Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 18, 2019

10 Tips To Rock NaNoWriMo

All the magic is at https://nanowrimo.org/

NaNoWriMo, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is National Novel Writing Month, where hundreds of thousands of writers gather to bang out many many words in a month. Many writers skip it and many writers treat it as a yearly pilgrimage to Writing Mecca.

NaNoWriMo is my birthday present to myself each year. Every year, I love it. And every year, I hate it...there's simply too much to do in the tiny little month of November. Why isn't it in January? There's nothing going on then.

I tend to arrive at December 1st a little bit out of breath. And still, I love NaNo.

I love the community, the late-night writing sprints, the before and after parties my local team throws. I love the write-ins, the pep talks, the excitement and uploading my word count. I adore getting the chance to encourage my peeps and watch everyone chase their goals.

Whether you're gearing up for NaNoWriMo or not, I wish you luck in your writing goals this month.

If you're feeling the push to "Go 50K or Bust" you are going to love browsing the new website at https://nanowrimo.org/ . They have totally upped their game over there!

The pep talks are still there, under Writer's Resources in the main menu, but there is also a "NaNo Prep" section that is amazeballs. It is like a mini-NaNoWriMo online class.

Seriously. They now have a NaNo Prep Handbook. Yowza! (Where was that thing 10 years ago when I started?)

So far I've spotted:

  • Targeted forum discussions with a schedule. Although we missed most of that, you can still go browse the threads.

The Course Outline

  1. Develop a Story Idea (September 9-13)
  2. Create Complex Characters (September 16-20)
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (September 23-27)
  4. Build a Strong World (September 30 – October 4)
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 7-11)
  6. Find and Manage Your Time (October 14-18)

And my favorite...an infographic on "caring for a NaNoWriMo writer" - found here.

I told you. Upped. Their. Game. Even if you don't do NaNo, I recommend that NaNo Prep 101 page. The only thing I miss on the new site is the old "Writing Sprints Timer." So far, I haven't found those but I've sent in a Help Desk question. Here's a list of Word Sprint tools...even though the NaNo one doesn't work anymore. *sob*

But let's not forget about those tips, for all of you who love lists.

Behold...the NaNo Team's "Tips for Successful WriMos"

1. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. (Yes, you can laugh at that.)

2. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it.

3. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

4. Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output.

5. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t.

6. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

7. Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month.

8. Seriously. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

9. There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through.

Above are the NaNo team's words. They have them squinched together into just a few tips, but I spread it out. All this wisdom needs to be heard. (There's years of writing pep talks here.)

Now, for #10, which comes to you from the always-awesome Chuck Wendig.

10. Two-for-one on writing advice - Write and Finish.

Writing requires writing.
Writing requires finishing.

That advice is harder than it looks. As always, I love the way he puts it:

"It helps to look at your NaNoWriMo novel as the zero draft — it has a beginning, it has an ending, it has a whole lot of something in the middle. The puzzle pieces are all on the table and, at the very least, you’ve got an image starting to come together (“is that a dolphin riding side-saddle on a mechanical warhorse through a hail of lasers?”).

"But the zero draft isn’t done cooking. A proper first draft awaits. A first draft that will see more meat slapped onto those exposed bones, taking your word count into more realistic territory."

Now, before I jump down to visit with y'all in the comments, I'd like to address the dreaded phenomenon of the Week Two Wall in the NaNo challenge.

This is that spooky time when the initial endorphins have faded and the grind of the 1,667 words-a-day writing schedule sets in. When the shiny has worn right off our fabulous idea. Words like "can't," "shouldn't," and "haven't" begin to rear their ugly heads. 

We all hate those words, whether we're doing a writing challenge or not. So before NaNo starts, I'd like to chat about what I consider to be a NaNo "win":

  • Your very best = a NaNo win
  • Achieving your goal numbers = a NaNo win (ex: my goal this month is 30K, not 50K)
  • Finishing a project = a NaNo win
  • Forming amazing writing habits = a NaNo win

I think people get twitchy about some things that don't matter during the month of November. You've seen this fabulous cartoon from InkyGirl, right?

NaNo should be fun.

The only word count that matters is YOURS. So, go forth and write your story. Enjoy the hell out of it...that's what NaNoWriMo is all about.

Do you participate in writing challenges? Do you do NaNoWriMo? For my WriMo pals, what do you do in advance of November to get ready?

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About Jenny Hansen

Margie Lawson took this pic!

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

17 comments on “10 Tips To Rock NaNoWriMo”

  1. I haven’t made it to the finish line in at least 4 years because of other deadlines and family stuff. This year I’m using NaNo as a way to launch a change in the genre I’m writing in. Can’t wait to get started! Good luck to all!

    1. That's a fantastic use of NaNo! I love using it as a way to add excitement into a project that is new, or stalled or unfamiliar in some way. It seems to always jumpstart things.

      My NaNo name is "jennyhansen" if you want to reach out.

  2. Yay, Jenny! Great post! I signed up this year for NaNo with shaking fingers and quaking heart. I've been doing the NaNo prep on a new urban fantasy romance for a month and a half. I'm all ready except for the coffee and a mallet. Thinking about getting a Keurig for coffee in a flash and the mallet to knock out my inner editor. You're right about that second week. I did NaNo years ago and hit the wall. This year I'm going to power through with the help of writing buddies. We can do this!

    1. No need to shake or quake! NaNo is FUN. I'm planning to make it into Patch for some writing time. NaNoWriMo will push me to do what I've wanted to do for a while. It's a win-win. 🙂

  3. I have done NaNoWriMo most of the last seven years - some even as 50k wins. But I admit to a couple being rewrites - like this year which will be a revamp of 2018's win. NaNo is one way I keep writing.

    1. Nothing wrong with some re-writes, Roland! One year, I started from scratch on an existing novel and NaNo worked wonders on keeping my butt in the chair. That's what it's all about, right?

  4. I tried it (and finished) one year, but the NaNo process goes SO against my own writing process that I haven't done it since. The closest I'll come is to up my daily word count quota a bit to see if I can get the WIP done faster, but I'm set in my ways, and they're not the ways of #NaNo.

    1. But you know what works for you, Terry, which is what most people battle for. I love the idea of upping your wordcount as an extra challenge. Good for you!

  5. I nano every year but I have never made it due to work. I am rebeling it this year though and using it to get my current WIP either finished with its zero draft OR at least another 50k. So its 50k more or The End for me this year.

    1. Good for you, Avery!! I'm using it to finish a book myself. I've done all the preliminary work, but many scenes are on the list to be written. I'm so freaking excited!

      And with all my years of NaNo-ing, I've only won once. And I don't even care, because the process is so fun.

  6. I signed up. Again. But, getting back on the site wasn't as easy with the reconfiguration. Still trying to figure out the new site.


    1. I agree about the site, Denise. It's prettier but there are at least three things I used to love that I simply cannot find any more. I super miss that writing sprint timer!

  7. Outlining again today. I have rough outline of 15 chapters give or take 3. Ive left room in the middle to stall out so tonight im working on plot fillers for the middle. I am writing a novella 50k.

    Scrivener, check
    Food, menu and frozen selections, check
    Writing places, check
    Visiting writing meetups, i have three planned.
    Library time planned, check
    Still need to break out my chapters a bit. I like to have my characters names at least.

    Getting ready

    Year number 5ish

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