Next month I’m doing National Novel Writing Month. I’m not a published fiction author, but I am pretty good at getting things done. I did NaNoWriMo in 2017 and applied some distinctions to make sure I finished.
I actually finished days early and had written over 80,000 words on the novel in 2 months. Let me share with you the 5 distinctions for NaNoWriMo.
I have a lot of opinions on how to write a novel. Ideas on planning vs not planning. Character development. Sentence construction.
But I’m not an expert on those things. I’ve never actually published a work of fiction. So anything I would tell you about those things you’d need to take with a healthy grain of salt.
I have published a how to programming book. I’ve published numerous articles on computer programming topics, and I’ve written DFL scripts every week or over a year now. I’ve got lots of tips on how to get writing done and those are what I’m going to share today.
But first, let’s get clear on what NaNoWriMo is. The idea behind National Novel Writing Month is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. The organization NaNoWriMo is a non-profit dedicated to helping people accomplish this and more.
So our goal is clearly defined, write 50,000 words on a novel between November 1 and November 30. 1,666 words per day if you write every day.
Now we could have some arguments here about semantics. 50K is a pretty short novel. In reality this is probably a first draft and not a finished novel. But that’s how we’re defining our goal.
It gives us a clear definition of done. If we just started writing and stopped when we thought we had a novel, well we might be done in days, or never have a chance to get done in 30 days.
Wrimos – the term used for people who do Nano – call October Prep-tober. They use Prep- tober to get ready, so when November first comes around all they have to do is write.
Here are my five things to do in Prep-tober:
1 – Set-up your writing tools.
How are you going to actually write your novel? Where will the words go? Are you going to use a word processor? A special novel writing piece of software? Or going old school and hand write it?
Get those things set up and familiarize yourself with how they work if you don’t already know. I use Scrivener, which is a specialized piece of software for writing books and screenplays.
It is like a word processor, but with a lot more features. When I did Nano in 2017, I’d never used Scrivener before, so I had to not only download and install it but get a feel for how to use it.
For me, the best way to do that was to actually set up my novel’s structure in it and write some stuff in it during October. You don’t want to set down November 1 with an hour to write and discover it will take you 20 minutes to get your fountain pen working. That is time you could be writing.
By the way, Scrivener is cool and they have a special discount for Wrimos.
2 – Get your NaNoWriMo Account Set-up
NaNoWriMo is more than a challenge, it is a community. You should set up an account on their website, which will give you a number of tools. It’s free and only take a few minutes.
It will give you a word tracker you an update daily. As you do you will win badges, have fancy charts of your progress and more. You can embed a progress bar on your website. Share it to social media.
The NaNoWriMo site also helps you connect with other people doing nano. More on that in a minute.
Ok, now that your tools are ready, you need a plan.
3 – Plan and block out time.
Habits are the key to winning NaNoWriMo. You don’t win by sitting down on November 29 and writing 50,000 words. You win by sitting down every day and writing over 1,666 words.
Now is the time to figure out when you are going to write. Personally I like to start my day with my most important things. But you may be a night owl and prefer to percolate on your story all day and crank out the words at night. There are no wrong answers to win, but you should decided now when that is going to be.
Once you decided when you are going to write, add an appointment to your calendar. If someone asks you in November to go to a meeting at that time, you can look at your calendar and say, “I’ve got an appointment then, when else are you available.”
While you’ve got your calendar out, look and see if there are any days you know you aren’t going to be able to write. Maybe you will be driving all day around Thanksgiving and can’t write that day.
If you aren’t going to be able to write on a day, change you daily word goal appropriately.
One more thing about time planning. Do you know how long it takes you to write 1,666 words? Or 2,000 which is normally my goal because I like round numbers? Maybe in
October sit down a couple of times during your plan writing time and crank out some words. Find out how long it takes.
Alright, you have your tools set up. You have your time planned out.
Let’s work on the Why. There is a whole video on the power of Why in my goal setting series you might want to check out. But let’s talk about a strategy I used.
4 – Create a Reward for Winning.
It is a little funny that Wrimos don’t talk about finishing, they talk about winning. You are going to finish National Novel Writing Month. November is going to end. But you only win if you write 50,000 words.
NaNoWriMo will give you a PDF certificate that says you won if you complete 50,000 words in your word tracker, but for me that wasn’t enough. I needed more of a prize for winning.
There is a T-shirt you can order from NaNoWriMo that says you are a winner. Maybe that will be your reward. Maybe it will be buying a full license of Scrivener.
Or getting that new writing computer you’ve wanted but didn’t buy. That’s what I did. I said I’d buy a new laptop when I finished in 2017.
This motivated me to finish early because I wanted a specific refurbished MacBook Pro at my local BestBuy. I was traveling for Thanksgiving, so if I didn’t hit 50K before I left, I wouldn’t be able to get it till I got home.
I’m don’t like to wait, so I cranked out some 3,000+ word days to get to 50K early. Give yourself a reward to work toward.
Well, we’ve done all the internal things we can do at this point. Now it is time to:
5 – Find companions for the journey.
A core value of NaNoWriMo is you don’t have to do it alone. There are other people out there who are doing this too, and we can support each other in a variety of ways.
– Get accountability.
Tell your friends and family you are going to do NaNoWriMo. Even if they aren’t writers, telling them you are doing this will put more pressure on you to follow through.
– Find other writers and write together
You may have local writing buddies or you may not. NaNoWriMo will help you find Wrimos. In the past there were often organized meet-ups to write.
Wrimos in a particular city would set a time and meet at a library or coffee shop to write. They each be writing their own novel, but they’d do it in a place together.
That may still work in the midst of the pandemic depending on where you live, but there are other virtual ways of doing the same thing. The NaNoWriMo website will help you make these connections.
Do all of this and you’ll be ready to launch and power through the whole month of November.
Question of the Day: Are you doing NaNoWriMo?