NOTE: If your looking for my entry in Brenda Drake's Cliffhanger Blogfest, click here.
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an event put on every year by The Office of Letters and Light and is, as defined on the webpage: A fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo the last four years in a row and, while I have met the goal every year, it has often been with little time to spare. Here are some of the things I’ve learned and a few other tips for your NaNo experience.
NaNo and Vacations:
Don’t go on a cruise. Believe me when I say that spending the last day of November sitting in your state room trying to crank out the last several thousand words before midnight while anchored outside of Kona is not really that fun. It is also quite expensive to upload your word count using a computer in the ships internet café. I repeat – Do NOT go on a cruise.
On the other hand, I can honestly say that sitting on a lanai outside of your rental house in Kauai in the early morning while listening to the ocean is truly inspiring. Renting a house on a tropical island is certainly a NaNo win in my book.
Selecting your NaNo project:
Don’t select a genre or subject that you won’t enjoy writing. Probably my hardest year (coinciding with the cruise) was the year I decided to write a true to life story. I actually hate writing true to life. My biggest problem is that I have already been there and I feel like I’m rehashing old news when I could be creating new worlds. This is a personal hang up for me and therefore a bad choice of subjects when I’m trying to crank out words at a high rate of speed.
Don’t jump into it with nothing but a cool character (cool location, cool premise, etc.). Sure, you can get through, but if you have only one element of your story, odds are, the result will be a rambling mess. I found myself becoming stuck a lot and struggling with the desire to go back and rewrite sections so that I could get out of the corners I was writing myself into. Very frustrating process saved only by that lovely lanai in Kauai.
Do work on a sequel. I know they say you shouldn’t waste time writing a sequel unless you have interest in the first book, but this worked beautifully for me. I already knew the characters very well and was excited about taking them further. I knew what they wanted, what they had working against them, and how to get them to their resolutions. This was the easiest NaNo for me so far.
Do pre-plot your novel. To be honest, I am guessing on this one. This year I have been detailing out the book I intend to write and doing research on it for several months. I now know the main conflict, the major characters, and a lot about the genre I’m writing in. I know how it starts and ends and what happens to get it from one to the other as well as a number of ideas for interesting sub-plots. I don’t know how well this approach will work yet, but I am feeling pretty relaxed going into this year’s NaNo. That alone is worth it.
A note on Thanksgiving:
This inconvenient holiday falls in the late part of November, about the time that you are either into smooth sailing or complete panic. If you have a family that insists on gathering in this sensitive time, your best bet is to encourage heavy eating by everyone else in the hopes that they will fall into a post-meal stupor. The key to this method is ensuring that you don’t overindulge and are alert enough to crank out a few thousand words while everyone else is on the couch with full bellies and glazed eyes. Alternatively, you can spike their drinks, but this only works with adult crowds and can lead to strange plot twists if you spike the wrong drink.
The most important thing to remember about NaNo is that it should be fun. It will be challenging, but that is what makes it fun. You are there to challenge yourself and, above all, to write. It isn’t intended to frazzle your nerves, bake your brain, and send you to years of rehab. Just write, and enjoy the adventure.