“There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.” – Barbara Kingsolver, author.
This quote is certainly true when it comes to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which kicks off again on November 1st.
I took part for the first time last year… and I’ve just about recovered. I’m kidding, sort of.
There is no doubt that writing 50,000 words in 31 days fried my brain (and it was probably January before I even attempted anything creative again) but when I re-read it I actually quite liked what I had written – although it is not a novel by any stretch of the imagination.
Mind you, I didn’t do myself any favours having signed up (it’s free) almost at the last minute with no plan, hardly any prep (unless you call designing a front cover prep *shakes head at my own stupidity*) and a non-sleeping two-year-old as my support crew.
Having said all that I do think every struggling writer (and maybe even some non-struggling ones) should try it once – and if you are going to do it, my advice would be give yourself the best chance by starting your prep now, if you haven’t done so already.
I’m no expert, of course, but here are five things that would have helped me:
PLAN: You might not be able to start writing until November 1st, according to the rules, but you can certainly start planning – and now is the time. I’m not saying you need a chapter by chapter outline (although that would be amazing) but at least an idea of what you’re going to write and where it’s going would be a help.
DON’T EDIT: Once you start writing there is no time to go back and edit – or at least I didn’t have time. Most people are doing it as an extra to their day jobs, which leaves maybe a couple of hours each day to knock out 1600 (ish) words. So you just need to KEEP WRITING. Because I hadn’t taken my own advice and planned, I ended up writing scenes, which didn’t entirely fit together but which could be worked in later.
GET SOCIAL: I joined local Nano-ers, if that’s the correct term, via Facebook and it was great to hear how they were getting on/not getting on and offer help and support. There were also write ins (or meet ups) throughout the month and, if Freya had been a bit older and sleeping better, I would certainly have tried to get along.
MOTIVATE: My motivation was obviously the fact that I wanted to see if I could write a novel in a month. When that soon wore off, I needed a couple of other little rewards to keep me going. Be it chocolate, wine or a trip out, I would give myself a little treat after a set number of words.
BE REALISTIC: It might be called novel writing month but what you end up with is nowhere near a novel – or at least mine wasn’t. But if you’ve managed to write 50,000 words in at least some sort of order then you’ve made a great start, in my opinion.
I’d been nowhere near that word count before – in fact, I’d never written beyond three chapters. So, for me, NaNo was more about showing myself that I had the stamina to write that number of words, even if they weren’t all very good ones. It felt like I had opened a previously locked door so from that respect it was really worth it.
Are you taking part this year? Good luck if so.