Monday, October 26, 2009

Tips and Tricks for a Successful NaNoWriMo

Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

Can you believe it is a little over 24 hours before NaNoWriMo starts. I am stoked this year. I have two wins under my belt and ready for another.

It's only 30 days, but it can be a frustrating 30 days as I have found. First of all November is a short month, and it has Thanksgiving and Black Friday--two days where I am totally worthless when it comes to writing.

Here are my tips and tricks for completing NaNoWriMo.

1. Start with an outline, idea or basic premise. Don't wait until zero hour on November 1st to start thinking about what you want to write. The only given with NaNo is that you cannot start writing the novel until November 1st, but you can outline and do character sketches to your heart's content.

2. Have a beginning, middle and end in mind. You may not make it to the end before you use up your 50,000 words, but at least know what the end is. How can you get there if you don't know where you're going?

3. Turn off your internal editor. This really goes without saying, but I'll say it again. Shove your internal editor in the drawer along with copious amounts of chocolate. Let yourself write crap. You can clean it up later when you aren't on deadline. So you miss a comma or split an infinitive. Who cares? Get the story down and worry about cleaning it up later. Focus on the big picture, not the little details.

4. Draw up a schedule. You have to write roughly 1666 words a day in order to reach 50,000 by November 30th. If you know you're going to be cooking the turkey on Thanksgiving and have 50 belligerent relatives coming over, chances are you aren't going to be writing 1666 words that day, so spread them out across other days. Plan for it and then spend turkey day with your family. I have an Excel spreadsheet. I know I'm obsessive-compulsive, get over it. I set a daily goal for the entire month and then track it each day. If I lag behind, then I smack myself around and catch up.

5. Front load your schedule. You're going to be fresher in the early days in NaNo than you are coming down the home stretch. If you can write 1800 or 200o words a day the first couple of days or the first week, you'll be ahead when you start to feel like your dragging. Or if you are employed (some of us aren't) then plan to write extra words on your days off. I always plan to take Thanksgiving and Black Friday off, so I divide those 3332 words up and write them in the beginning of the month.

6. Do not allow yourself to get behind. Some days it's hard enough to come up with 1666 words, but if you get behind, especially in the waning days of NaNoWriMo, it is almost impossible to keep up your momentum. That's where the schedule comes in handy.

7. Get a Writing Buddy. It helps to have someone encourage you through the event. Misery loves company, right? So get a writing buddy and track your progress with each other. Don't get bogged down in emails and drivel, just check in periodically and give each other a kind word of encouragement.

8. Log on to NaNoWriMo. Speaking of support, NaNoWriMo provides it. Whatever you want. They have forums of every sort, cool widgets to take your progress, buddy lists, encouraging pep talks, word count tracker, Municipal Liaisons who organize and support local write-ins. You name it they got it. So go check it out. And while you're there, consider making a donation to help keep the site up and running. (Thanks NaNoWriMo for all you do.)

9. Use a timer. Raid the kitchen junk drawer, and get out that timer you never use. Or download a timer from Harmony Hollow Software. Set the time for one hour and write non-stop. If you need to take a pit-stop or caffeine break, stop the timer, do you business, then come right back and start the timer. No fair sitting in the bathroom until the timer goes off. Once you finish your hour, set the timer for 10 minutes and take a break. Get up and leave your writing space. Grab a coke, stretch your legs, deep breath, put the laundry in the dryer--whatever. When your ten minutes is up, set the timer for another hour and continue. Repeat with 10 minutes breaks until you've written your daily goal.

10. Don't give up the fun stuff. Are you addicted to email, Facebook, Farmtown, or any one of a number of online distractions. Use them as rewards. When your hour timer goes off and you get your 10 minute break, use it to check your email or play a quick game. But when your break is over, go back to work. NO EXCEPTIONS!

11. Reward yourself. Once you've written your daily goal, do something fun. Kick back and relax, take a bath (you know you need one), go for a walk, call a friend, eat a healthy snack.

12. Backup your work frequently. You do not want to lose even one single word you've written during NaNoWriMo, so back your work up onto a flashdrive, an external drive or whatever means you have to backup your documents. Don't just back it up on the PC or laptop you're using. Make sure to have an external source. During NaNoWriMo, I back up my to 2 flash drives and if I leave the house, I take one of them with me. Paranoid, I know. but it saves having to re-create a file that you've slaved over.

13. Select writing music. I have several mixes I use to write with, depending on my mood and the type of scene I am writing. If you haven't tried writing with music, give it a try. If it's distracting you can always ditch it, or change up the tunes.

14. Don't be afraid to lock the door and turn off the phone. Most non-writers do not understand the the need we writers have to dive into such a project. Heck, some writers don't even understand it. Send an email prior to NaNoWriMo and tell your friends you love them, but you want them to leave you the hell alone until December 1. I would say do this to your immediately family, but you live with them and may have to depend on them to slide your meals under the door or toss in clean underwear periodically.

15. Emerge periodically from your office. You need sunshine so you don't get rickets or scurvy or whatever that horrible disease was that sailors use to get from lack of sunshine. At the very least eat an orange now and then.

16. Finally, and foremost, remember why you are doing this. Can't help you here. I have my own reasons and they probably differ from yours, so insert yours here________________________________________________________.

Go forth and have fun. See you at the finish line.


P.S. Come back here often and cheer me on. I'll have a little counter shortly so you can see my progress.


K9friend said...

Thanks for the tips, Tricia! This will be my first NaNo and I'm both excited and scared. I plan to write hot and heavy (I hope) at the beginning.

The forums have been helpful and I particularly identified with the idea of writing "sprints", i.e. 500 words at the beginning of each hour, then a break, etc.

Good luck!

Ashley said...

Aw, now I wish I was doing it! It sounds like fun, albeit strange and sadistic fun. Next year, I promise!!
You go, girl!

Writer Chick said...

K9, I like the writing sprints, too.
Best of luck with NaNo. It's fun, refreshing, crazy and all kinds of frustrating.

See you on the NaNo buddy list.

Writer Chick said...

Ashley, I'm holding you to it. Get that premise and plot outline ready, and be prepared to read my garbage... Actually after I put the one you just read to bed, and after NaNo, I'm going to drag out last year's NaNo survivor and start editing it.