NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is a writer’s challenge in which, during the month of November, participants aim to write 50,000 words of a novel. This equates to approximately 1,667 words a day for 30 days.
Cactus SPIKE! Did you say 1,667 words a day?
Yes. Yes I did.
That might seem like a lot, but with the right mindset, effort, and time, pretty much anybody can do it.
I don’t believe you.
Any Converse-wearing wannabe can throw down effort and time, but what is this “right mindset” you speak of?
The fast pace of Nanowrimo is designed to be a push for all of us, but especially for us hardcore edit-as-we-go types. What I mean by the right mindset is the witting knowledge that this is your first draft: it doesn’t matter how messy, haphazard, or even downright reckless it is. The important thing now is to get the story out. Edit later.
Say it with me now: Write now. Edit later.
In fact, for the month of November, say goodbye to your delete key.
What! No! But I love my delete key!
Tough cheese. In my experience, succeeding in Nanowrimo means granting yourself permission to tell a story and tell it poorly (because you will improve it later*).
Here’s a suggestion for those that really struggle with turning off the internal editor.
Step 1: Think of three adorable animals.
Step 2: Draw minute versions of said animals on tiny scraps of paper.
Step 3: Attach/tape one tiny animal picture (let’s say a baby seal, a baby panda, and a kitten) to each of the following computer keys: INS, DEL, and BACKSPACE.
Step 4: EVERY TIME YOU PRESS INS, DEL, OR BACKSPACE A FAIRY [baby seal, panda, kitten, etc.] DIES
A less dramatic idea is to write with the screen brightness all the way down or using a tool such as Write or Die, which discourages distraction, procrastination and editing with negative reinforcement.
A completely drama-free but arguably difficult approach is to simply be disciplined and not let yourself edit.
Uh, okay…But why was there an asterisk in that last bit?
You can always go back and improve something you’ve written…provided that you save it first! (See the First Rule of Writing: Back It Up.) And be sure to save your Nano writing, like any document you care about, in more than one location! Use zip drives. Email the latest versions to yourself. Dropbox and other save folders that update automatically are especially useful. That way, if anything happens to your computer you’ll be covered.
Save often, and always save in more than one place!
Any other resources I should know about?
Nanowrimo.org is the official website for Nanowrimo and offers cool tools for tracking your progress, prize incentives, and forums for connecting with other writers taking the challenge. Many cities also have local chapters, and if you sign up with Nanowrimo you may be able to find gatherings in your local neighborhood.
There are many other resources out there to help you plan, organize, and write your novel, but the most rudimentary and really the only necessary one is a writing implement.
Other Nano basics?
Share your experience in the comments below! What Nano survival advice would you give to those just starting out? What resources would you recommend?