November is just around the corner, and for me November means NaNoWriMo! I’ve seen several of my blog friends mention NaNo this year as well, so I though I’d offer some tips I have for NaNo Newbies.
(I may not be a professional writer, but I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for somewhere around 10 years, so I have some experience in how to make it a more enjoyable month.)
(The NaNo team also has some great NaNo-prep tools on their website if you want more ideas, including several prep-work prompts and worksheets.)
1. Start November with something pre-planned.
This doesn’t have to be a full outline (though it certainly can be!), but start with something. Characters, plot points, setting, or all of the above: it’s your choice. But starting with something will make sure that you spend a little less time staring at a blank screen at the beginning of November.
I also like to start character and plot development early so that I can get excited about my story. Shiny new ideas can be great, but I prefer to know more detail so that I have an idea of where my story is starting and where it is going. My most successful years have been the ones where I had a least a basic outline and character sheets ready in October.
2. Don’t try to re-read what you have already written.
The more you review what you have already written, the more you will be tempted to edit it. Editing is not for NaNoWriMo. Editing is for December. Some years, I have started a new Word file for each day specifically so that I wouldn’t be tempted to edit the work I’d done on previous days.
3. Go to your local write-ins.
I have a group of local WriMos who meet up on a regular basis all year round. I join them off and on all year, but I try to go weekly during November. It’s surprising to me how fun NaNo can be as a social event. Also, while the group gossips and socializes during the rest of the year, in November we do word sprints and encourage each other to write.
Some of my most successful days of writing have been at my weekly NaNo Write-In.
If you don’t have a local group, or they meet on a days when you can’t attend, you can find WriMos online who are happy to do word sprints and provide help or encouragement as needed. The official NaNoWriMo website is a great resource for finding others who prefer / need to connect online instead of in person. There are NaNo groups on Twitter, Discord, Facebook… you name it.
4. Plan for a day or two off.
Yes, planning a day off into your schedule means that you will need to write more on the other days. But — at least in the US — November includes Thanksgiving, and I know very few people who can be as productive as normal on a holiday. Even if you’re not celebrating any holidays in November, burnout is a distinct possibility when you’re doing a lot of something that you’re not used to doing. Setting aside a day or two as “days off” can make the days when you are writing that much more productive. (Just make sure that you’re taking a day off, and not procrastinating.)
I always prefer to have a buffer in place before my days off so that even after not writing for a day I’m still ahead of the pace needed to reach my goal.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If you’ve done it before, do you have any tips for NaNo Newbies that I’ve forgotten?