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
NaNoWriMo 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
- Get a notebook. Label it with the name of your story, and keep it beside your keyboard. You’re going to need it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!