The Secret to NaNoWriMo
By CP Bialois
I’m sure most of you know what NaNoWriMo is, but for those that have just heard of it, it’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s a wonderful event that happens every year where writers of all skill sets come together to write 50k in 30 days every November. The best thing about NaNo is meeting other authors and hearing their stories, tips, and tricks for “winning” and writing their novel. Just like any walk of life, each person has a plan or routine they follow that works for them.
For some, it’s staying up on caffeine for four days straight and writing all 50k words in the first week, while others like to stick to the daily word count goal. It’s also the time of year you’ll see advice from everyone on how to prepare, execute, and cross the finish line. All of it is great advice, but typical of my way of thinking, I’m delving deeper.
One of the biggest things you’ll hear or discover about NaNoWriMo is it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Like all things, it helps to come into it prepared, but for some it’s more fun to see what shakes loose as we pants our way through it.
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a pantser. I don’t get along with outlines at all. Personally, I love them and wished I could use them as they’re fantastic tools, but my characters tend to do the talking so it’s easier for me to shut up and write their adventure. The best I’ve managed to follow an outline so far is I once kept one line or idea from a two page outline. What can I say? I love to do things the hard way.
The thing about NaNoWriMo I learned early on is that you can be as prepared as possible and still stumble. While the “official” goal is to write 50k, the underlying goal is to write as much as you can. It’s about creating and establishing the habit of writing every day, or as much as you can depending on what life throws at you. If you finish your book and it’s not 50k, that’s all right. Work on another project if you like. It happened to me last year (or in one of the Camps, I can’t remember which) and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every book is going to be 50, 60, 95, or 115k. it’s just the way it works sometimes.
Remember what I said about stumbling despite being prepared? Sounds a little on the weird side, right? That’s the thing. You need a certain tenacity and dedication to continue writing throughout the challenge.
Here’s where I get all Yoda-ish. I look at the challenge as a battle of attrition. During NaNo, I’ve found it’s best to write every day even if it’s only a few words whether we feel like it or not. It becomes harder and harder after the first week or two for those not used to it. Throw in the countless issues of the real world like pets, jobs, and family and things can look bleak. That’s when the tenacity comes to play. For all my fellow sports nuts out there, think of it as a gut check. Even if it’s only a sentence or paragraph you write, it’s more than you had before, right? Any progress is good, so try to continue pushing as much as you can.
That brings me to another awesome part of NaNoWriMo: The Write-ins. Whether you’re online or have your fellow NaNos near you to meet up, it’s a great opportunity to discuss any problems you may have with your plot or characters. It’s something we all go through at some point and it’s amazing how someone may have an idea that’s so simple it’s freaking awesome and just like that you’re writing away again. I’ve been blessed to have found some of the greatest people through NaNoWriMo that I can’t imagine what my writing career would be like without them.
In the end, NaNoWriMo is about you getting the most out of the experience you can while accomplishing something you though you may never have done. The best advice I can offer is be tenacious and enjoy the ride. Who knows? You may just surprise yourself.