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National Novel Writing Month

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Okay, it’s still only October, but let’s be real, if you’re committing to NaNoWriMo, you’ve got to know this before the November season actually hits – or at least I do anyway, otherwise the writing just won’t get done. I won’t have made time for it, planned ahead and figured everything out the way it to be so I can write 50,000 words in a month. Today I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month, what is it, why do it, strategies for staying on top of the word count, and lastly, a little about what I’m doing this year. 

So what is National Novel Writing Month?

If you’ve been in this online writing world awhile you probably know what it is. In fact, you probably call it NaNoWriMo or even just sometimes NaNo for short and people still know what you’re talking about. Anyway, it’s not quite as known as I sometimes assume it is, so I’m explaining everything. 

November is “National Novel Writing Month” and there is an online writing competition where participants from around the world begin writing a novel on November 1st and reach 50,000 words (or finish then novel) by November 30th. It is not a race, there is no one who reads and judges your work, and there can be hundreds of thousands of winners. You are a winner if you reach 50,000 words – the supposed minimum word count for the novel form. 

Why participate? 

Personally, I like NaNoWriMo a lot. I go to their local writing events and I have for years. I’ve made writing friends through NaNoWriMo. A few years back, it helped me through homesickness when I was living in the UK. I don’t always finish the 50,000 words during the month of November, though I have a few times, but I like the camaraderie and the challenge. 

I don’t always join to win, but I do always join. And why? It’s not just so I have something to blog about for a month. Even if I know it’s not a year that I’m gunning for the win, I still make it an excuse to write every day. I make it an excuse to meet up with friends who are doing it and we’ll write together and talk about our novels. It’s an excuse to get writing done and track your word count. Even if you don’t get to 50,000 by the end of the month, if you get to even 10,000 you can look back and think wow, I’ve written 10,000 words! That’s a lot!

The thing about NaNoWriMo is that you’ve got to go in with the right attitude. If you’re someone who gets discouraged the minute you fall behind, you can’t let that ruin you. The daily targets are “recommended word counts” for writing every day. If you don’t write every day, you fall behind so quickly. It can be inconvenient or difficult, so don’t let the challenge make you feel bad about trying. If you write even a quarter of that 50,000 you’ve still written 12,500 words. Be impressed with your accomplishments, whatever they end up being.

Strategies for Winning

I’ve won a few times. Most of the time when I win, it’s truly because I’ve got my eye on a prize. NaNoWriMo has some great winner’s prizes – most of them are sponsor coupons and they are fantastic. When I first started doing NaNoWriMo, there was an offer for a free printed copy of your book through some of the self-publishing sites and that was a big, shiny motivator, but in recent years, in my opinion the big thing is the 50% off coupon for Scrivener. 

That sounds ridiculous, I know, I wrote 50,000 words for a coupon, but I tried the free trial of Scrivener that year on November 1st and I have been using it ever since. That 50% off coupon brings the price of Scrivener down to a little over $22 and it’s more than worth it. To be honest, it’s more than worth it even at the full price, but at the NaNoWriMo winner discount makes it truly a steal. Don’t underestimate the value of that kind of motivation, it does wonders. 

Now, for more level-headed strategies. First, write every day or plan to write every day. You need to give yourself time on a daily basis to get writing done. I’m not saying that you need to do this for the rest of the year, but if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, prepare to do that for the month of November. 

Next, know yourself. Start paying attention to your habits, when you write, how many words can you get down at a sitting? How long does it take? Start paying attention to this in October so you can start making the most of it in the November season. 

Third thing, do the sprints. NaNoWriMo has online sprint sessions, but I miss them. I never make it. I’m busy and frazzled and scattered. I just can’t do it. So I host my own sprints. Just for me. I set an alarm on my phone for a 15 minute sprint. I do 15 minutes on, 15 off, so I can get things done in that 15 minutes off. I can switch the laundry, cook dinner, etc. The sprints though keep me from getting stuck. When I’m not writing I do other things and think about what I’m going to write and then when I’m writing, I’m getting a few hundred words down at a time. Like 4 of those in a night can usually get me to that 1,667 words I need for the day. (That breaks down to about 400 words a sprint. On a slow day, I do 5 sprints – an hour of writing divided up over a whole evening.) 

Lizard’s Plans for NaNoWriMo

I’m doing NaNoWriMo, but this year, I’m not shooting for 50,000 words, or at least not expressly. I did get into a challenge with some friends this year, and being the wild writers we are, there’s money at stake with a cash prize going to the one single writer who writes the most words in November. We’ll see what that ends up meaning. It can be a dangerous game, but we’re all writing for the long haul. We can’t afford to burn out in December. We still have things to write and deadlines to meet. On a good month, I write about 20,000 words or so. If I can come out with 30,000 for November I’ll be a very happy lizard. 

This year too, I’m not starting a new project. I’m working on the novel I’ve been working on for what feels like forever now – but really, it’s been almost a year. It’s actually not that hopeless. It’s just a complicated story with complicated plots and complicated characters and complicated techniques that I stupidly decided, oh, I want that for my debut novel! It’s coming along slowly, but coming along. The writing is being done. I’m committed to it and the people who’ve seen it are excited about it which just makes me more excited about it. Anyway, that is what I’ll be writing and counting only the words written in the month of November. 

Additionally, it’s been awhile since I’ve written new short stories and I love short stories. I will probably also be writing a short stories. I have at least one I’m itching to write, maybe two. 

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