Mapping out your novel can help you avoid lulls in production. Check out tips from Larry Brooks on how to plan ahead and give your novel a “jump-start.”
According to the “rules” of National Novel Writing Month – no matter what month you undertake the work – there is nothing that prevents you from planning your novel out in advance. Doing so – solidifying your concept and premise, and laying out the narrative expositional sequence itself – is perhaps the most useful and functional NaNoWriMo tip you can find.
This week’s pep talk is brought to you by JuNoWriMo crew member Margaret McNellis.
When you feel like 50,000 words is an impossible goal, follow these three methods for building word count in mind and in practice.
Word Wars for the Win
Word wars saved me during my first novel challenge, and again during each and every novel challenge I’ve taken on since. A word war is when, given a pre-set amount of time, you write against the clock and fellow challengers–in a cafe, online, or anywhere you put pen to paper or fingers to keys. Word wars are immensely useful in that they provide support and friendly competition. There’s something about racing against the clock that keeps the words pouring out onto the page.
Keep a Writing Schedule
Your novel is important, or else you wouldn’t bother writing it–so make sure you give yourself the time to write. For some people, the morning is best–others are night owls. If you’re having trouble writing, try switching to a different time of day. Give yourself 15-30 minutes (or more) of uninterrupted writing time each day. Schedule it into your tablet if you must; enable the “do not disturb” on your smartphone, and breathe life into your story. Maximize your word processor or avoid electronics and other distractions if you like to write by hand.
Set Realistic Goals
If this is your first novel-writing challenge, don’t promise yourself that you’re going to write 200,000 words. The goal of 50,000 words is suggested because it means you only have to write 1,667 words each day to stay on track. That’s only a little more than 1,500, or about 4 pages single-spaced in most word processors. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to write 10,000 words in the first day–you may find yourself burnt out by June 15th. The true success of a novel-writing challenge isn’t to create a perfectly polished manuscript ready for a publisher in 30 days. The true success is to break the barriers set by the inner editor, self-doubt, and sometimes, writer’s block. The true success is to develop consistent writing habits that can eventually lead to a beautifully polished manuscript ready to share with the world. Slow and steady wins the race.
Of course, nothing horrible will happen to you if you don’t reach the 50,000 word mark by midnight on June 30. Your computer won’t turn into a pumpkin. Your notebook(s) won’t self-destruct. If and when writer’s block does settle upon your shoulders, skip to a different part of your story, write a foil character for your protagonist, or jump head first into a word war.
In addition to being a writer, I’m a martial artist. Winning a novel-writing challenge is much like a black belt test–it’s all about attitude and perseverance. When a student tests for his/her black belt, the rank is there for the taking. They just have to finish the test with a good attitude–an attitude that’s unwilling to quit just because something is difficult. If you write daily, whether you write 1,667 words per day or 200, at the end of the month you will have a product you can be proud of. You will have developed the habit of writing every day, and you will have started the process of writing a complete novel.
People often talk about when they can go from being aspiring writers to writers. When I was new to writing fiction, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Higgins Clark. I asked her this question–this equivalent of “What is the meaning of life?” for writers–she smiled and succinctly replied, “Writers write, so start writing.”
Margaret McNellis first participated in a novel-writing challenge in 2008. In 2010, she became a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo–a post she held for three years. In 2013, Margaret joined the JuNoWriMo team, helping to run word wars and sprints via Twitter. Margaret began writing fiction in 2006 and, after completing coursework with the Long Ridge Writers Group, Margaret enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University, where she is currently pursuing her Masters in English and Creative Writing with a Concentration in Fiction. Her story “A King’s Life” appeared in the premier issue of Fictitious Magazine, and she has published articles in regional magazines and news sources. For seven years following her graduation from Southern Connecticut State University with a BA in Art History, she worked as a freelance writer, covering art shows, literary events, book releases and more. You can find Margaret online here.
Howdy gang! I hope you’ve had a great summer and are enjoying the new season. Fall came rushing in on me and I can hardly believe next month is November!
Join Us During November
Anna and I are doing #NaNoWriMo next month and we hope you are, too! If you aren’t signed up yet, go to http://nanowrimo.org and do it now.
We had a heck of a lot of fun last June doing word sprints with you guys. Because of that, we’re bringing it all back during November to help support your NaNoWriMo experience. Follow @junowrimo on Twitter to join in. I’m excited about seeing all my JuNo buddies again.
Remember our word count spreadsheet from June? How cool was it to see everyone’s daily counts? Did you have as much fun racing with your fellow WriMos as I did? I have good news. We’re bringing it back for NaNoWrimo.
We will have a post letting you know when the new spreadsheet is ready, so stay tuned. We had over a hundred people input their names this June. Let’s see if we can get even more next month. Make sure you’ve created a JuNoWriMo account which will grant you access to the spreadsheet.
The best part about this site is the accountability. NaNoWriMo is a big place and it can be hard to get to know people, but here you’ll find a smaller and tighter community. If you’re new, then welcome aboard! We’re happy to have you with us.
Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo
Are you prepped and ready for what it’s going to take to write a novel in thirty days? October is prewriting month and I encourage you to take advantage of it. Starting NaNoWriMo without a plan isn’t just difficult—it’s setting yourself up for failure. Get the bones of your novel sketched out ahead of time so that when the clock turns midnight on October 31st, you’re armed and ready.
What is prewriting and exactly how do you do it? Aaron Pogue has a great walkthrough of how to get ready to write a novel. This post is the first in the prewriting series. Follow his advice and you’ll be ready for November.
More Tips and Free Stuff
One final thing. I’ve saved the best for last. There’s a great new ebook out there called @WriMo: A 30-day Survival Guide for Writers by Kevin S. Kaiser. I highly recommend it for everyone doing NaNoWriMo. This book is full of motivation to inspire your writing journey. It’s especially useful for making you stick with it in those times you really don’t want to write. I read it and loved it. Even better, all the proceeds of the book are donated to NaNoWriMo which means that buying this book is akin to sending them a donation check.
I’m so excited about this book that I’m going to give away a free copy next week! Come back on Monday for a chance to win!