November approaches. My stomach flutters at the thought. I am anxious to celebrate National Novel Writing Month again. I first joined the party last year (2010). In less than thirty days, I composed my first draft of Fake Jake, a romantic comedy about a bachelor pretending to be a marriage counselor for all the wrong reasons.
Soon I will have Jake published for e-readers. (I force myself to take slow deep breaths, because it’s hard to type and dance at the same time.)
What is NaNoWriMo, besides a silly nickname for November? It’s a movement to get every writer on Earth (the other planets aren’t invited, yet) to produce a novel in one month. Participants start by going to www.nanowrimo.org and registering. The site doesn’t charge participants, but encourages donations.
Once registered, you can fill in profile information and learn all the rules and details. The most important rule is that you cannot begin your novel until November 1, and you must upload 50,000 words by November 30.
Being part of NaNo (as the cool kids say) empowered me more than any other writing experience in my life. I discovered that my mind held entire stories, not just a few random but interesting ideas. I learned that when I set concrete goals for myself, and include a plan to make it happen, I could accomplish nearly anything. Mom always said I could, but she’s prejudiced.
I encourage every writer I know to participate in NaNo. You won’t believe the complete sense of accomplishment you’ll uncover within yourself.
So how do you get started? I put together a few tips that I’ll be following:
- Go online and register. The new site should be up October 10, 2011.
- Get an outline (or whatever you use) ready. You don’t have to have everything fleshed out, but you should have a solid direction for your story.
- Get your writing space cleaned and organized. Face it; we tend to procrastinate. Don’t give yourself excuses or you’ll sabotage your work.
- Be prepared to write every day. To meet your goal, you will need to write at least 1725 words a day. (That allows you to take Thanksgiving Day off, if you like.) It translates into about seven pages per day. Sometime during October, take a day or two to write 1500 to 1800 words. (NOT your novel, anything else) Time yourself, and then schedule approximately that same amount of time for every day in November.
- Prepare your family and friends for your writing. Let them know how important this project is to you, and ask for their support. I discovered that when I asked my husband and sons to take over some of my daily chores, they did. Wow!
- Make some character profiles on index cards, and include “photos” for easy reference. Cast your story like a movie. Clip pictures from magazines. Being able to “see” them in your mind not only helps with description, but also makes
dialog easier. Keep these cards nearby for easy reference while you write.
- Do any necessary research in October, and keep your notes handy, too. I put together a loose-leaf binder that holds everything I need.
- If you have time, make yourself a mock-up of cover art. Allow it to inspire you. You can do the same for “soundtrack” music, if your mind thrives on song.
- Keep yourself healthy. Stock up on nutritious snacks—no junk food. Drink plenty of water. Get a little exercise every day. Take a walk in the brisk autumn air to get the blood circulating to your brain. You’ll feel better, and be a more
efficient problem-solver. Keep this up through November, too!
- Check your area to see if there is a NaNo Municipal Liaison nearby. There may be fundraisers or scheduled activities or parties to keep you motivated.
- Get friends involved, too. On the NaNo site, you can connect to writing buddies and rally each other toward your common goal. You might even find yourself competing with one another. Hmmm…
- Count down to November 1, and then get started!
Don’t worry about if your story is good enough. If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough. I’ll tell you a secret. NaNo novels are terrific for getting that first draft out of your head, but I would NEVER put my first draft of anything into publication. I want my audience to see my best, most polished product. I think they deserve that.
On the NaNo site, you will upload your novel to verify word count, but nobody else reads your work, so there’s no pressure to be Fitzgerald or Austen right out of the gate. If you hit that 50,000-word mark by November 30, you are a winner. WhooHoo!
What if you don’t reach the goal? Relax, the NaNo police do not break your door down and drag you away to literary prison. You won’t receive a sentence for eighteen months of Hemmingway.
What you will receive is experience, and a savory taste of the writer’s life. You will grow and find yourself better equipped for next year’s writing adventure.