Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting Your NaNo On

So! National Novel Writing Month is coming up. I'm sure most of you know the gist already: 30 days, 1 book, 50,000 words. Details are here, and if you decide you're interested, you should hurry up and sign up! We're starting in 5 days!

This will be my 3rd year doing NaNo. For me, the challenge isn't writing quickly; it's getting a 50,000 word first draft. This is really, really long for me. A lot of my finished books clock it at around 50,000, and my first drafts are usually significantly shorter, somewhere in the 25-30,000 range. So even though people assume NaNo is easy for me because I'm a fast writer, it's actually a significant challenge for me as well. I won in both 2008 and 2009 (though in 2009 I cheated by adding 50K to an existing project. shhhh. But 2008 was legit).

If you're interested in NaNo but nervous about the idea of 50K in 30 days, here are some tips that you can take or leave as they suit you.

--Take a risk. I like to do something weird for NaNo. My planned project for this year is a ghost story, and hopefully (hopefully!) the first of a trilogy I have mapped out.

This is so astronomically far from anything I've ever done, but the good news is, I can't give up. I am absolutely positive that I'm going to start panicking and trying to jump ship 10,000 words in. And any other time, I probably would. But not for NaNo. For NaNo, you have to keep going. Or you LOSE. I don't like losing.

--Nail down the beginning. Choose your first line NOW. You don't want to be staring at a blank page. You can change it later, whatever, but give yourself a springboard. I have my first chapter all written up in my head. Then God knows what happens.

--Don't pace yourself. It doesn't work that way, at least not for me. Start strong. Write as many words a day as you can. Aim for 5K a day. Power through for as long as you can.

There will come a day where this gets absolutely impossible. You'll be lucky to get 1K out. And that's okay. Because you have a few days of writing 5K behind you, and you're already ahead of the game.

It will get harder to write as you get to the middle of your book. You will start doubting yourself and pulling out your hair, and the lack of sleep will catch up with you. Keep pushing as hard as you can, but give yourself permission to have some days when you're barely trickling out words. It happens. But don't try to slow down the part where you're buzzing and exciting because your book is shiny and new in hopes of saving your energy for later. It doesn't work.

--Get a support group. Physical ones work really well for some people; ask around and see if there are meetups in your area. You might be surprised!

If you're a hermit like me, there's always, thank God, the internet. You can find friends on the NaNo forums, or you can bully some of your existing friends into participating with you.

It's very, very helpful to have people to bitch to. If the Musers didn't do NaNo, I can't imagine I would. Most of the fun of this month comes from suffering together. It breaks up the loneliness we all feel sometimes, when it's just us and our laptops and our boyfriends complaining they never see us.

--Welcome help. Once you sign up, you'll get pep talk emails. Read them! Love them! They really DO help, if you let them. (And you might just find a quote from someone you know in there. I mean, maybe. You know a lot of people, right? I'm just saying it's possible. Stop looking at me like that. I don't know anything...)

People will reassure you. People who haven't read a word of your novel will tell you that it's brilliant and you can finish and you can do it. Believe them! Don't be a sourpuss. Sourpusses don't finish novels. I won't say what they do. This is a family-friendly blog. (Stop looking at me like that.)

So. If you decide to sign up, make sure to look me up. I'm right here. You can read a description of what I'll be working on, if you like. I'll put up an excerpt once the month has started. Add me as a buddy if you want to see how I'm doing, and leave links to your profiles in the comments so I can friend you back! And good luck!

35 comments:

allison said...

I won Nano back in 2007, and haven't felt up to trying again until now, and I'm so excited! I added you on the site: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/658781

thegracefuldoe said...

Great encouraging post! I did it for the first time last year, and I can relate to starting to lose steam half way through. I started strong and by the end there were days I got nothing written (work didn't help). It's a great idea to get ahead at the start when you're excited and still full of steam.

I have a great group of support this year, I managed to convince some friends to do it with me, so we're all supporting each other.

My page is here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/656122

Good luck on NaNoWriMo!

Michelle said...

I'm doing my first NaNo this year. I've done two weekend novel marathons (well, they are 3 days, not two) but there is no real endgoal as far as word count goes, so this is a little more intimidating.

And from those experiences, I can say that you are absolutely right about powering through as much as you can in the beginning. It makes it easier as you near the end.

