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What I learned my first year of NaNoWriMo

October 27, 2011


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My new favorite holiday National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is almost upon us so in celebration & to further prep and psych myself up for it I’ve decided to compile a list of tips & advice that I learned last year when I did NaNoWriMo for the first time.

But first, what is the purpose of NaNoWriMo? “NaNoWriMo eats writers for breakfast & poops out novels. That’s why we keep coming back.” I text that to my NaNo buddy as we were discussing NaNoWriMo and how excited we were for the upcoming November & I think it sums up NaNoWriMo pretty well. Basically you write 50,000 words in the month of November. That translates to 1,667 original words a day. Soul eating & novel pooping pretty much says it all. But here’s what we learned!!!!

*Stay up late on October 31st. It’s Halloween, you’ll have plenty of sugar rushing through your veins so you’ll be up anyway. And NaNoWriMo starts as soon as that clock hits 12:00 am. Even if you only write 50 words that’s 50 words you won’t have to write when you wake up on November 1st. I swear this isn’t cheating.

*Have a Twitter account. I follow @NaNoWordsprints & @JaneEspenson both of whom run writing sprints which are a lot easier to do when you have other people telling you to do it & people to do them with.

*Sprinting is good for you! Writing sprints are periods of time where you get into writing position (I personally am a huge fan of placing my booty in a chair but if you write better standing rock on my friend), set your timer for the allotted time (5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes are popular times) and just write whatever comes to mind until your time is up. Sprints are awesome because they motivate you to just write whatever comes to your brain & move you out of that spot where you look at your story and go “I have no idea where to go from here.” Sprints are like excercises for your writing brain. The more you sprint the more creative your brain. (Creative is the new skinny.)

*Have a time you routinely like to do your writing. For me & my NaNoWriMo buddy is was in the evening. Sometimes I’d start after I crashed in front of the tv with dinner but often times we’d be texting each other at 1am going ‘need more words but I’m stuck!’

*Have a writing buddy who will post inspirational pictures on your wall when you’re feeling stuck. Or who you can text and be like ‘character A is doing this but I need her to do this so character Z can do this so this will happen.’ Having a backup brain is good.

*Let your characters help you write the story! Ok this one sounds a bit odd so let me explain. My story last year had a romance. I planned it that way. I also had all my characters planned out more or less. The 2 main characters were going to have the romance. Then my heroine (the little flirt) almost had a thing with a secondary character who ended up being even more important (and humorous) then I’d ever imagined. I hadn’t planned the story out this way but I went with what the story was doing (creating a love triangle and giving me a vehicle for some wicked funny one liners) and sure enough it gave the story another layer and actually made it more interesting. I could have forced my characters to behave the way I originally planned but that would have been too much work and it wouldn’t have read as smoothly. Characters & plot are more believable when they feel natural.

*Google! It’s awesome. Want to have characters speak magic spells in another language? Google translate is there as long as you don’t want to use Klingon. That you have to find elsewhere. (Yes I’m such a nerd I did a Klingon/Latin mix. Because I could.) Wikipedia is also good if you want to do research on things you don’t really need to be factually true. One time I needed a couple of characters to have other worldly powers & abilities & another character to do research to try to find out about these characters, but come to the wrong conclusion. So I did some superpower research on Wikipedia to see what research she could across & how I could have her come to the wrong conclusion. Funnest research I ever did.

*Have writing quirks. My quirks stem from my OCD but help me get in the writing zone. I find it really difficult to write without music playing & having a water bottle, lotion & lip gloss in arm’s reach. I don’t know why but it just helps.

*Be aware of days where you might not be able to reach your daily word count or write at all! The early days of NaNoWriMo are the easiest because your plot is fresh & easy so write as much as you can, surpassing 1,667 words a day is awesome & do able. Come week 3 when things get hard you’ll be glad to have those extra words written in case you have to skip a day of writing or worse have writers block and can’t reach your word count for the day. If those things happen you won’t be as far behind if you have extra words from the beginning to save you from falling behind.


*Think it can’t be done!

*Give up!

*Delete what you’ve written.

*Look forward to Dec 1.

*Be afraid to have fun.

If NaNoWriMo doesn’t eat my soul for breakfast I will try to post a round-up post in the beginning of Dec to see if my experience this year is any different from last year. Good luck NaNos! See you in a few minutes and feel free to talk about your NaNo experiences in the comments. 🙂

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011 4:59 am

    These are all such good tips! NaNo is going to kill me slowly, but I know so many people who’re doing it this year that it’s not even bothering me. 🙂

    • November 1, 2011 9:08 am

      My NaNoBuddy & I recruited another friend to join us so we’re having a NaNo party this weekend. This will be either really good or really bad we’re not sure which. Hopefully if NaNoWriMo kills us all its after Dec 1st.

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