Once again NaNoWriMo signups are upon us. The site is up, sporting new Drupal digs, and accepting new novelists who will once again brave the exciting race that is 50,000 words in 30 days- all November long. To recap, NaNoWriMo is a month long journey where people around the world attempt to write a complete novel(la) in about 30 days. By the seat of their pants. Some people go into this "competition" with no plot or characters to write about, others like myself, create a loose plot and maybe a character or two before we start writing. Two years ago, I gave you ideas on using the D*I*Y Planner Story pack. Last year I helped you brainstorm ideas for outlines and plots.
This year, you get advice from last year's first year winner, iScribe. She's compiled a list of things that helped her achieve her first time victory. I've reprinted her ideas with her permission as they are some of the best advice anyone can give returning wrimos (and especially first timers) as they attempt to draft their first novel in 30 days. Read on to learn more about what worked for her.
Last year (2006) was my first year doing NaNo and I won. I crossed the finish line two days before the deadline with 55,000 words and a finished novel. This is what worked for me:
YES - join some sort of NaNo support group. I picked a local one that met at a 24hour / free wi-fi coffee shop twice a week. It was there I wrote the most because you are inspired when there are a dozen other people ticking away on their laptops (like myself) or doing it longhand (gasp! my utmost respect to those writers). If anyone ever got stuck they'd ask out, "Quick! Gimme a name of a pet!" And the first response would be the one that would go in. Great atmosphere for brainstorming plot ideas.
YES - designate a friend to be your NaNo cheerleader. I had one and her name was Innowen. She would push me into word wars with her via IM. "Okay, I wanna see 500 words in the next 15 minutes! On your mark...get set...WRITE!" Then Innowen would IM me when the time was up and, wow, I would have roughly 700 words already done.
NO - writing every day simply did not work for me. I could not do the 1,600/day. However, I did find my stride and that was to write every other day and get about 3-4K words down. I found the day in between was a nice rest for my brain and my hands. Find your own stride. I have some people who finished within a week. Me? After I counted all the days I wrote, I got done in 2.5 weeks. Do what works for you.
YES - set up a little ritual before you write to get you into the NaNo groove. For me I would have my large college thesaurus (i wouldn't go online for that would distract me with its shiny links and internet goodies), my fingerless gloves, and my personal muse icon for the story I was writing. Last year it was a cute orange monster named Tanja. My friend used a plastic little ninja which she set upon her laptop to get her into the NaNo Zen. This year I shall be writing a horror story so I already have a new pair of fingerless gloves picked out (black 'n' gray with a skull on it) and a muse icon (female ninja ghost action figure -- creepy looking).
YES - create a playlist for your novel so you can listen to music that will inspire your story.
YES - treat yourself every time you write. Even if you didn't reach your word count. Because at least you wrote! I discovered that Coca-Cola worked best for me on the caffeine route rather than cafe mochas. And powdered Donettes were my treat of choice. ;-)
YES - try and get OUT OF THE HOUSE to write as much as you can. No distractions from family, from TV, from...oooo, I need to do some laundry. Local coffee shops love us. As do book stores or any other hang out with free wi-fi. Even though I live alone, I could not stay home because I would procrastinate by busying myself with chores that could wait. Being out forced me to focus on my novel.
NO - outlines was another thing which didn't work for me. I do love structure, but outlines were too cumbersome and too stiff.
YES - instead, I went with some basic plot points. I roughly had 8 points of action or story turning that I wanted in my novel. How they all connected though was where my muse popped in. I had no clue and it was so much fun creating the path to each plot point.
YES YES YES - for cryin' in the night remember to have FUN with it! Place some duct tape over your inner editor and shove them into a steamer trunk. Once I let go of the fact this was not going to be a serious novel, I started having fun creating my own literary world. I even used zombies, pirates and a herd of plot bunnies in one chapter alone and I giggled the entire time. Honestly, that chapter was probably some of the best writing I've done when I learn to just let it go. ;-)
There ya have it! My NaNo 2 cents worth! Good luck in November!
So, who else is with us on this year's trek? Good luck to everyone who's attempting it for the first time this year and welcome back to those returning. I hope your plots are filled with wonder and your word count impressive.