 days in a row!
- Update 7 days in a row.
- Update 14 days in a row.
- Update 21 days in a row.
- Update 30 days in a row (our personal favorite!)
- Achieve par every day (1667 words) (difficult, but doable).
- Update at precisely 1667 words (fun!)
- Reach 5 k words.
- Reach 10 k words.
- Reach 25 k words.
- Reach 40 k words.
- Reach 50 k words by November 30th!
- Download that winner’s certificate!
In other years, every word is torn from my keyboard, accompanied by the howling of banshees. During those years, I can barely make my word count.
For me, the most important thing is having my project that much closer to completion.
If you choose to embark on this project, make that your goal. Write because you have a story burning to be told, and have fun doing it.