Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few NaNoWriMo thoughts and tips

This year will be my fourth NaNoWriMo! Here are some tips to get you through the month and hopefully get to 50k in 30 days.

If you’re an over writer, great! Indulge in every bit of extra description and unnecessary dialog you can think of.

If you’re an underwriter (like me), don’t forget to include description, including what the MC hears, sees, tastes and feels, but don’t add so much that you lose the story. After you’re done with your story, you will probably be short of words. That’s ok. At the end of the story, write all the lavish setting descriptions, backstory, character profiles or quirks, and possible subplot ideas. You can decide later if you want to add this to your story when you revise.

Start on November 1st no matter what. Even if you just put down a couple of words or a sentence. Then add to it every day that you can – try for every day, even if it’s only a couple of words. It’s a lot harder to finish if you only write half the time, although it can be done.

Stay off discussion boards and social marketing sites if it’s keeping you from your work. Actually a good tip even if you’re not doing NaNo, although it’s really hard to do. If it’s helping you, then stay on the discussion boards, etc.

Use NaNoWriMo to your benefit. The traditional NaNo rules or word count might not fit your style or project. Use the dedicated time to finish a project, start something new that’s longer than 50k, or revise/rewrite a manuscript. Whatever you need/want to do, you should do that. NaNo is great fun, although a bit crazy, but if it derails your writing, it’s not worth it. Do what works for you and have a good time. Find a friend or two or three hundred to do it with you. You can each set your own goals and cheer each other on.

Have a plan. A plan doesn’t have to be a detailed outline or even a plot, but if you have an idea for a story or even a character’s name, it will help you to get going right away.

My plan this year – to fix problems in past years. Use my plan if you want. If you do, you’ll need 4 things.

1. Novel info (yours might be slightly different than mine): main character, secondary characters and a basic plot idea. (I also have ideas about the world it’s going to be set in, but no outline or romantic interest … yet.)

2. Daily print outs of what you’ve written, so if you have the urge to edit or make notes, it’s on the paper copy and not taking away from your word count.

3. A master document that you paste your daily writing into. Use a blank document each day to keep you from editing what’s already written. Note: I got the idea for # 2 and 3 from the end of this article.

4. Hand-written notes each night on what’s next in the story or what scenes you want to tackle next. This should help jumpstart the writing each day. They’re hand-written so you don’t have to have them in your document or keep switching between documents.

That’s it, that’s my plan, although I might add a 5th thing – Scrivner. They have a NaNo deal for Mac users and I’ve wanted to try it for a while. More info here -

Here are my previous NaNo stats in case you are interested:

2004 – I went in with a story idea I loved, but no outline or real plot. The novel took a sharp turn into crazy land, but I got to 50k (despite starting late because I was getting ready for a portfolio review – I think I did the whole thing in 2.5 weeks). I’ve tried to rewrite this novel several times since then, but it’s so convoluted it might not be salvageable … unless I can figure out a plot for it.

2005 – I have no idea what happened that year, but I didn’t finish. No doubt I still didn’t have a plot and didn’t start on time due to the portfolio review preparations. (My illustrator’s group has a review every November – usually the second weekend. Getting ready can really take away from writing time.) Then I skipped a few years.

2008 – I had an idea, I had a plan, and I started right away (despite my portfolio review prep). However, then I had my review, and an editor loved some illustrations and was interested in seeing the graphic novel when I was done. So I switched novels for NaNo, and didn’t finish. However, after months of trying to figure out what to do with the graphic novel, I’m finally on track with it and the MC from last year’s original NaNo novel is in my novel this year with a shiny new plot (the one last year stunk).

So, you see, it’s not all bad. What started last year wasn’t ready to be written and could have a happy ending this year.

Here are some other resources and thoughts on NaNoWriMo that I’ve found:
There’s a NaNoWriMo YA contest. The first 250 words of your YA novel could win!
Writer Chuck Wendig’s take on the good and bad of NaNoWriMo.
Elissa Cruz has some brilliant (non-cheating) tricks for NaNoWriMo.
Write your novel on & get a free copy of your book when you finish!

Happy NaNo noveling everyone!