NaNoWriMo for the Uninitiated

Now that October’s here, many people are waiting eagerly for November. While some scramble to finish up any works in progress, others try to outline their brand new story ideas down to the last detail, or else try to come up with a plot before the first of November. Why? Because NaNoWriMo.

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, here’s a brief intro:

NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is a writing event during which people from all over the world attempt to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s impossible, some of you might say, but I’ve seen people write more than 900,000 words!

Still, it’s not an easy process. I’ve participated in NaNo four times and each one felt harder than the next. My winning streak broke last year, but I’m determined to start a new one this year. I’ve managed to pick up a few things though, which I would like to share with you.

  • Don’t take the fun out of it. Treating writing like something you have to do will make it seem like a chore and you might tire of it pretty quickly. That happened to me once. I was so focused on the idea of winning that I ultimately burned myself out two days before the end of NaNo.
  • Get yourself a buddy. Try to connect with other people who will be attempting NaNo. Watching their progress and rising word counts will motivate you to write as well!
  • Plan for your 1,667 daily words only. In order to finish on time, you’re required to write a minimum of 1,667 words per day. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? When you sit down to write, only look forward to that number. Setting higher numbers might make you anxious about not being able to make it.
  • Write with others. One thing my fiancé and I do is time ourselves. We agree to write for a specific time slot then compare word counts at the end. It’s really helpful to know you’re not doing this alone.
  • Don’ t look back. I mean it. Don’t even think about going back to the previous pages and correcting anything. Not only will you lose time, but you will also lose momentum. Just keep going. There will be time for editing later.
  • Use word tricks. If you’re short on time and would really like to increase your word count, there are several tricks to be used, including writing numbers in word  form and expanding all contractions.
  • Take advantage of NaNoPlaMo (or October). Personally I don’t like to plan my stories, but I know many people do. Use October to your benefit and plan your novel ahead of time. It will prove helpful in the long run!

While it is true that 50,000 words is a pretty  small number when it comes to standard word counts, they still form a huge chunk of your novel… a chunk that might’ve taken you several months to write if it weren’t for NaNo. And don’t forget the prizes! I plan to take full advantage of my CreateSpace discount this year.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Do you have a battle plan? Would you like to be my buddy? =D


39 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo for the Uninitiated

  1. This will be my first year for NaNoWriMo! I would love to be your buddy if that’s okay? I love your suggestions, Thanks!

  2. I’ve been sitting on the fence, but today I think I finally made up my mind. I’m not going to participate. I’m ready to start on my book right now, and if I hop to it, I might be able to have it done in time for a near-Christmas release – and the book has a Christmas setting. But I know you’ll do great, Zen! You have determination. 🙂

    1. Well you know, you could start now and continue during NaNo. There’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t continue a novel as long as your new word count equals 50,000 words. =D And thank you for your faith in me! I hope I succeed!

      1. I didn’t know that. I thought people made preparations and had ideas ready to start at the beginning when the word “go” was sounded. 🙂 Thanks for a little more information, Zen.

        1. Not necessarily. =D During the last two years I just continued my novels. While I did lose last year, I did manage to crank out an additional 50k words for my WIP in 2010. You’re welcome! I hope you’ll participate. It’d be fun!

  3. I am so excited about this. I am looking forward to many hours at Starbucks and just typing away. I am leaving the country and won’t be able to write as of the 26 so I do have to do more words a day but I will do the math and stick to that amount. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Is this your first time? Either way, good luck! I don’t think you’d have to write a lot more words per day, so you should be fine. =D

      1. Yes this is my first. I figured it out to be 2000 words, not too shabby. I have a story idea that I am brainfully working out. Trying to glean all the advice I can get pre nano 🙂

        1. That’s not bad at all! One other advice I have… try to think of alternative routes for your story, because you never know when you might get to a point where you decide, “This is not working. I need to change my direction.”

  4. I told myself that I would participate this year. I just learned about it last year but wasn’t able to participate. I have a WIP that I would like to continue, and participating in NaNoWriMo might just be the motivation I need to get in a routine.

    1. It really is motivating. I’m planning to start a new novel this year, but I did continue a WIP in 2010 and managed to get a good chunk of it done. =D If you do participate, add me as a buddy!

    1. It is definitely better to participate in this when you don’t have a million things on your plate, otherwise it just gets too stressful!

  5. Thanks for these tips! I’ve heard about NaNoWriMo for a few years now, but this is my first time trying it. Nervous but I think this will be a great way to get myself to write instead of feeling like I have nothing for a story. I have nothing until I try. I’ve been thinking of story ideas and think I have a character and settings. I’m hoping the story arch will come as I write, though I have ideas of where to go now.

    Also, I would love to be your writing buddy.

    1. You’re welcome, and I added you as a buddy! You’re right; it doesn’t hurt until you give it a shot, and in all the excitement of NaNo, you’ll feel that the words will flow even if you don’t have any specific arch or plot in mind. Good luck! =D

  6. I love this article! I didn’t know about next month. I am so going to take up that challenge. Guess I better finish up the draft of the short I am writing right now. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you like it! =D And yes, it would be better if you didn’t have anything in the works when starting NaNo so you wouldn’t end up being distracted.

  7. Solid tips for NaNo. I managed to squeak by the 50,000 mark last year after a big miss in 2010. I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate this year, but the closer it gets, the more I get the desire to.

    1. It was the opposite for me. I barely managed to get to 50k in 2010, but I failed miserably last year. There’s just something about NaNo you can’t resist! If you do join, feel free to add me. =D

  8. Awesome points of advice! NaNoWriMo is my favorite time to write, because I feel like I have a good excuse to just plow through words and not look back. XD Though I am behind on my planning. D;

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