NaNoWriMo starts in just a couple of days. Are you ready?
Well, here are some last minute tips to help you get ready.
Step One – Find Your People
First of all, hop on the Internet right now and go find your people. Okay, maybe not right now. Maybe after you finish reading this article. But right after this article go out — you know what I was right before.
1. Go now. Open up a new tab in your browser and find your people. There are literally dozens of writing groups out there, most of them with different atmospheres. Find one that suits you. One where you can make friends and writers with similar habits. Here are a few groups I am in on Facebook, you’re welcome to join any or all of them.
–NaNoWriMo Participants. This group is in no way affiliated or endorsed by NaNoWriMo. Be prepared, though, it gets a little crazy in there. With over 23,000 members worldwide, this is the largest and most active group to which I belong. Within this group, you will find a blend of planners, pantsers, and plantsers. Many of us have survived the NaNoWriMo challenge before. Some of us haven’t. Some have tried several times without a single win, others have won multiple times. You’ll find tips, hints, support, and encouragement the way only a large group of writers putting themselves through the same level torment as you will. This group is an anything-goes sort of group — meaning that you can post about almost anything. It doesn’t necessarily have to be writing related (although you will find some writing-related posts scattered throughout here and there). We also hold writing sprints regularly throughout the month.
–10 Minute Novelists. This group is filled with people who hold schedules that don’t exactly allow for novel-writing. Set at right about 3000 members, this group is fairly small and intimate. The majority of the posts here are writing related, either seeking advice, sharing advice, or general how tos of story structure and help. But the big advantage here is that every member is faced with a time constraint of some sort. Whether it be children, jobs, or anything else, they know and understand the juggling act of trying to write a novel. If you’re trying to find out how to throw yet another ball into the air without dropping anything, this is the right group to find that help.
–Writer’s Soapbox. This small group is all about featuring writers. They don’t really hold any special events, sprints, or write ins. But they offer brief participation in sharing events. Events like TwoLineSunday, OneLineWednesday, DialogueThursday. To participate, simply read entries from other authors, then add your own using the appropriate tag. It’s a nice break and a chance to showcase parts of your writing you’re especially proud of.
–NaNoWriMo regional writers. There are forums on the NaNoWriMo site where you can find other participants in your area. You can meet up in person at special events and write-ins. Find and swap story ideas, character ideas, plots, and villains. Need help with something? They’ve got the answers for you.
–Clangworb. This is a group dedicated to the creation of worlds and languages. While this group won’t be much help for you outside of the concept of these creations, most of the members of this group are veteran participants in NaNoWriMo and can, therefore, help you with basic points of strategy to build worlds, create histories, and create new languages to fill your worlds on the fly. Some members also have pre-built languages ready for you to take and adapt to your story. Now, the real help of this group comes between NaNoWriMo challenges, when you can spend more time working on these important aspects of your story.
Step Two – Train Yourself to Write
2. Next, determine a time to write every day and start training. While you can’t begin writing your actual novel until November 1, you can work on writing other things prior to that. The biggest advantage to NaNoWriMo is that it builds up your writing habit. But, it’s also easier to win (that is, to cross the finish line of 50,000 words) if you’re already trained to write every day. Pick a time of day and sit down and write. It doesn’t have to be long. Five minutes – ten minutes. The point of this is to help you build up the habit of sitting down and writing so that when November starts, you’re ready to jump in and write.
This will also help you control your rolls. No, that’s not some vague Dungeons and Dragons reference. We all know that many writers rely on creative strokes of genius. A time when words just roll straight off the fingers and into your keyboard as easily as the ideas flow through your mind. When you write at the same time every day, you train your mind and your body to jump onto one of those rolls faster and more easily than normal.
