Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Doing NaNo? Start Now!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is less than a month away. 50,000 words in 30 days -- a great way to start a novel, especially if you've never finished one before. But it can be stressful, too. 1,667 words a day may not seem like much, but if you just pick up a notebook or laptop and start writing without much thought, it can quickly become overwhelming. My suggestion to those new to NaNo is to start early. No, I don't mean start writing early. That would be cheating. No words written before November 1st count. But you can be ready so that those words flow easily and freely without interruption.

  • Outline: Even as a self-proclaimed pantser (or thonger, as I like to call myself), I like to have a basic outline with some generic scenes. It gives me a direction to head in when I get stuck. I outlined my outline process here. I'm starting to research my subject now and taking plenty of notes so that I don't have to do so while I'm writing. I'm using Evernote to keep track of everything and keep it organized in a semi-cohesive manner.
  • Set aside time to write. In order to stick to the commitment of writing 50,000 words in a month, you'll need to set aside time every day to write. Ink it into your schedule and treat it like an appointment. Barring distractions, 1667 words usually takes about an hour and a half to write. Figure out the most productive time for you, and block that time out. 
  • Limit distractions: If at all possible, find someplace quiet and free from distractions to do your writing. If you're using a computer, close all other windows aside from your word processing program and unplug the interweb (I promise you can plug it back in once you reached your daily goal). I use Write or Die to keep me moving. I posted some tips on how to use it effectively over at Marcy Kennedy's blog.
  • Turn off the inner (and outer) editor. If you're using a regular word processing program that has spellcheck and the like, turn it off. I can't stress this enough. That little red squiggle will draw your eye and force your brain out of its creative mode. Even if you try to ignore it and keep writing, it will be there, taunting you, calling to you, begging to be fixed until you stop the flow of words and tend to it. It's also important that you turn off your inner editor. No going back to edit the previous day's work; no stopping to fix things several sentences back if it will take more than a few seconds to do so. Editing and writing are different processes. Become the writer and let the editor take a nap.
  • Prepare for the inevitable. Let's face it. It's impossible to have a month of total peace and quiet. Things come up and get in the way. Not to mention that for Americans like me, Thanksgiving falls smack dab in the last week of NaNo. The pilgrims have the worst timing ever, I swear (kidding, kidding. I'm pretty sure the pilgrims were here before NaNo was founded, so I get they got dibs on November). If you find yourself with extra time, use it to boost your word count. Or if you know you'll have a day where you won't be able to write, make up for it before it arrives, rather than after. I personally like a day off a week, so I up my daily goal so I don't get behind. 
  • Have fun. NaNo isn't meant to drive us insane and make us feel miserable if we can't reach that 50,000 goal. It really is a tough feat. How many people do you know that say "I'd like to write a book"? Quite a few, right? How many of them actually write that book? Even if you don't make that ultimate goal, you're still making a sizable dent in becoming one of the few people who actually succeeds in writing a novel. Don't be disappointed if you can't accomplish it all in a month. Keep plugging away at it and enjoy the process to its fullest. 
Are you doing NaNo this year? Have you done NaNo in the past? What tips do you have for new NaNoers and returning writers? 

Next Monday, The Seven Keys of Alaesha, my YA fantasy, will be released! You can pre-order a copy and sign up to win one of seven specially designed bookmarks over here. Good luck!

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