Who among us has never dreamt about writing a novel. That masterpiece that can rival all others and ensures yourself a place in all the history books and all talkshows from now until your death – at which time the price of your books and manuscripts will skyrocket, thus ensuring a cosy live-style for your children and grandchildren. Well, you are in luck, this November you can make your dreams come true with NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.
Most aspiring writers know the feeling, you have this story in your head, this magnus opus that once written will change your live for ever. The problem usually lies in the fact that that great story remains unwritten. Because face it, even when you would find the time to start writing, there’s still the problem of securing the publisher and so on and so one. Luckily for you, the onset of the e-book market has also made it much more easier to self-publish books, thus giving you all the freedom in the world to concentrate on writing.
Still, actually sitting and writing, and most importantly, continue writing, is one of the hardest things to do.
There is this one story that I’ve had in my mind for 15 years or more. I’ve built the entire world, complete with maps, political and religious systems, lists of names of characters and I’ve also started writing. I think I’ve started writing that particular story for more times than I care to remember, because every time I want to continue, I read what I’ve written so far and decide that I want to start over.
If this sounds familiar, NaNoWriMo is here to help you. It’s a competition but there’s no winner, no price as you might expect. It’s a competition, a challenge to overcome yourself and your fear of (bad) writing. The idea is that you take the month of November (cause really, what else is happening in November), and start writing. Just make time every day to write and by the end of the month so that you have written at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. If you reach that target, you’ve won.
Well, no. I first heard about NaNoWriMo some seven years ago and I’ve actually participated for four of those years, but I’ve only won once, last year. This year, I’m going at it again and even though I’m already half a day behind in my word count, I have high hopes.
Although I’ve only won once, I’m going to use this space to impart some wisdom to those of you who like the idea but are still too unsure or afraid to start. Hopefully these tips will make it easier on you and will help you to survive the madness that is NaNoWriMo.
- Start afresh, don’t use an old story, but start a new one. You need to learn how to write and not be afraid to try out new things. If you haven’t written that one story yet, you are probably too emotionally involved in it
- Let the story takes you. If you have to have an outline, you can do so, you can even take the entire month of October for your preliminary studies, but don’t let that interfere with your writing. It’s words that count and if your Main Character wants to visit Rome while you have it written down that he/she is supposed to go to Venice, for the love of all that is holy, let him go to Rome.
- Don’t worry about structure. Again, it’s all about getting the story out of you, about perseverance. If you know what will happen in your story further down the road but you can’t tie it into what you’ve written yesterday, don’t worry about it and just continue with your story.
- Make time. Writing 1,667 words every day is probably not going to happen while you sleep so you will need to sacrifice some time to make it happen.
- Tell people what you’re doing in advance. Everyone will think you are crazy when you tell them you are writing 50,000 words in one month, but hopefully they’ll understand that you can’t stay away all night. There will be other parties, there’s only one November (this year).
- Stock up. Let your mother/friend/wife do the shopping, you have more important things to worry about.
- Do sprints. I don’t mean physical exercice, though it’s important to get away from your writing from time to time, but do word sprints. Set a goal, a time limit and just write without doing anything else. If you have twitter, follow @NaNoWordSprints and join thousands of other writers as you meet challenges in sprints ranging from 5 till 30 minutes.
- Seek help. Let those people that you’ve told in advance you won’t be seeing for most of month help you. Trust me, you will need it to keep going. Show them you can do it.
- Peer pressure is your friend. Even if your own friends aren’t that engaged, there are hundred thousands of other writers who are struggling just like you. They will reach their goal, so why can’t you
- Don’t wait.Every word written today is one you don’t have to write tomorrow. Even if you don’t feel like writing 1600 words today, try to write as many as you can, if you don’t, you’ll have to make up for it tomorrow.
- Seek inspiration. Don’t have a story in mind, or are the plot bunnies taking over, go to the forums and adopt a character, a story-line or the opening sentence to your novel.
- And whatever you do, DON’T DELETE ANYTHING.
Happy NaNoWriMo everyone!!!
Even though I’m behind in my word count, I took some time away from writing and designed a wallpaper for my computer to remind me of those ever so pressing word counts. If you want the same wallpaper to inspire you, I’ve uploaded it here in some of the basic resolutions for you to play around with.