If you’re thinking of participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you’re not alone. NaNoWriMo is a great way to get started on a book for the first time, the tenth time or even hundredth time. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and to do it knowing thousands of your writerly friends and neighbors are doing the same.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo (successfully and unsuccessfully) several times in the past. My favorite thing about it is that even if you fail to meet your November goal, it’s often a wonderful jump-start into the writing process and into a story. Two of my most popular books, Regrets Only and Every Other Saturday, started out as NaNoWriMo projects.
No matter where you are in your process, speed drafting is a wonderful exercise for writers at all levels. It teaches you to get your inner critic out of the way and JUST WRITE, which often produces more genuine and risk-taking results than writing with too much time to ponder. Not to mention, the public accountability of declaring yourself a Writer for the month can be terrific motivation when the going gets tough.
And let’s face it, the going will get tough.
This year, I’m using NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to complete a first draft of my next Occupational Hazards novella, working title Close to Home. For me, November 1 is more than just the start date for writing that novella, it’s a deadline to finish edits on another book I’ve been editing since somewhere around 1964. (Which is weird because I was born in 1975.)
To help keep me on track, I decided to do a little countdown to NaNoWriMo this year. If you’re participating, too, please let me know in the comments and be sure to follow along with the blog this week as I make daily suggestions for ways to prep for November!
Day (-7) To-Do List
- Register for NaNoWriMo. Update your profile, add a picture and add the project you’re working on this year. If you can, consider donating to the NaNoWriMo Foundation to support their programming for young writers. Not only will this bring good Karma to your month of writing, but we also tend to take things more seriously when we’ve invested in them financially–even in small amounts. (Once you’re registered, find me on the NaNo site and say hi!)
- Choose your story idea, if you haven’t already. This may be obvious, but it is the next step. I mean, can you start NaNoWriMo with no idea what you’re writing about? Sure. There are no hard and fast rules for NaNoWriMo. (In fact, it may surprise you to learn there are no hard and fast rules for writing in general!) But I’ve found that the more clarity I had around my NaNoWriMo projects in the past, the more successful I was at completing them. And there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down on November 1st with six gallons of coffee and your heart in your throat… only to stare at the blank page for an hour. Even if you have only the vaguest ideas, jot them down, and start mulling them over for the next week!
- Talk to your family. Or your roommates, your friends, your coworkers… whoever you interact with and depend on most. Especially if it’s your first time doing NaNo, or if you’re not used to churning out 1500-2000 words per day, writing this much can be an adjustment. You’ll need support. You’ll need understanding and patience. You’ll need someone to pry your head off the keyboard and pour caffeine down your throat… Give them a heads up now, and they’ll support you when you need it most next month.
I talked to my family about NaNoWriMo last night, and my 10 year old actually wants to participate with me! He’s set a goal of 1000 words, which I think is pretty good for a 5th grader who’s not terribly enamored with writing (especially when it doesn’t count toward schoolwork). He did get to meet his favorite author last week when Alan Gratz came to visit one of our local libraries, and it’s definitely inspired him to read more. So we’ll see if that translates to writing!
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