Welcome to NaNoWriMo

Hallowe’en is over, and NaNoWriMo has started. We’re a few days in now, and if you’re anything like me, you’re still running on the adrenaline of the first few days. I feel like people tend to fall into three categories at this stage of NaNo.

 

I call them the Bonfires, the Stargazers and the Headlight Rabbits. This may be because I’m not a very nice person.

 

The Bonfires are going great at the moment. They’ve met or exceeded wordcount every day so far this month, and they’re flying high on accomplishment and adrenaline. The first week of NaNo is the best time for these people, when all the motivation from planning all October and getting excited with their friends right up until midnight on November 1st is carrying them forward.
Of course, the danger here is that bonfires require a lot of fuel. You need a lot of time and a lot of motivation to keep that kind of pace up for a whole month, and Bonfires might find themselves running out. Some Bonfires plan for this – they know they’ll be running hot for the first week, so they make sure to get well ahead. This way they have wiggle room, space for a few slow days when they finally burn down and things start to get harder.
If you’re a Bonfire this NaNo, I wish you the best.  Keeping your momentum is hard, but if you can do it, you’re all set.

 

The Stargazers are not doing quite so well at this point in time. They might have had things to do, so they’ve missed a few days, or they might have gotten off to a rocky start. Beginnings might not be their strong suit. But the Stargazer isn’t particularly worried about this. Actually, the Stargazer is confident that they have the whole month left, nearly, so there’s plenty of time to make up the difference.

The obvious pitfall is that a month keeps feeling like a long time right up until the last week, and it’s easy to keep putting off the catch-up until the wordcount you need to make up is huge and daunting. I call this group Stargazers because when you’re looking up at the stars, it’s very easy to accidentally step somewhere you shouldn’t.
If you’re a Stargazer this NaNo, I wish you the best. Remember to schedule in your catch-up early, even if it feels like you have more than enough time. And remember how you managed to feel this calm when it gets to week 4. You might need a little extra calm then.

 

Finally, the Headlight Bunnies. They are also behind on their wordcount, for whatever reason, but they already feel daunted by the amount of catching up they need to do. Maybe their November is pretty busy so they know they don’t have time to schedule a big block of writing time, or maybe they’re writing slower than they thought, and 1,667 words a day is looking completely unattainable. Like a bunny staring in panic at approaching headlights, they’ve frozen up in the face of NaNo’s approaching deadline.

There’s really not much that’s good about this approach. This is mostly pitfall right now. Panicking means freezing up which means you get further behind, which means you panic more.
If you’re a Headlight Bunny this NaNo, I wish you the best. Take some time out, calm down, remind yourself that there are no consequences for failure, and just do what you can. You still have a whole month, and all you need is one really good writing day to make it all feel a bit less daunting.

 

To everyone who’s participating in NaNo, you will always be able to do more than you think you can. If you’ve ever written a whole essay in a last-minute panic before, you know that you can churn out at least 1500 words in the space of 24 hours. It’s physically possible. Now all you need to do is find the way to make it happen without the deadline panic. Remember to breathe, remember to go vent your frustrations on the forum of your choice. My social media is going to be stress relief through sarcasm for the next month, and I’m always happy to commiserate with people in the comments. Sleep is important, so is food.
Now go and keep writing! You’re only just starting, so buckle in and have fun with it!

 

A Challenge for NaNoWriMo

It’s not long now. Regardless of whether we’re ready or not, NaNoWriMo is less than a week away. It might be a bit late – you might already have your project, novel or otherwise, all planned out.

But for those who still have room to sneak in a little extra planning time before NaNo, here’s a challenge from me to you.

 

This year, for NaNo, I challenge you to do something you’ve never done before.

 

The good thing about NaNoWriMo is that it’s relatively self-contained. Thirty days and that’s all you get. It’s great for testing out new ways of doing things, because it doesn’t feel like it has to be forever. Your brain is better at trying new things if it doesn’t feel like the change has to be permanent.

