NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is held in November and the point is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. During the summer, they have Camp NaNo which is the same thing just in the summer 😛 This year they have it in both April and July. Now, for my writing group, those two months don’t work for us so we’re having “Rebel Camp NaNo” in June. While the rest of the world is doing Camp NaNo April, we’re starting our prep work. Since some of the people in our group have never done NaNo before, I thought I would write up a few pieces of advice to, hopefully, help them along the way. I am sure I could write more on the topic but these will do for now:
1. Don’t try and write completely from scratch. I know that’s “one of the rules”, as it were, but I’ve seen the people who go in on the first with nothing (like, just a basic idea and that’s it) and expect to finish. Unless you’re a very skilled writer, or one who just cares about their word count and could give a crap less about the story, than this is not going to work out well. Take the time to prep, and prep a lot, so that you don’t have to deal with getting stuck on new plot points or character development. Sure, it can come up, but the more prepared you are, the more writing you will actually get done.
2. Know your limits. If you know you can’t write more than 800 words in one sitting without going stir-crazy than don’t force yourself to do 1667 all at once. The more comfortable you make your writing time the faster your word count will rise and the better your writing will be. Also, if you know you have trouble with writing long scenes than be sure to plan things out in detail before hand so you don’t have to keep stopping and going “ok, what next?” Personally, I am good with dilemma and internal dialogue, not so great with action and romance… so you know what I do? I save any action/romance scenes for the days I have lots of writing time. If I try to write those scenes when I only have, say, 2 hours all day to write, I end up stressing more and writing less. I can blow throw internal dialogue so doing that on days when I have less time helps me keep my word count where it’s supposed to be. So learn your own strengths and weaknesses.
3. Don’t be so focused on the word count that your story suffers. You need to remember to give yourself time to imagine, time to think. If you just keep stressing over word count and don’t allow yourself a few moments to imagine what happens next in the story or moments to play with scenes/characters than you’re going to hit writer’s block after writer’s block and your word count is going to do nothing but suffer. I always like to take 10 minutes or so before I start a new scene to just reflect on what has happened and what is going to happen next. It can help reinvigorate you as well as clear your mind for new ideas.
4. Don’t not sleep. One of the comments I see a lot on the official NaNo boards is about how busy people’s lives are and so they stay up late or don’t sleep to get their word count in… which is almost always followed by how crappy their word count actually is. This is not only bad for your health, but your word count as well. If your life is so super duper busy that you can’t manage a couple hours of writing a day (or however many you need to do 1667 words) than you probably shouldn’t have agreed to do NaNo in the first place. One should never sacrifice sleep for something as arbitrary as this. Trying to force yourself to write when your tired is never a good thing. Go to bed, wake up in 6-8 hours, and start fresh – you’ll get a lot more done!
5. Remember, it’s ok to not win. I find people focus way to much on the “competition” aspect of NaNo rather than on the writing part. You’re not racing anyone, you don’t get some grand prize at the end… it’s just meant to show yourself that you can do it. Who cares what so-and-so’s word count is – it’s not about them. Who cares if your not right on track – you don’t have to do 1667 every day all month if you don’t work that way, write 2,000 one day and 300 the next if you want. The point is, just write, and do it at your own pace and your own comfort level. If you hit 50,000 that’s great, if you don’t? You still have plenty to be proud of!
6. Remember your NaNo doesn’t have to be a completed, ready to publish novel on the 30th. The point is just to write. Doesn’t matter if things don’t quite make sense right now or if there are no transitions… just get the words out. On my NaNo I jumped ahead quite often and wrote random scenes because that’s what I felt like working on at the time; you do not have to go in order! Lots of people pad their word count with is doing things like adding song lyrics, flashbacks, or not using contractions but I say don’t go overboard with that if you do decide to do so. My view is, what’s the point of celebrating 50,000 words when you’re just going to delete 40% of it once NaNo is over? Write however the words choose to flow out of you and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to reach 1667 words a day.