NaNoWriMo Tips

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Image Credit: N Engineer
Image Credit: N Engineer

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you hopefully have an idea by now of what your novel is going to be about. If not, you may struggle a bit at the beginning getting going, but maybe the writers here at GeekMom and GeekDad can help!

NaNoWriMo. For the unaware, that stands for National Novel Writer’s Month. There’s a website—nanowrimo.org—where you sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Yep, now. The idea is that the only way to write a novel is to write the novel. It’s free to sign up, you can buddy up with folks and get encouraging emails along the way, and come December 1st, you’ve got a first draft (or at least 50,000 words of a first draft) of your next novel.

  1. Before you begin, look at the calendar, and figure out how many days you’re going to be able to write. If you’re taking Thanksgiving off, or Black Friday, or any other days, be sure you’re accounting for the number of words you need to complete every other day to make up for it.
  2. Calculate your daily word count. If you write every day, you’ll need to complete 1,667 words each day to hit 50k words by November 30. I tend to aim higher, and like to calculate to finish at least three days early, so I have buffer time to account for when things go wrong (which they inevitably do).
  3. According to Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, authors of Your First Novel,

    When you prepare to write, you need to satisfy your left brain’s desire for organization, correctness, and good old-fashioned work ethic. When your left brain is given more than half the control, though, it becomes judgmental and starts calling your right brain an undisciplined dreamer, doomed to failure. You want to keep your left brain in line, but you don’t want to kill it. (12-13)

    What this translates to is that you need to set a timer, something that will make a sound and let you know when your time is up so your left brain can relax and shut up long enough for your creativity to burst forth. Otherwise, as you approach your writing deadline, you’re going to lose concentration as you keep glancing at the clock.

  4. Get to know your characters. During times when you’re not supposed to be actively writing, or when you’re stuck because you’re not sure what your characters will do, interview them. Ask them these four question, in any chapter, and about the story as a whole:
    1. What do you want?
    2. Why now?
    3. What’s standing in your way?
    4. What are you willing to do to get what you want?
  5. Still regarding characters, really get to know the characters. Some people make scrapbooks, cutting pictures out from ads or magazines of what their characters would look like, wear, eat. I create Pinterest boards. I have one for my first novel that has pictures of the actors and actresses who would play the roles in the movie version. If I’m writing in a particular character’s POV and get stuck, I like to walk around, adopt a posture, figure out a mannerism he/she might have and repeating that until I feel connected to the character. Find an accessory—a scarf, hat, broach, pebble that is always in the pocket—that the character clings to, and wear it to get into their skin.
  6. Plan ahead. You can outline your whole novel ahead of time if you’re so inclined, or you can enjoy the journey that the month will take you on. But one way to maximize your writing time—and make sure the first ten to fifteen minutes aren’t spent in a panic figuring out what to write about—spend a little time at the end of each writing session writing out a writing prompt for the next day. When your timer rings, and you’re done for the day, you will surely still have thoughts in your head and wish you could go on writing. Use that energy to leave a note for yourself about what needs to happen next. Not a full paragraph, not a thorough description. Just enough to remind yourself of the questions that have come up and where you—in your zone—know what you need to write.

Now, here are some great tips from other GeekMoms and GeekDads.

GeekMom Jenny Bristol offers these tips to get your daily writing in:

  • Do it before anyone else wakes up.
  • Do it before you open social media, browsers, or email.
  • Get up an hour earlier each day to fit in the writing time.
  • Try to take extra minutes here and there to write a little extra. Even 5 minutes a day between tasks can add up to more words.

GeekDad Ryan Hiller suggests that you “Front load… write as much as you can in the beginning!”

GeekMom Jena Burne suggests:

  • Don’t erase. If you can’t stand to see it, change the font to white and move on.
  • Do the writing sprints on Twitter.
  • Make the font tiny so you can’t see it well enough to go back and edit immediately.

There you have it. What tips have helped you (and can thus hopefully help us!)? Comment below.

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