Last week I shared outlining methods you can use for NaNo. This week I thought I'd share some other ways to gear up for your month long writing sprint.
Set a Word Count:
The entire goal is to write a 50,000 novel (or start to one) in 30 days. And looking at that number is seriously daunting. 50k words in 30 days. Um, yeah, that's nearly impossible. Right?
Wrong. It's manageable. All it takes is 1,667 words a day. That's it. Not so bad now, huh? I have my own number in mind when I sit down, though. A more even number. One that helps if I have a bad writing day later on. 2,000 words every day. That's my goal. I've heard of other writers setting the goal even higher. Some writers even set their word count for the entire month at 100,000. *gasping for air* That's insane if you ask me, but that's just me. If you can do it, then do it.
Regardless of what your goal is, set a daily word count and stick to it. Get those words in. Every. Single. Day.
It's November which means Thanksgiving. There will be at least two or three days this month where you will not get in your word count. At all. I get it. My youngest's birthday is in November. So on top of Thanksgiving, there's his birthday. There is also the day I will be traveling with my daughter to a college visit. We're staying over night. I have plenty of days during November where I will not be getting in my word count.
Here's how I deal with that. I plan out 2,000 words every day. Then looking at my calendar I figure out which days will be no writing days. Then I spread out the word count on the days leading up to those non-writing days. 500 words here and there. So for every day I know I will miss there are four days I have to add 500 words to. It's not too bad. Especially in the first week. I really go strong there and if I can get extra words in at the beginning I will do it. If I'm on a roll and I have the time, I refuse to stop writing just because I made word count for the day. This helps out immensely around Thanksgiving, because the extra words are done.
If you don't plan ahead, you will have to make up those words later on. I can honestly say from experience, it's not a good feeling. It tends to stress me out and make me nervous that I won't make word count in the end. I get too preoccupied with worrying about making word count that I lose momentum. So I try to do extra as much as possible in the beginning of the month.
Use an Outline:
I use a very loose outline. One that I don't worry about if I change my mind and veer in another direction. Because, I always find some crazy twist that just has to happen. One I didn't think about while I was outlining, but now I know I have to add in. I don't fret over changing directions.
Here's why. I like to think of my outline as a map. There are multiple ways to get from point A to point B on the plot map. Instead of taking a direct route, I can take a longer route, or stick with the plan. It doesn't matter. I will still get to point B no matter what. There are certain places along the way that are, in a sense, non-negotiable for me. Those are the points where something does not go according to the character's plans. Those are the turning points that I know have to happen to further the story.
Or you can always do what I did my first NaNo. Fly by the seat of your pants. I didn't hit my word count that year. I fell short by just over 11,000 words. But I did finish a rough draft. And it's still sitting in a folder on my computer. Untouched because I have no clue where I was going with it. Hence, the reason I use outlines to at least figure out major plot points ahead of time.
Don't Look Back:
This is one of the most important lessons NaNo teaches. Turn off your inner editor. Shut that thing down. I know writers who refuse to move on to the next chapter until they get the current chapter perfect. I can't do that. I lose momentum. When I lose momentum I lose the story. I get annoyed with the story quickly. And guess what? It never gets completed.
News flash: The story will still be there to edit when the rough draft is completed. If you want to make word count you CANNOT go back and edit while you write. Don't do it. NEVER do this. You will not in fact make word count. Nor will you finish that draft. Please, do not edit while you write for NaNo.
Yes, the draft will be a mess, but that's what rough drafts are for. They aren't supposed to be perfect. Not by a long shot. I love messy drafts. They're fun to clean up after NaNo. There are a lot of writers who band together again after NaNo to clean up their NaNo drafts.
Schedule Writing Time:
This is another very important thing to do. Know when you will write each day. I know exactly when I will be writing every day, at the beginning of the week. Some days it will be in the morning, others in the afternoon, and others in the evening. My family understands, I'm unavailable most of November. Except on the days I will be too busy with family to write. My mom is really good about keeping my son entertained so I can write. My daughter knows not to bug me when I say I'm writing. My son is still learning that writing time is not his time to come beg me for computer time for him. lol He sees me on the computer and decides he needs to steal it from me.
