It’s nearly time for NaNoWriMo to begin! Much like last year, I’ve decided to compete this year despite the overwhelming work load I have. I’ve been doing it so long that it’s started to feel like a tradition. I started doing NaNoWriMo when I was probably around sixteen; I signed up for the Young Writer’s version, where you can set your own word count goal. I set a goal of 35,000 and achieved it, so I was massively overconfident the following year. I’ve since won twice: once in 2011, and again last year. Somehow, on top of my dissertation, assignments, and weekly hand-ins for my Creative Writing module, I managed to write the full 50,000 words.
This year I just have a 2000 word conference paper, which I have to present, and another presentation, accompanied by a 2000 word report. So no pressure.
All joking aside, I think perhaps the key to my success last year was that I didn’t think of the daily 1667 words as a chore, I thought of them as fun. Especially when I had to produce writing that actual people would actually read and discuss. It was nice to have some writing going on that was just for me. Given that it’s nearly here, I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve picked up in my numerous attempts at achieving the full 50,000. I’ll post updates every week on how I’m faring, and how I’ve managed to keep up (provided, of course, that I actually do manage to keep up). With that in mind, here are a couple of tips for what to do before you get started.
- You should have some kind of story you want to tell. I don’t mean you need to plan it. I never actually plan what I’m going to write – in fact, the one time I did plan the entire story, I had to give up because I got bored of writing it. So far I know my novel is going to be about wizards and science. That’s literally all I have. As far as I’m concerned, not knowing exactly where your story’s going keeps it interesting for you. You have to come back to this story every single day for the next 30 days, you need to like it, but you also need to be interested in it.
- NAMES. Open up Word, or grab a notebook, hit up a baby naming website (nymbler and nameberry are my personal favourites, if you’re interested) and write down literally every single name you like the sound of. Nothing stops your flow like not having a name to hand. Even if you know the exact names of all of your main characters, you’re definitely going to find yourself in a situation where you need a name for a shopkeep, or a waiter, or someone’s pet dog, etc. You might never use any of the names, but trust me, they’re handy to have.
- You don’t need to write chronologically. Maybe you’re writing some romance into your story, and you’ve spent a lot of time in the build-up, but you’d really like to get to the smooching. DO IT. You can fill in all the other stuff later. NaNoWriMo’s really about the words, which means that it’s a really good excuse to just have fun. If you’re struggling, then don’t worry about continuing the story, write whatever you’re in the mood for.
- Use your time effectively. That sounds mean, but there will be times where you will not have time to write, or you’re exhausted, or you’re fighting off a cold—there’ll be some reason for not writing, so you need to plan for that. If you’re feeling inspired, write more than you have to. For instance, I used to write double the word count on some of my days off if one of my other days in the week was going to be super busy. I’d still write on the busy days, but I didn’t feel panicked if I only managed 200 words.
- IT’S FUN. It seems like the most stressful thing in the world, but it’s best to just see it as fun. If you’re stressed out, then writing is a really great release. This is why I think it’s so important to be excited about your story—you’re the only person reading this, so have fun. Write whatever the hell you want.
- You really don’t have to listen to my advice. If it helps, then that’s great! But it’s your novel, so you don’t have to listen to what anyone else has to say. You do you, and I’ll relentlessly write NaNoWriMo posts into the void.
If any of you are doing NaNoWriMo this year, here’s my account so we can be writing buddies! I’ve done NaNoWriMo solo quite a few times, but writing with others is much more fun.