Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brace Yourselves! NaNoWriMo is Coming!

Some of you probably already know about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. If that is you, you can skip the next couple paragraphs and good for you. But for those who have no idea what I'm babbling about, let me give you the short version.

NaNoWriMo is an international challenge for writers. Participants create an account on the official NaNoWriMo website, enter in a novel with a title, synopsis, and excerpt, and then eagerly await the start of November while prepping for a month-long writing binge. On November first, participants begin the writing frenzy. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month - 1,667 words a day. Writers the world over sequester themselves in a locked room with a stash of coffee and/or chocolate, and settle in for the month.

At the end of November they all emerge, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and half mad from ridiculously high caffeine levels. Those who reached the 50,000 word goal and saw that wonderful winner page online may also be jumping up and down in glee and babbling incoherently about winner goodies.

Got it? Okay.

Now I've decided to do it again (I did it for the first time last year). The website just reset, which means participants can now enter in their novels! I spent a couple hours today posting a synopsis and creating characters for the NaNo project.

Can I persuade any uninitiated to join in the madness - to become a wrimo? Come on, you know you want to (go mad)! The website is here.

Great! I knew you'd get with the program.

Now, to the actual point of this post - some tips from my own experience on NaNo prep:

Have a Plan

I'm not talking about the kind of plan you can fit into one short sentence, like, "I'm going to do NaNoWriMo and win." That isn't a plan. That is a goal. I'm talking about having a plan for your novel. Whether you're the outlining type or not, knowing the plot and direction or your NaNo project is a must. Otherwise you'll spend precious minutes (hours,  even!) trying to figure out what you should be writing in that next scene instrad if pounding out those words.

Personally I like to have a outline. It's convenient because when I sit down to write, I don't even have to read over what I wrote the previous day to figure out what I should even be doing. I just glance at my outline and boom, I know what I need to write. You may not need a detailed outline but please, please, know your novel's plot.

Know Your Buddies

A.k.a, characters. Characters often dictate what happens, and if they're boring and have no depth how will you know what the best plot path is for your characters?

Spend some time getting to know them before NaNo starts. Write backstory scenes. Create character sheets. Scour Pinterest for pictures of your charries. Plot out their history on a timeline. Make a fashion sketch of their favorite outfit. Whatever. Just spend some time with them, or they'll leave you in the dark come November.

Know Your Setting

I started out last year not knowing the names of several major places, and let me tell you, nothing jars you out of the writing groove more than the thought, "What is this place again?" I didn't have time to think of a cool city name there, so for the whole manuscript I had to make a note and use the placeholder word town.

Worse than that I didn't know the relationships between my nations. Point is, if you know your setting you won't be stumbling through your novel trying to figure out travel times and place names and nation alliances,  all of which waste time when you're trying to pump out words.

Have the Right Tools

For NaNoWriMo you need to be able to quickly and accurately count your words, which pretty much eliminates the old fashioned notebook and pencil. Work on a computer. The best option, of course, is to have a word processor that will automatically tell you your word count. If you can't get that, though, the next best option is to paste your work into an online counter. EditMinion is the one I know of, and it also points out repeated words, passive voice, misspellings, and other mistakes.

If you've got money to spend, there are some pretty sweet programs out there. Scrivener is the one I've got - it is designed especially for writers. It allows you to easily move chunks of text, organize your work, create an outline, etc. All wrimos get a discount on the software,  and if you wait until after November, winners get an even bigger discount!

Another handy tool is a grammar guide. Keep it handy beside your computer while you write so if you stumble across something you don't know, you've got an answer right next to you. I actually just use my high school English handbook, but use what is handy. I'm sure the internet has a few sites, too.

Also, either get a thesaurus or have an online one bookmarked in your browser. A decent one is www.thesaurus.com, which is what I use. There's also an affiliated online dictionary.

It's helpful to have a personal assistant to make trips to the kitchen for coffee refills, but I don't know how many of us can actually hire one. If you get desperate, recruit your little brother or your cat. I don't know.  

And lastly. . .

Surround Yourself By Things That Inspire

Create your easily-accessible writing haven. Make sure that you'll be distraction free there and then fill it up with things that inspire you to write. If that's a scented candle, keep a box of matches handy. If it's a stack of soundtrack CD's, set yourself up with your CD player (or, ya' know, an mp3 player). String up Christmas lights, stack up your favorite cushy pillows, open the window to let the fall chill in, bring in a box of your favorite novels. 

The bottom line of all these points is convenience. NaNoWriMo is a crazy race against time, and you don't want to be wasting even seconds. So keep what you need and want handy while your write, know what you'll be working with, and you should do great!

I hope you found this inspiring and/or informative! If you're participating in NaNoWriMo let me know what you'll be working on in the comments, and send me a link to your NaNo page!


  1. Lots of good advice here. ^ ^ This is my second time participating and maybe I'll actually win this time lol. I have a basic outline and a basic idea of my characters. I like to pants a little and see what happens. :)

    Stori Tori's Blog

  2. I don't dare pants anymore; it just doesn't work for me. XD But good luck! This is my second time participating too - I enjoyed myself too much last year to stay away from the madness.