Can you believe it’s nearly November again? And that can only mean one thing: it’s time to ready your computer keyboards for a pounding, because this month everybody’s going to write a novel. That’s right, it’s NaNoWriMo.
In case you didn’t know, NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month) is a global event which happens every November, in which participants have 30 days to write 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 words per day, and the idea is that by the end of it you have a rough draft of a novel. I’ve done it twice before and it is very hard, but the sense of achievement at the end makes it all worth it.
If you fancy giving it a try, you can sign up on the official NaNoWriMo site, where you can track your progress, chat to other writers on the forum and receive daily inspiration and pep talks.
Today, however, I’m going to talk prep. With one week to go until the event kicks off, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to ready yourself, and your story, for the writing process. Well, never fear, because I have 6 tips to help get you off to a flying start!
1. Write every day
NaNoWriMo is an exercise in daily writing, so what’s the harm in getting started a bit early? Starting today, set aside some time every day, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, to write. It can be about anything you like – current events, your personal life, Thor Ragnarok fan fiction – and just get used to the idea of writing every day. That way, when 1st November rolls around, you’ll already be in the habit of daily writing, and you’ll know which time of day works best for you.
2. Work out your writing style
Perhaps you’re a ‘pantser’ (ie: you write by the seat of your pants) who delves into a story without knowing where it will go. Maybe you’re a planner who prefers to know every twist and turn before you get there. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, with a few major plot points in mind but a desire to let your story meander and surprise you. Whatever your style, don’t wait until you’re a week into NaNo to find it out. Use your daily writing from Tip #1 to work out how you write best, and then prep accordingly.
3. Set the tone
Depending on your writing style, you’ll ready yourself for writing in different ways. Are you a detailed planner? Then it’s time to make some notes. Write down a plot outline for your novel (this will include protagonist’s motivation, inciting incident, main plot, resolution, subplots) and chart your story on a plot graph. Are you more of a pantser? There are still things you can do to prepare. Try reading a novel with a similar theme, structure or tone of voice to the one you will be writing and analyse how the writer achieves the things that you will also be trying to do.
4. Get to know your characters
They’re going to be in your head for the next month (or are you going to be in theirs?), so it’s a good idea to get to know them. You don’t have to write any part of your story yet, but you can introduce yourself to your characters in a number of ways. Try brainstorming the main things about them (eg: name, appearance, personality traits, desires, fears, hobbies), then look for any gaps – maybe you know a lot about their job but not what they do in their free time – and fill them in. You could also write interviews with your characters as if you’re meeting them for the first time and having a conversation.
5. Practice point of view
A big stumbling block for early drafts of many novels is using the wrong PoV. Maybe you’re trying to write a story in the third person that desperately needs a first-person “I” narrator, or maybe you’re stuck in one character’s head when there are lots of interesting characters whose eyes you could look through. To solve your PoV problems before they start, think of a key scene in your story and write it from several different perspectives (eg: first person, third person, and the point of view of someone who isn’t your protagonist) and see which is the most powerful or interesting to write. This could give you a clue about how to write the rest of the book.
6. Tell your family and friends
This doesn’t work for everyone, so if you’re the sort of writer who finds public accountability a killer for productivity then by all means ignore this piece of advice. But for the rest of you, it might be helpful to tell those closest to you (ie: those you live with or spend the most time with) that you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo. If you ask them, they’ll probably help to encourage you and keep you on track. Sometimes having a partner or friend ask if you’ve done your words for the day might be just the kick you need to get it done!
NaNoWriMo is tough but extremely rewarding, and with some suitable preparation you can really make things easier for yourself. Good luck to everyone who will be participating this year, and keep checking back here for more NaNo advice and encouragement!
Is your project from last year’s NaNo gathering dust in a drawer? Don’t hide it away! Send it to me for a manuscript review and I can help you take your first draft to the next stage.