I know it’s only September but if you’re even considering doing National Novel Writing Month this year, then it’s time to start thinking! If you plan to smash through NaNoWriMo then it can only help to read the advice of some seasoned veterans of previous Novembers…
Hannah N. Richter
‘I’m Hannah Richter. I write mostly fantasy but dabble in more macabre genres as well. I self-published my first novella in 2017. When I’m not writing I enjoy drawing and painting, playing video games, and listening to movie and game scores. I also make custom maps for my fellow authors’ story worlds, which are available through my Etsy shop.’
I’ll be honest, I’ve never completed NaNo in November. In fact, I’ve never even come close, but I’ve still gained tremendous insight by participating. My first tip: Pace yourself. This is key to avoiding burnout later and falling into the hare mindset. You want to be the tortoise here. Whether you get ahead or not, a steady pace sets a good tone for the entire month. Second: Remember to be kind to yourself, no matter your goal. You can’t write anything if you push yourself into oblivion. Hydrate, sleep, and feed yourself well. Take breaks. You are not a machine. Your body and your sanity will thank you for it when December rolls around. Lastly, and most important: NaNoWriMo is not built for everyone. If you find that you just can’t do it, that’s okay. While it’s disappointing not to win – especially when it seems like everyone around you is – it’s far more important to hold onto your love for writing. The passion to write is the author’s greatest asset. Hold tight to it. I pushed myself way too hard during my first attempt and it put me off writing anything for nearly a year. And with that, a bonus tip: HAVE FUN!
I’m not planning to officially participate this year, but I will be continuing to outline my fantasy trilogy, and will be brainstorming and building on several other open projects across the fantasy and thriller genres.
‘A teenager who has written two books, finds inspiration in music and Pinterest, and dreads the editing phase.’
Here are a few things I wish I had known in my first NaNo:
Don’t push (and stress) yourself to write. Writing should be something you do because you love doing it. One thing is to treat writing as a job and be responsible, and it’s another thing to force yourself to fill that empty page when your mind’s tired or to feel frustrated because you didn’t write today. Your health comes first. Family comes first. And the only way you can make it work is…
Scheduling the time you’re going to write. There’s no such thing as writing ‘by inspiration.’ Not if you want to write 1,666 words every day for thirty days. I was a disaster in my first NaNo. Sometimes I’d write in the evenings, other times in the mornings. Sometimes I wouldn’t write at all. The key is to know thyself: How many words can you get in an hour? What about two hours? Set aside that time of your day to write and only to write.
And remember, have fun! Reward yourself when you achieve something (doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing)! Share with other NaNoers and make some new writer friends! Finding your tribe is the best feeling ever. You could even find your future CP!
Also, if you simply keep going, you’ll get better and better every time. Trust me.
‘Yolandie Horak can often be found typing away at the computer or nibbling at the end of a paintbrush. When not writing or making art, she spends her time cuddling her daughter and husband, reading, fangirling, or gaming. She resides in Canada, but misses the melktert and koeksisters she frequently ate in her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. Her novel A Study of Ash & Smoke is out now. She has been a passionate blogger since the dawn of time, and updates her blog twice per week with art tutorials, her thoughts on writing, book reviews and experiences as an immigrant.’
I attempted Nanowrimo in 2015. I’d accomplished writing more than fifty thousand words in a single month previously, so I believed I could easily do it again.
Boy, was I wrong.
It must be said that I went into it with more stress than usual, since my family had just immigrated and we were still dealing with the tumultuous emotions associated with something life changing. Having said that, the daily word count and looming month-end deadline made my life miserable.
In the past, I’d written at my own speed, and took breaks when I needed them. I had moments to ponder the plot, rethink, and revise. It worked for me. During Nano, I felt that missing a single day would wreck my chances of making it to the end. I had to write something, even if it sucked, just to reach the daily word goal.
So, as you can imagine, it broke my speed, confidence and concentration when I eventually failed reaching a daily word goal. I struggled to get back into it for days after that, a little more every time it happened. At the end of Nanowrimo, I’d managed thirty-five thousand words. Not too bad, but I couldn’t use anything I’d written and I eventually deleted the file.
The experience taught me that all writers work differently, and that the very thing motivating one of us, can wreck another. Deadlines don’t work for me, though many of my writerly friends flourish when they must achieve a certain goal by a certain day. I believe knowing our own weaknesses and strengths help us perform better, so I’m glad I tried Nano at least once.
Who knows, maybe I’ll try it again someday and see if my writing style has changed. For now though, I’ll stick to what I know works.
You can find Yolandie’s awesome site here
And me finally…
Guys I will tell you something… NaNoWriMo is flipping hard. I mean like really really, slogging your guts out and still not quite doing enough, hard. I can’t give you a fail safe system that will ensure you win NaNo every time, it doesn’t work like that. I can however, give you a couple of tips to get closer to that goal…
Get your prep done. Don’t come into the game on the 1st of November with no actionable plan in place, ’cause you’ll fall flat on your face. Break down exactly what you expect to write about, the character’s growth, the plot points you are going to cover. Heck go crazy and plot out everything that you’re going to write from when your MC smiles on page 79, to a spurned love interest in the final climax. Get it all out of your brain and down onto paper BEFORE you start November. It’ll help with those brain freezes when you can’t think what should come next. NaNoWriMo isn’t about feeling your way through as you go… it’s about writing as much as you can in 30 days, you can’t do that without a clear plan in mind.
Contradictory to the last tip… don’t get all up in your own head if the words aren’t coming out quite like the plan intended. The plan is there to keep you moving on when you’re not quite feeling that spark. If when you’re writing, everything changes as it sometimes happens because your characters have minds of their own, then that is fine!! Absolutely fine! Go with it. Let the characters lead you if that’s what they’re trying to do. Only use the plan as a starting point for each session or as a guide to help pull you along and meet those word counts. Things change, it’s how we roll with those changes that determines whether we’ll still succeed or not.
As for this November I’m going to be pushing myself to the limit with my new novel Close to Earth. When November rolls around The Bloody Maiden edits will be complete [fingers crossed] and CtE will have my full attention. I plan on cracking down on those daily word counts and getting that 50K in the bag ASAP.
What are your goals for NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know in the comments, I want to know all about your projects!