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Last-Minute Tips for National Writing Month

Posted October 29, 2018 6:52 pm
Last-Minute Tips for National Novel Writing Month

The most wonderful time of year is almost here! No, I don’t mean the holidays although they can be fun too. It’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. You’d be hard-pressed to roam through online writing communities without hearing about. For those that don’t know, however, NaNoWriMo is the annual event where writers challenge themselves to write the first draft of a novel, or as much of a novel as possible, during the month of November. NaNoWriMo’s website suggests aiming for 50,000 words. So, are you ready with an idea in hand or thinking about taking the leap for the first time? Either way, we’ve got you covered with some last-minute tips to help you on this fun, fulfilling 30-day journey.

Authors, Choose Your Plot

Most writers I know keep a notebook, or more recently use some kind of notes app on their smartphone, to jot down plot ideas. If you do this, now is the time to go back through those ideas and pick one that’ll let you hit the ground running. Don’t make the mistake of choosing one that you’re not enthusiastic about because you want to “save the good ones” for a time when you’ve got time to fuss over it. You’ll most likely end up abandoning it due to that same lack of enthusiasm, but NaNoWritMo isn’t just about churning out a “throwaway” idea. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing and to make those “some day I’ll write a novel” feelings into a working first draft. So pick an idea you love and prepare to give it your full effort.

No idea repository? No problem. Set aside an hour or two, and Google the phrase “writing prompts.” You’ll find hundreds of great resources that way. On social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest you’ll find groups and accounts dedicated to thinking up ideas. Visit a bookstore in person or online, not only to read blurbs, but also to browse book covers. Imagine writing a story about a book cover design that strikes a chord with you. One of my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing is to head to stock photo sites and look through random categories until I see something that triggers that spark in my brain. Write all these idea fragments down no matter how silly you initially perceive them. Mull these over in the time you have left and pick your favorite.

With either approach, don’t let your inner perfectionist allow you to keep searching for The Perfect Story Idea of All Time when you’ve got something you think you can turn into a story. I can’t tell you exactly when to stop searching and identify a winning idea, but then that’s part of the fun. But don’t let yourself fall into analysis paralysis because you’re afraid you’ll miss out on a better idea that’s just around the corner. Odds are you’re already walking around with some fantastic story ideas, so keep your goal of writing in mind and pick one.

Plan Your Writing Routine…

What time of day are you going to write and for how long? Will you do it in a quiet part of your home or somewhere else where no one will disturb you? Will you start with an outline? How many words will be your daily minimum or will you aim for a weekly minimum? Answering these questions now, even if it’s just internally to keep yourself honest, will keep you on track for the long haul. Plan all the logistics and details now so you don’t have any interruptions that could have been avoided later.

If you’re writing at home, make sure your family members or roommates know when you’ll be writing so they can respect that time. Make sure you have access to any room, computer, or anything else you need during this time. Don’t plan on going to a library or café where you have trouble finding a seat or somewhere that gets so noisy that it’s been proven to distract you. If your options are limited, noise-canceling headphones can be a focus-seeking writer’s best friend.

For tools, we’d obviously love for you to use NovelEasy to do your writing online and we’ve incorporated things like chapters, daily stats, word count, and the ability to use it across all your devices for this very reason, but we understand that everyone’s different. If you prefer getting that initial draft into good, old-fashioned notebooks and it works for you, then plan on doing that.

…and Stick to It

Many writers like to pretend they’ve been given a school or work project because they’re more likely to respect their deadlines if they can “forget” that these deadlines have been self-imposed. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun, but you still want to accomplish your goal in the end. Some people have the natural discipline to hold themselves accountable and will stick to their daily regimen. For others, it’s helpful to have a friend or family member that holds them accountable. Do whatever forces you to take it seriously because as soon as you start viewing it as a trivial exercise, you’ll lose momentum.

Having said that, if you’re working hard but can’t meet your goals for whatever reason, don’t beat yourself up over it. All is never lost, so keep pushing forward, do as much as you can, and try to hit the next checkpoint. When you hit those checkpoints, reward yourself for doing so.

Remember that this is a first draft, so avoid going back and editing. Anticipate setbacks by trying to write in your free time to get ahead (or back on track). A major benefit to participating in NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to get that first draft down. That looming deadline, while creating a frenzy, also forces you to be efficient with your time. Specifically, it forces you to stop fussing. It might seem crazy at first, but soon you’ll embrace this way of writing.

Writing 50,000 words or more in a month is a massive challenge, but the important thing to remember is that it’s not impossible. Others do it all the time and so can you. No one is going to tell you that it’s easy, but with genuine effort and hard work you’ll have something you can be proud of on December 1st.

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