I’ve made my decision – I’m trying NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year! This time around, I’m prepping more than I did before. This is my 9th year competing and while I’ve only reached 50,000 words twice, I’ve learned much from my successes and failures. I’m confident that, if I follow the steps I’ve laid out below, I will reach my writing goal for 2018!
1. Utilizing NaNo’s prep materials
I’ve been active on the NaNoWriMo forums for years. They are an excellent resource for inspiration, pep talks, and dealing with plot holes and other troubles. I’m also fortunate that my city has a fairly lively regional forum that hosts regular write-ins and parties. Keeping involved with the community helps me keep my goals in mind, no matter how busy I am throughout November.
One thing I’ve never previously utilized is the NaNo Prep section. I’ve watched some of their webcasts this month, which have been very inspiring. They also have some great guests posts in this section that provide advice on world-building, character development, and how to get through one’s messy first draft.
2. Developing a writing schedule
Many famous writers have late night or early morning writing routines. When I read about them, I am envious of their consistency. It’s not that I don’t think I could achieve that level of discipline, but I haven’t had a consistent work schedule in over 4 years. Some days of the week, I have to wake up at 5 AM; others, I work until 8 or 9 at night. Sometimes I’ll have a 10-hour Saturday at work, but then I’ll have a surprise Wednesday totally off.
Since it is pretty much impossible for me to pick a specific time to write daily, I am taking a hard look at my November calendar on Google and inputting my writing times now. I know how many words I am capable of writing per hour, but my mindset varies a lot during the week. If I can catch these patterns and write during my optimal free times, I believe that I’ll be less likely to fail.
3. Getting familiar with my story
Last year, I tried to be a “plantser” – something between a planner and pantser. I hoped that the lack of restriction would increase my creativity. It did, but then I lost total interest almost immediately into writing. The plot was intended to be something fun and silly – a distraction from my daily life. However, because it was just something silly to me, it didn’t carry any meaning. It was also too late for me to try outlining a whole new novel that I’d care about.
This year, I’ve decided to write a story that is still fun, but something that I’m passionate about. There are very few restrictions as to what can happen in the world that I’ve created, but I still have a basic chapter-by-chapter outline with a skeleton plot. I’ve also written summaries on my main characters’ motivations and weaknesses that I’ll be able to go back to whenever I feel lost.
Because I’m familiarizing myself with the world I’m creating – and because I’m taking it seriously – it should be easier for me to finish my draft.
4. Developing my own rewards and accountability guidelines
I enjoy rewarding myself – who doesn’t? In years past, I’ve celebrated hitting NaNoWriMo goals by treating myself to Murakami books, cases of craft beer, and cute new boots. These incentives are good, but only as long as I don’t make exceptions for myself. No books, beer, or boots if I don’t hit my goal!
This year, I am setting two reward goal posts for myself: one at 25,000 words and one at 50,000. My wallet is quite small at the moment, so these rewards will probably be Salted Caramel Mocha Frappucinos from Starbucks. I’ve also given set myself some accountability guidelines. The first was to share my intention to complete NaNo this year – which I have on Facebook, Twitter, and now on this blog! The next are to attend write-ins and to log my progress in weekly posts, which I intend to share on this blog.
5. Reducing outside distractions
November is a busy month for many people in the U.S. because it’s the beginning of the holiday season. While I don’t have any significant holiday plans, I am hosting/attending a couple important events. This was unavoidable, though I did try to schedule as few things in November as possible.
I’ve also told many people that I will not be available much during the month, setting the expectation for myself and others that I’ll be busy writing. I’m an avid attendee of local shows and open mics, but will be taking a hiatus from the scene. I typically spend 4+ hours at an open mic, which is 4+ hours that I could be using to write!
It is important that I reduce distractions so that I can meet the task at hand. I can go to a open mic or a bar anytime, but I can only write a novel with the support of thousands of people once a year.