by Avery Lewis (General Staff)
National Novel Writing Month, known in the writers’ world as NaNoWriMo, is a month dedicated to churning out novels. The goal is to complete a novel of at least 50,000 words within the month of November. Amateurs and professionals alike sign up for the challenge every year. Many become disillusioned, lazy, or sidetracked, and few actually complete the challenge. Here are five tips to help you stay on the path of NaNoWriMo success:
1. Start with an idea and nothing more. If you stop to focus on all the details, mapping out characters and plots, you’ll undoubtedly get too bogged down in the planning stages. All you need is a concept and a starting point, and from there you write whatever comes to mind. The story will take shape on its own as you progress. This is not to say you should not put thought into your writing, but don’t become obsessed with making sure you have everything figured out and perfect before you start.
2. As Hemingway says, write drunk. Don’t worry about the tiny imperfections here and there. Expect to have imperfections in the first draft. Inconsistencies, illogical character choices, rough dialogue, and laughable grammar are common, even welcome in first drafts! And that’s exactly what NaNoWriMo is about – first drafts. You’re not preparing for publication during November; you are simply getting the story written, rough edges and all.
3. Media can wait. New episodes of The Walking Dead, Legend of Korra, Sleepy Hollow, and The Originals will be available on the Internet, so don’t sacrifice your writing time just to catch the original airing of an episode. You can catch up during a scheduled break or even after NaNoWriMo is over. Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and Pokemon X and Y? They’ll still be in stock once November is over. Unless you are one in a million, don’t try to use video games as a break, because you will become sidetracked and lose precious hours of writing time.
4. Schedule writing, but also schedule breaks. Sure, during NaNoWriMo, it’s good to write whenever a spare moment presents itself. But it’s also good to have set times that you are committed to every day. That being said, don’t spend whole days glued to your computer screen. Keep your health up by taking scheduled breaks. Go for a jog, play with the cat, get lunch with a friend. It’s important to stay healthy and maintain social contact during NaNoWriMo. You want to get as much writing done as you can without turning into a social recluse. Scheduled breaks are also needed for inspiration. Participating in different activities can provide an assortment of new ideas for your novel. You never know what you’ll find! Just make sure your breaks don’t distract you for too long…
5. Finally, don’t fret. Is it Week 3 and you’re only at 10,000 words? Don’t worry, and certainly don’t think that there’s no longer a point to continuing. Keep writing. Don’t sacrifice sleep, grades, income, or meals for more writing time. Just keep writing as much as you can without sacrificing too much. Sure, you may not complete the 50,000-word challenge, but that’s not what NaNoWriMo success is all about. NaNoWriMo success is about getting your idea down on paper (physical or pixelated). It’s about transitioning your ideas from abstract to concrete. It’s about getting started. NaNoWriMo, in its simplest form, is a gateway, the starting line for your novel. You may not finish it in November, not even the rough draft, but the important thing is that you’ve started. You have a place to continue from. All that’s left is for you to keep writing, even after November, and get your novel to completion. What defines NaNoWriMo success is that a writer keeps writing even after the deadline and does not fall victim to the “I didn’t complete the challenge, so there’s no point continuing” syndrome that plagues participants. So no matter how far you get during NaNoWriMo, don’t let that be the endpoint. Even if you meet the challenge, refine your story, because your first draft is always the worst draft. No matter what, keep writing.