It’s almost that time of year again, when people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words in one month for the annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Challenge. Are you doing it? Are you ready?
I’ve done the challenge three times now.
The first time, in 2015, I didn’t “win,” but I still added almost 33,000 words to (what would eventually be) my first novel, 142 Ostriches.
In 2016, after some hemming and hawing, I wrote the first 50,000 words of what will be my second novel. After all that work, I actually put the project aside while I finished up 142 Ostriches, and didn’t come back to it in earnest until 2018.
In 2019, I decided to try something different. I was toying with an idea for Novel 3 and was curious to try writing longhand. I loved it. I wrote all 50,000 words away from my desk, at coffee shops and sandwich shops.
I’m not doing it this year, simply because I’m deep in the final round of edits on my second book. It’s not the right time for me to be focused on word count, but I love the challenge all the same and will be cheering on all the folks out there who are giving it a go.
Why I Love NaNoWriMo
There are two main reasons I love this challenge.
The first is the community that rises up around it every year. There are in person meet-ups, #writingsprints on Twitter (see below for more on #writingsprints), and friends and family cheering you on.
The second is that writing 50,000 words in a month is a challenge that requires us to carve out real time, to make (or re-establish) a serious commitment to our writing.
5 Things I’ve Learned
If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. You don’t have to plan ahead. Even if you generally prefer to outline, you can totally jump in with little planning and just use your 1,667 daily words to explore ideas or write backstory. Or you may find that “pantsing it” (NaNoWriMo slang for flying by the seat of your pants) suits you and a story just flows.
2. Scrivener is super useful (but then again, when is it not?) I wrote a post a few years back titled 4 NaNoWriMo Scrivener Tips. Be sure to check that out.
3. You should tell your friends/family/co-workers that you’re doing it. If you haven’t yet told your community that you’re a writer, this is a perfect opportunity, because you can push the focus onto the challenge (thereby deflecting questions about your own writing) and just say it’s something you want to try, just to see if you can do it. Winning at NaNoWriMo in secret is MUCH harder. So be brave, tell the world you’re a writer.
4. Embrace #writingsprints. As the name implies, a writing sprint is when you set the clock for a certain number of minutes and try to write as many words as you can in that time. You can do this on your own of corse, but it’s also fun do on Twitter (thus, the hashtag). Then, after the 15 minutes (or however long) you post how many words you wrote and others can share too.
5. Prepare for Thanksgiving week. This is the week most people get derailed. Consider your plans. Can you write on Thanksgiving, or will you be drinking and baking? Prepare for lost writing time and you can avoid getting discouraged by falling behind.
Starting today on my Instagram profile, I’ll be posting daily videos on how to succeed at the NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ll be talking about craft, perseverance, and self care (aka – staying sane while you tackle this awesome challenge).
If you have any questions or topics you’d like to know more about, drop them below or shoot them to me via Instagram and I’ll do my best to address them.
And good luck! May your words flow freely through the wild ups and downs of November…