Category: Writing & Editing

Top 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo tips

NaNoWriMo is a mad writing festival that takes place during the month of November, known as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short. During NaNoWriMo authors pledge to write 50,000 words and go to incredible, inspirational lengths to make that happen. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo here. Our author, Ruth Livingstone, who has successfully completed NaNoWriMo a whopping five times, give us the lowdown and tips for success. Over to you, Ruth…

Ruth’s NaNoWriMo Experience

nanowrimoNaNoWriMo is absolutely free and all you have to do is to commit to writing 50,000 words of fiction during the month. That’s 1,667 words a day. If you’ve achieved your 50,000 words by the 30th November, you’re declared a ‘winner’.

NaNo hosts a wonderful website with pep talks, discussion forums, and the chance to meet up in real life with local groups if you wish. It regularly attracts over 300,000 participants from all over the world, but sadly, despite enthusiasm and encouragement, only a fraction of participants manage to finish their 50,000 words. In fact, last year (2015), of the 351,489 people who signed up for NaNo, only 40,423 (that’s 12%) of participants achieved their target.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo five times now and I’ve been a winner five times. That’s a pretty good track record.

How do I manage it?

Well, it takes preparation, determination, and the ability to ignore the rest of the world for a month. Touch typing also helps.

Ruth’s Top 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo

    1. Get a notebook. Label it with the name of your story, and keep it beside your keyboard. You’re going to need it.
    2. Do any research you need in advance. In your notebook, write down notes on characters and locations, and, most importantly, write down a basic outline of your story. It’s a good idea to really get to know your characters inside and out before you start writing. Some people, of course, are natural planners and like to write a detailed synopsis before they start. Others, myself included, are pantsters, which means we like to fly by the seat of our pants and go where the story takes us. Remember, during NaNo, you won’t have time to re-read what you’ve written, scrub out false starts, or turn back from dead ends, so I suggest, whether you’re a planner or a pantster, it’s a good idea to have some idea of the way you’re intending to go. At the minimum, have a starting point and write down some key scenes in your notebook. Better still, have an end point too. Then if you get stuck, just leave a blank space in your document and move on to your next key scene and pick up the story from there.
    3. As you write, jot down any key points about your characters or the plot in your notebook. For example, if your hero was born on the 1stApril 1991 in Scunthorpe, make a note of this. If your heroine has blue eyes and is left-handed, write this down too. You may think you are never going to forget these details, but after 20 days of furious writing, you’ll find many little things will have slipped out of your conscious memory. Rather than scrolling back through pages of eye-blurring text, just look in your notebook for the details you need.

    4. Try to write something new every day, even if it’s just a few hundred words. If you miss a day completely, don’t panic; just make sure you write an extra hundred words on the next few days. Keep going. Don’t give up. Drink coffee. Skip sleep. Keep on typing. If you come to a bit of a block, write an obvious note to yourself in the text so that you can return and insert the section later. Remember, this is your first draft and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Whether you finish your 50,000 words or not, you will certainly need to go back at the end of the month and edit what you have written.
    5. Back up your writing on a daily basis so that you don’t lose your work, and I recommend you use a cloud like Dropbox, which has the added advantage that you can work on your story from any computer with an Internet connection, even when you’re away from home.

And here’s a bonus NaNoWriMo tip: You don’t have to write a novel. You can be a NaNo Rebel. In fact, there’s a special forum on the NaNoWriMo site, just for us non-fiction writers: http://nanowrimo.org/forums/nano-rebels/. For example, I used NaNo 2014 to get down the basic text for my latest book, Walking the English Coast: A Beginner’s Guide. It took another two years to complete the text, edit the manuscript, source images and get it published… but that’s another story.

RUTH-LIVINGSTONE-HEADER

Feeling Inspired?

We hope that Ruth has inspired you to give it a go this year. Now that you’re fired up and ready to tackle this challenge, you are going to need to organise your diary to give yourself time to write. Time management is going to be crucial, so you might find these 5 productivity apps very helpful indeed. Good luck and be sure to let us know how you are getting on by sharing your progress with us on social media. You can do it!

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

5 Best Productivity Apps for NaNoWriMo

Nanowrimo apps

NaNoWriMo: Write 50,000 Words in 1 Month

NaNoWriMo is the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, which describes itself as a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing”. The idea is that on November 1, writers  begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. “Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.”

You may think the concept of writing 50,000 words in just one month is absolutely crazy, but you should see it as a motivating challenge. Even if you don’t manage that many words, having a clear focus will encourage you to be more productive than normal. I’ll wager you’ll write more in November than you did in October by a long shot. Many writers out there will see NaNoWriMo as a bit of a prompt; a reason to clear the diary and knuckle down to business with a supportive community of writers who are doing just the same. It may seem like a challenge too far, but whether you are brand new to writing, hoping to finish a project that you have started work on, or maybe you are just curious as to what you can really produce if you put your mind to it NaNoWriMo can work for you.

The key to writing productivity is… time Management!

