NaNoWriMo: How to Prepare for the Writing Marathon
You make excuses. You put it off until next weekend. You even go to that new movie you never wanted to see to avoid it. But that blue light emanating from your computer screen is an incessant reminder: You need to, and should, be writing.
While the ideas might flow freely, your drive to actually spend time writing — or even begin — is not always there. You need a jumpstart, a reason to write. You need a challenge.
And starting November 1, your competition begins. Held every year, National Novel Writing Month is an international project that asks writers to pledge to complete a 50,000-word novel during November. Anyone who completes a novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30 technically “wins,” but NaNoWriMo is more about building a support group and providing motivation to plow through more than a few hundred words once a month.
Making Writing Social
Not only is it difficult to find the time to write, but it’s also an isolating art form. This is why so many writers decide to pursue writing degrees or participate in writing groups, workshops, and conferences. It provides them with a sense of community and support, which can be incredibly important when it comes to breaking through writing blocks, building motivation, and dealing with discouragement. NaNoWriMo was created with the intention of providing writers with a similar sense of support, and from my experience, that support is invaluable.
For me, it’s a special challenge that breaks me out of my ordinary routine. Perhaps it’s the collective effort of so many writers coming together and pummeling their insecurities as authors. Maybe it’s the fight, in unison, to achieve literary brilliance in a small window of time. For me, it’s mostly about having the chance to finally express an idea I’ve been ruminating over all year — something that’s been kicking around in my head and solidifying in my imagination to the point where it seems like it’s ready to burst out in one frantic month of typing.
Six Things You Can Do to Succeed During NaNoWriMo
The prospect of writing a 50,000-word novel in just one month is undeniably daunting. It means you have to produce at a rate of more than 1,500 words per day — every single day of the month.
For some writers, that might not seem like much, but for most of us, we know there can be good days and bad days when it comes to word count; sometimes, even opening a word processing program can feel like a good day.
I’ve taken on this challenge a few times, and each year, I find myself struggling to keep up the pace. Here are a few things that can help you prepare for November’s writing marathon:
- Create an outline: This is pretty standard when writing any novel, but when working under time constraints, an outline of your plot can help you see how you want the story to develop. Even if you move away from the outline, it will give you a concrete start.
- Make a realistic writing plan: Figure out how many days you’ll take off from writing and how many words you need to produce each day, and stick to your plan. Find an accountability partner you can update on your progress who will motivate you when your hands start to cramp up at word 24,678.
- Use word count goals, rather than time goals: Base the length of your writing sessions on word count instead of time. “Writing” for four hours but producing only 300 words won’t get you to your goal.
- Use the NaNoWriMo support system: There are many locations in cities and states all over the world that provide free spaces where NaNoWriMo participants can work. This is a great opportunity to meet other writers from your area, so print and pass out business cards to create a network of local writers. This will come in handy when you finally publish.
- Understand your goal: You’re trying to write 50,000 words, not the next great American novel. Focusing on achieving the word count goal will help you avoid getting bogged down in word-to-word phrasing, which can be debilitating to a writer.
- Don’t be afraid of writer’s block: Don’t dwell too much on your concerns about the development of the plot and seemingly flat characters. Just write. And then keep on writing.
When all is said and done, writers should see NaNoWriMo as an opportunity. It’s a chance for writers to set goals and focus. It’s a great way to connect with other writers and share their struggles. And, in the end, you might just have the makings of that next great American novel.
Amanda L. Barbara is Vice President of Pubslush. Pubslush is a global crowdfunding publishing platform for authors to raise funds and gauge their audience for new book ideas and for trendsetting readers to pledge their financial support to bring books to life. Follow Amanda on Twitter!