For those who haven’t heard, November is National Novel Writing Month, often abbreviated to NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo. Each November, people around the world choose to participate in 30 days of literary abandon and write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo started in 1999 with 21 friends who wanted to write novels. It has since expanded into an international event with hundreds of thousand participants and is run as a non-profit.
I first participated in NaNo in 2007. I not only met my goal of 50,000 words (“winning” NaNo) but I also emerged with a decent story and an amazing experience. Being a writer is not talking about writing, it is not about reading, but it is about the act of writing. Setting goals motivates me to actually write. I look forward to NaNo each year, and even though I haven’t participated consecutively, I always root for the participants.
If you want to write a novel “one day” then that day is coming soon: November 1st, 2012. And I’ve got the resources to help you meet the 50,000 word goal!
1. Write, just write, and don’t stop writing: “Literary abandon” is an apt phrase because in order to pen 1,667 words each day in November you must abandon the notion of writing a perfect first draft, phrase, or even sentence. Editing is your enemy this month and it is vital to dismiss the committee in the head which judges your every word. You can edit later (although I still quite haven’t figured out how to do so) and your committee will be ready when that time comes. Until then, write.
2. Plan Ahead: Don’t write the novel that you’ve been writing in your head for 10 years because it won’t come out perfectly and you’ll want to give up. Instead, write something new and prepare to be amazed at your creativity. Still it helps to do some planning. This can be as simple as selecting a genre or as complicated as writing a plot synopsis, character bios, and doodling a map of your fantasy world on Jupiter’s moons or the floor plan of 20-something Sophie McAllister’s living room. A little bit of planning can go a long way but you also don’t want to over-think your story and get sick of it before November 1st.
3. “No Plot? No Problem!” In this book Chris Baty shares his method to tackling NaNo when you have no clue what you are going to write. It includes helpful tips and exercises which will help you survive November with 50,000 plus glorious (and crappy) words written by you! I don’t think I would have made it through my first NaNo without this book as a guide. Remember – NaNo is not about plot. It’s about writing and writing and writing so you have a first draft which you can then craft into the perfect plot.
4. Stuck on Names? Nothing kills my writing buzz more than when I’m searching for the perfect name to describe how moody and mysterious this guy is. You know, the one guy who broods in the corner, has a five o’clock shadow and needs a haircut (which of course makes him ruggedly handsome), and is slightly sarcastic and rude to your other characters. That guy. I like Name Thingy for its selection of unusual monikers, and it’s an easy way to select character – or place – name for any genre. Now Quickfoot Thrildor can brood mysteriously all throughout November.
Fake Name Generator includes addresses, occupations, and even mother’s maiden name for a randomly selected identity, just make sure to credit this website. And hey, a credit page will add to your word count! This list of common surnames is helpful in selecting a last name for characters. You can filter alphabetically if you must have that character’s name begin with “Z” or based on ethnicity or zip code from US and Canada census data.
5. Back Up Your Work! I would hope I wouldn’t have to say this but it is important. Back up your work daily. You’ll be thankful you did when the cat throws up on your laptop and fries the hard drive. (Yes…this happened to me.)
6. Procrastinate: Breaks are healthy and can jump-start the creative process when you’re feeling stuck. Visit the NaNoWriMo forums to connect with other Wrimos (NaNo participants) to discuss writing tips, prompts, and life during NaNo. Join your regional forum to find local coffee shops holding write-ins – opportunities to meet with other Wrimos and write together near a friendly caffeine dispensary. Add me as a writing buddy and I’ll discuss at length why I switched to using the Oxford comma. When you’re feeling inspired again, check @NaNoWordSprints on twitter for word count races with other participants.
Will you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? If you’re just starting out, congratulations! It’ll be 30 crazy days but it’ll be extremely rewarding. If you’ve participated before what are your tips for winning? Share your writing tips and resources in the comments.