Let’s be honest, time-management is a skill few have totally mastered, and that includes a lot writers. Just the thought of sitting down to write something can seem overwhelming. The great thing about NaNoWritMo is you are not alone. All over the world, other writers who are just as nervous as you are sitting down and giving it a go. There is a huge amount of encouragement from fellow writers on social media and real-world meet ups too. Don’t spend any more time procrastinating, spend your time trying to reach your daily word count. Committing to NaNoWriMo is one thing, but making sure you get those words written is another.

People often spend hours just convincing themselves to write something, only to be distracted as soon as they start. If you are not careful you could go from writing your opening chapter to watching 1o1 Most Hilarious Cat Videos on YouTube before you know it (true story). While modern technology has shortened our attention spans phenomenally, it has also provided the tools to help us stay productive. Below are some of our favourite productive apps that can help writers stay focused and get those chapters written this NaNoWriMo.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

Productivity Apps: How We Tested Them

Our team of writers have put all these productivity apps to the test. We have ranked them according to:

Usability:  Sometimes you download a productivity app to help solve a problem and it will it will create another one because it takes so long to work out how to operate it. We tested how easy it was to get up and running.

Time-saved: This is about efficiency – anything that saves you time or makes you more productive in your allotted working hours. As well as looking at how much more our testers were able to get done, we also evaluated the app’s ability to sync with other services like Google Drive and DropBox, and devices.

Productivity Apps: Our Top 5

pomodoro nanowrimo1. Pomodoro Time

Available: Apple, Andriod

Price: Free

Usability: 5/5

Time saved: 4/5

What is it?: Pomodoro Time is a must-have productivity app for writers. The app’s interval method is like mind-marathon that allows you to get the most done, without being burnt out, in the most efficient amount of time.

How does it work?: Writers set the timer for 25 minutes, type till they hear the bell ring, take a 3-5 minute break, and then burst into another 25 minute session. After four completed sets called “Pomodori”, the break interval increases to 15 minutes. Before you know it you would have worked 100 minutes or over an hour and half while only taking a 15 minute break. For many writers the inverse often happens, you’ll be on a “coffee break” for over and hour and only get 15 minutes of work done.

dragon dictation nanowrimo2. Dragon Dictation

Available: Apple, Andriod

Price: Free

Usability: 5/5

Time saved: 4/5

What is it?: Dragon Dictation is a text-to-speech app, or in the literary world it’s A LIFESAVER. So many writers are on the go and the don’t always have access to pen and paper. Not to mention the fact that speaking is a lot quicker than typing, especially on a phone or tablet device. When you’ve got 50,000 words to write, every saved second counts!

How does it work?: Dragon Dictation literally allows you speak things into existence. If you have any ideas for a character, say it. If you working on the setting, say it. In the car and don’t want to text and drive, say it. Dragon Dictation will capture your ideas and transcribe them. It does the work for you. Some dictation software requires you to sound like a robot in order for it to transcribe your words. A simple sentence “I want my character to have brown eyes instead of blue.” turns into “I want my. Character to have. Brown eyes. Instead of blue.” Dragon Dictation captures your natural speaking voice and makes writing as easy as talking.

mindnode nanowrimo3.  Mind Node

Available: Apple

Price: £7.99

Usability: 5/5

Time saved: 3/5

What is it?: Mind Node is a productivity app that appeals to the visual planners. If you enjoyed spider diagrams as a child, then you will enjoy Mind Node.

How does it work?: Brainstorming is such a huge part of the writing process and Mind Node helps to quickly streamline your thoughts by creating a simple and colourful visual display of characters, settings, storylines etc. Each “node” represents a topic, idea or task and each line is like a branch connecting those idea. Planning a story out with Mind Node feels less like a chore and more like opportunity to connect your thoughts.

things nanowrimo4. Things

Price: £7.99

Usability: 5/5

Time saved: 4/5

What is it?: Things is a task management app that not only stores your tasks and projects but helps you to accomplish them.

How does it work?: By setting tasks, reminders, and due dates, Things creates  S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals. SMART goals keep you focussed and makes bigger tasks easier to manage. Things is one of  the most beautifully designed productive apps; it’s clean and simple interface and makes it easy to use straight away.

evernote nanowrimo5. Evernote

Available: Apple, Android

Price: Free

Usability: 4/5

Time saved: 5/5

What is it?: Evernote is a writers-haven; it is the best place to take notes.

How does it work?: Evernote automatically syncs notes to all the devices it’s programmed on. Think of it as a scrap book for text, picture, audio and video that you can take with you everywhere. Unlike other apps where synchronisation requires other Apple products or services, Evernote also works on PCs, Blackberry’s, Firefox and Google Chrome. All of your content is  stored on the cloud. So if you want to write a few pages whilst you’re on a packed commuter train or take a picture of the perfect setting for a scene whilst on your lunch break just “evernote” it and it will be waiting for you on your computer when you get home. Although Evernote isn’t the easiest productive app to use, it does save a lot of time once you’ve found your way around it.