Step Three – Gather the Tools You’ll Need
3. Make a list of every tool and idea you’ll need, and start gathering them. Need writing prompts? Have some research to do? Need to stock up on coffee and Twizzlers (which happen to be my favorite snacking food while I’m writing). Chances are you’re going to miss a few items on the list, but that’s okay. Make a list of what you can, prioritize the items from most important to least important, and start gathering your resources.
Step Four – Set Up Your Writing Space
4. Figure out where you’re going to write, and get it set up and ready for you. If you’re like me, you don’t have a fancy writing space with all your notebooks and bazillions of flash drives neatly decorating your desk. No, chances are you carve your writing out of your living room, bedroom, or some other shared space with the rest of your family. In fact, I have become very good at writing while standing in the kitchen. Where you write and how dreamy it is doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you set up a dedicated space that you will be using for the month of November. This space doesn’t have to necessarily have to be off-limits to anyone or anything else, although if you can rope it off then that would work out even better. But no, what you want to do right now is just to get your space set up. Gather all the tools you’re going to need: notebooks, flash-drives, lighting, power surge protectors, everything. Make sure that it is all set up and ready to go in November so you can write and back up your work as needed throughout the month.
Step Five – Say Goodbye to Social Media
5. Say your goodbyes to social media. Okay, not really. In step one we already discussed that most of your support and encouragement is going to come from social media. But you’re still going to want to get yourself prepared to block out most of those distractions. I am horrible. Horrible. At going online and falling down the rabbit hole. Especially Pinterest. Pinterest is my downfall when it comes to distraction and productivity. (I’m not exaggerating, check it out.) Lucky for you, there are several browser extensions you can use that will help you block out those Internet distractions. Some of the easier ones allow you to put in a password to get around the block. Others are a bit more hardcore and once you set them there is no getting around them until the time has passed. While you’re at it, you may also want to talk to your family, spouse, children, and roommates. Make sure they all know and understand the importance of your writing time. Work together to come up with a plan that will keep them away. This is also why it’s important to pick a time to write, so they can schedule their outings around your time and you can write as distraction free as possible.
Step Six – Recruit Your Friends
6. Recruit your friends. Misery loves company, right? Take some time during these last few days to say goodbye to your friends, and invite them to join in your torture. Some may already have an idea for a novel. Some of them may not have any idea what to do. Others are likely to laugh at you. But no matter how they react to your invitation, what you’re really doing is preparing them to go the month of November without you. Fewer last minute calls for spontaneous get togethers. Just as with your family, friends are notorious for distracting us from these goals.
Step Seven – Run Those Errands!
7. During the last day or two of October, get all or most of your errands out of the way. Pay your bills, go grocery shopping, set up some frozen meals to make cooking easier throughout November. Get your laundry completely done, do a round of Spring cleaning, bathe the dog. Set up your DVR to record your favorite shows. Anything you can do to free up as much of your time in November as possible. If you’re a NaNoWriMo veteran, then this is probably something you can do quickly. You already know your limits and how far you can stretch to reach them. But for you new NaNoWriMo victims participants, this is something that is going to really help you. You’ll be learning your limits and setting them as you go. So having as clean a slate as possible to do that on will give you the most help.
Step Eight – Tell Your Inner-Editor to Take a Hike
8. And last but not least, turn off your inner-editor. I mean it. It’s one of the biggest hindrances you will need to learn how to overcome: trying to pick out the exact right word to put into that story. Finding the perfect names. Going back and rereading parts that you’ve already written to make sure they flow just write. NaNoWriMo is about the writing. The point is to get you to write, not edit. Editing comes later. For November, especially for you new participants, you want to just get it written. Just get the words out. Even if they aren’t good words. And chances are they won’t be good words. One time, I wrote out “that geometry-based game played with sticks and balls” because I couldn’t remember the word for “snooker.” If your editor is on, you will block yourself more often than any other distraction. Get your story out however you can. Use place markers (I often use [brackets] as placeholders for things like names, occupations, and the like). Once it’s finished, then go back and edit and that’s when you will start making sure you have the exact right word.