Set the time aside. Explain what you are doing to your family. Get them on board. You might be surprised at how willing they are to help you reach your goals. Let them know you need time to set aside for writing. Time that is for the story and nothing else. Be serious about that time. It might seem selfish, but it really isn't. Think of it as study time. You're paying your dues before becoming published. Or, if you're already published, it's your time to work on your craft, your next book, or any number of ways to further your writing career.
Be fiercely protective of this writing time. Make it a habit. One that, hopefully, will stick around longer than just November. After all, you will need that time later to edit this manuscript.
Keep a Notebook:
I always keep a notebook nearby. Why? I don't edit as I go. And I veer from my original outline. Every. Single. Time. Therefore, having a notebook to make edit notes to myself helps later on. When it's time to edit my manuscript I have notes to myself to go back and fix things at the beginning of the draft to make other things happen later on in the draft. Sometimes I make notes to cut an entire chapter during edits. Truth is, I wrote those words during NaNo, so they are going to stay and count towards my word count goal. If I edit and cut them in the midst of NaNo, they are no longer there to use for my word count. And that just flat out sucks.
So I keep every word during NaNo, but I cut a vast amount of those words in the editing process. A lot of my rough draft is me thinking out loud, well on paper out loud. I don't worry about words I tend to over use while I'm drafting. There will be plenty of time to edit the heck out of it and cut those words later when I revise. I like to think of my rough draft as the bones of the project. The final draft that others will see will eventually be smoothed out on top of those bones.
Since I usually don't get time to get back to my NaNo project until January or February I have a tendency to forget those little ideas I have while drafting. This is where that notebook comes in handy. Those thoughts are all there. Not lost or forgotten. It makes revising a heck of a lot easier.
This is pretty much the hardest thing for writers to do. Unplug. Get off the internet. When I NaNo, I do not go on the internet until after I get my word count in. When I sit down to write, that's the only thing I can do at that time. No checking in on Twitter. Or checking to see if my friends are posting anything interesting on Facebook. Blog posts can be read later. Some writers turn off their WiFi access on their computers while they write. Others use apps that keep them on track and not wandering away from their computer or getting on the internet during certain times.
I just use good old fashioned will power. It's really hard, but I refuse to let myself open my browser until after my daily word count has been met. If I need to research an aspect for my project, it goes into my notebook for later, for my internet time.
Writing time is sacred and should not be used playing on social media sites.
Get a Squad:
NaNoers are everywhere during November. Just look for these hastags: #NaNo #NaNoWriMo and you will find your people. If you are on Twitter, which you should be, pay attention to your friends' tweets. They may be taking part. Do NaNo sprints and tweet about it. Use the hashtags. Cheer others on, they'll cheer you on. Tweet about your goals. Tweet about your word counts, daily. Before you know it, you will have a squad. Those that you know have your back. Your squad will be your ultimate cheerleaders and accountability partners. Chances are, they need to be held accountable for their word count goals as much as you do.
Find me on Twitter, I'll cheer you on. And you can hold me accountable, too. @HeatherHeleneYA.
Set a Reward:
What are you going to give yourself when you hit your 50,000 word count goal? I'm still not sure what my reward will be, but I will be setting a reward. Chances are, it will be linked to reading. I never read while I draft a manuscript. If I read, I chance having the voice of my project influenced by the other author's writing voice. And, most importantly, that time goes to writing time instead of reading. By the end of November I'm usually foaming at the mouth to just sit down and read.
Regardless of what your reward is, set it. Something that you can only have if you meet your goals. Clearly I need to rethink my reading reward. Because, honestly, I will be reading no matter what in December. Maybe I'll have a cheat day with regards to my eating and have a cupcake. I tend to stay away from sugar as much as possible these days, so that sounds like a much better reward. Something I know I won't be having unless I reach my goal. I'll even post a picture of the cupcake if I hit my word count by November 30th.
What are ways you prepare for NaNo?