We hope these apps save you time. If you have found any other useful productivity apps or have any other tips for getting the most done in NaNoWriMo, please let us know in the comments box below. Let us know how your NaNoWriMo is going on twitter throughout November. Can we do it? Yes we can!

If you can’t get enough of productivity apps, make sure to visit this post as well!

What is

Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo

Nanowrimo
What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. NaNoWriMo started in 1999 to encourage would-be novelists to just sit down and have a go at writing a novel in a supportive environment (and to encourage those procrastinators to just get on with it). Writers all over the world who are game for the challenge sign up and commit to trying to write 50,000 words in just one month. It may sound impossible, but last year alone, over 300,000 writers signed up to NaNoWriMo. We think it’s an amazing challenge and would encourage all of you to give it a go. Before you run for the hills, let us explain why in our Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo.

Why NaNoWriMo Works

  • You are in it together – never underestimate the power of a community. Writers are expressive, articulate, communicative souls, but conversely, writing can be quite a solitary and insular process – hours spent on your own (in your study/garden shed), tapping out words on a keyboard. It is no surprise that they appreciate the support and encouragement of other writers.
  • You are against the clock – because you know you only have one month to write 50,000 words, you will squeeze in as much as you can each day. Left to our own devices it’s easy to put things off and make excuses, but with such a tight deadline, there is just no room for that.
  • You are motivated & rewarded – you can work towards milestone and personal achievement badges to help keep you on target.

Still don’t think it’s possible to write 50,000 words in one month? In 2014 they surveyed the participants and 86% of respondents said that NaNoWriMo helped them learn what they can accomplish when determined. See what you can do when you put your mind to it.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

1. Sign up. No excuses – if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this properly. Head over to https://nanowrimo.org/sign_up.

2. Schedule your time. Get your diary out and make a plan as to when and where you are going to write. Most writers juggle writing with work and family (E. L. James famously wrote Fifty Shades of Grey on her BlackBerry on the way to work), so settling into a routine will help. Will you get up an hour earlier and write before work? Will you close your office door and furiously write through every lunch break? Can you clear whole days at the weekend to work on your novel? Think about what is going to work best for you. Be honest and realistic – do you work better in the morning or evening? 50,000 words in a month works out at around 12,500 words a week (with a couple of days off). So where are you going to fit these into your week? You may want to cut some of the time you spend socialising with your friends out this month (they’ll understand), but don’t cut all the fun out as you will need some rewards to keep you going, e.g. go for coffee with a friend when you have written your first 5,000 words.

3. Go local. Find your regional NaNo group here: http://nanowrimo.org/regions. In London, there is a lovely NaNo community that gets together for write-ins before work in bakeries, after work at coffee shops, and even hosts weekend sessions in bookshops. The advantage of going to one of these events is that if you are sitting around a table with other people working towards the same goal of writing for 45 mins, then having a break together for 15 mins, then getting back to it, you will be more productive (with the bonus of making some writer friends too). If you can’t venture out, there are virtual write-ins where everyone will knuckle down for a certain amount of time then have a chat then repeat. Top tip: Try to go along to one of your local write-ins early in the month, that way if you like it, there will still be plenty of others you can go along to.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

4. Get to know your characters inside and out. You need a really solid understanding of who you are writing about before you start. This will not only make the writing process easier, but it will also make your writing better – a double win! Many professional writers will spend months building up “bibles” for each character they develop. They might tear out magazine clippings of people who look like their characters, they may take photos of the types of clothes their characters would wear when they are out shopping, they may collect cards from the types of restaurants they think their characters would go to etc. It is kind of like stalking but in reverse. As well as these visual clues, our NaNoWriMo Character Checklist (download below) will help you flesh out your characters (as well as set you up for writing great dialogue and strong descriptions) by asking you in-depth questions about your characters. Putting them in the hot seat and seeing how well you really know what makes them tick before you start will make your characterisation much more believable.

5. Organise your ideas before you start. If you really are going to write a novel in a month then you need to get organised. This doesn’t come naturally to all creatives, but find a method that works for you. By now, you should at least have a shadowy outline of your story in your head. Try to get that down on paper. You might find brainstorming a good way to get started, in which case, a brainstorming app such as MindNode might be useful. If you are more of a list person then Trello is a great tool for building and managing lists and tasks. Or, you may want to use the J. K. Rowling approach and create a big grid for each element of each chapter. Find out more about the J. K. Rowling method here. Having a strong plan before you start writing will enable you to be more productive.

So now you have accepted the challenge, sorted out your diary, looked into local meet ups, got to know your characters really well and organised your story… you are ready for NaNoWriMo! If you have any other tips on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo, please let us know in the comments box below. And don’t forget to let us know how you get on throughout the course of NaNoWriMo by tweeting us @Iamselfpub. Good luck! You might want to check out our blog post: 5 Best Productivity Apps for NaNoWriMo to make writing 50,000 words just a little bit easier.

We’ll leave you with some motivational words from a hero…

 

How to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2