 

This year, I’m trying a new outlining technique, and I’ve got my worldbuilding notes in a different format. You can pick whatever you like – something as dramatic as writing from a different POV than usual (for example, first person if you usually write in third), or trying to write in the mornings instead of the evenings. Or it can be as simple as trying to set wordcount or time goals between Internet breaks, so you have a bit of structure.

 

Good luck, don’t forget to stock up on your NaNo essentials, and may the words be ever in your favour.

12 Days of NaNoWriMo

Yes, NaNoWriMo has more than 12 days in it.
No, I wasn’t willing to subject people to 30 verses of this song.

12 Days of NaNo

On the 12th day of NaNo
My writing buddy sent to me
12 offsite backups
11 sudden plot twists
10 drunken tangents
9 cardboard villains
8 giant plot holes
7 awkward phrasings
6 damned all-nighters
5 strong coffees
4 writing meetups
3 unplugged routers
2 blank notebooks
And a brand new shiny plot bunny!

NaNoWriMo Around The Corner

Here we go. It’s coming up again. Writer Hell and Writer Heaven condensed into one month. A lot of writers to NaNoWriMo every year. An equal number of writers don’t. It all depends on whether it gets your creative juices flowing or not.

If you are going for NaNo this year (as I am, though I won’t be putting too much pressure on), I think it’s important to remember a couple of things.

Yes, NaNo is great for getting a first draft down on the page. If that’s what you need – the community, the motivation – great. It’s doing its job. But I feel there’s an aspect of NaNo that’s overlooked a lot.

NaNo is the enemy of the writerly comfort zone. It’s specifically designed to eliminate your ability to say “This isn’t sitting right with me – I’ll stop writing and go fix it”. It also discourages “Well, I can’t write at my sweet spot of 7:00pm today, so I guess I can’t write at all”. If you’re really going for the goal, you’ll find yourself slotting writing in whenever you have a few minutes to string together.

So, it’s the perfect time to switch up your routine and see what works. If you’re a pantser, to ahead an try plotting. See if it changes anything. And vice versa – despite what I said above, if you are a plotter, taking a month out to see where your brain takes you without an outline could be valuable. Switch up what time of day you write, writing with or without caffeine, try Scrivener for its trial period. Do something different.

NaNoWriMo is really great for this. For one, it’s got a built-in metric for success (you wrote 50,000 words or you didn’t), but it doesn’t stop there. Afterwards, how much time did you need to spend editing? Did you need to start over, or rip the whole thing apart? Or did you just need to tweak scenes, rearrange a few things? And, of course, the more nebulous metrics, like ‘am I happy with the book?’ ‘Did this process help me get motivated to write, or did it feel like dragging my feet?’.

For another, and more importantly, there’s a time limit. Write for 30 days, decide you don’t like that process? Great, fine. You never have to pick it up again. It’s much easier to commit to a change when you realise that you have a built-in ejector seat, or an instant takesies-backsies button. Plus, 30 days is a pretty good amount of time to get used to any given change, past that ‘it’s different and I don’t like it’ phase, and enough time to really get an idea of the effect it’s having.

Finally, a standard reminder to all: NaNoWriMo is what you make of it. If you play by the rules and go for the goal because it helps you, that’s awesome, and more power to you. But if you don’t follow the rules, nobody’s going to know. Nobody is going to care. Write a series of short stories instead of a novel? Go for it. Finish a novel you’ve already started? Go for it. Change the wordcount goal? Perfect – I did that last year, when I had more time. Want more competition? Start mini-challenges with friends. Want less? Set an entirely different goal so you’re not watching other people’s wordcounts tick up and comparing yourself to them.

There is no one winner of NaNo, so if you decide to move your personal goalposts, nobody else will be affected. Maybe you won’t go on the website as a winner, but take yourself out for a treat of your choice. You worked for a thing and you got it. That’s a good effort, too.