I'm going to take you up on that buddy thing. My profile is here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/685695

And good luck to you as well!

hannah said...

Michelle--I totally want to do a weekend novel marathon at some point. But I'm waiting until I'm out of school...the big one is over labor day weekend, right? And that's never worked for me as a student. But someday.

exploringeliza said...

Nice post! It gets me all riles up. I had decided in August not to participate, since I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through a novel already. Then I got an email from the Chris Baty, and I checked out the freshly lunched site, and I got all twitterpated. I love NaNo!

Kate Larkindale said...

I just added you... or, Vampyr 14 did. My idea is a little small at the moment and I'm planning to do two things I've never done before: write in sequence and in chapters, so I'm pretty terrified.

Claudie A. said...

Awesome post! Those last six days before NaNoWriMo always seem to be the longest ones of every year.

Oh, and while I agree to the entire list, I'd like to say: DON'T BE A HERMIT. Just go to regional meetings, if there's any close. Really. Do it. ^^

Nicole Lorenz said...

I can't wait for November! This will be my first year doing NaNoWriMo. I've heard great things about the regional write-ins, so it looks like I'll have to check those out, too.

Added you, Hannah. http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/657130

Anne R. Allen said...

Great tips! Good luck. Sounds like you've got the whole thing down.

Dominique said...

Great post. I'm actually going to try NaNo this year, and this post is helping get me pumped. :)

Anna said...

Thanks for the advice! I'm looking forward to my first year doing Nano. I like what you said about getting ahead early; I don't know if I can handle 5K, but it's great advice given that Thanksgiving can be crazy to say the least.

Krystal said...

I'm actually really excited for this year's NaNo. I really liked some of the tips and I hope this year I can actually hit 50,000 this year.
My page is here http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/591234

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I'm doing my first NaNo this year. I'm kind of excited and freaking out all at the same time. I'm determined though. Thanks for the awesome tips. Time to choose my first line. :)

Braiden said...

OH I so want to participate but I have exams until the 15th :( and they begin in two days so I better study haha I ill try and get as much written in my breaks but I doubt it :P

Braiden said...

and to top it all off I have an idea which I think will rock.

divy said...

Wow, I love your synopsis. I would totally read that.

This is only my second NaNo, and my first NaNo was also the first (and only) time I've written, well, anything of significant length. I'm still not sure I can repeat it. And I'm writing speculative fiction, which is a major shift outside of my comfort zone, but I sort of think that's part of the fun.

I added you, and I'm here. I also suck at synopses, so my page is pathetically blank.
http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/543604

Michelle said...

The one I've done takes place every July (the Muskoka Novel Marathon- it's not an online one though). I think that you are right, the 3 day novel marathon takes place over the labour day weekend, and that one is online.

Liz H said...

This is my first NaNo, and I'm really excited and nervous. Thanks for the tips, I hope they help.
I added you and my profile is here - http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/690892
My profile is sadly blank but I'm working on that. Now to choose my first line.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Oh, I REALLY want to do NaNo now! Your post is so inspiring. My mom will be visiting, but I REALLY want to do it! Maybe I'll put her to bed early...

If I can outline enough of my novel, I'll do it. I'll come back and post my link.

hannah said...

I'm so glad so many of you are participating!

divy--thank you so much! It's so far from what I usually do. I'm nervous but very, very excited.

The Celebrated Author said...

Awesome, I didn't know you did NaNo! This is my fourth year (third successful).

Willll you be my buddyyyyyy? http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/213328

Frank said...

Great post. This is going to be my fourth NaNo, but my first one where I'm going to be kind of pressed for time, so I'm really going to have to focus on getting more words per day.

I've added you. Here's my profile: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/214728

Brandy said...

I added you too. I'm ZoMonster http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/660516

Mia said...

Thanks for the advice! I think the beginning is going to be really hard for me since I didn't plot (some may call it over-plotting)like I usually do. If I could just get the first sentence down maybe the rest will come. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

I think ghost stories are going to be pretty popular this year. I know of several people writing one, including myself.

MBee said...

This is my 4th go round with Nano. Hoping for my 3rd win...even though I only have an idea this time rather than a more complete story in my head. Kid with powers depending on their zodiac sign. We'll see where it goes.

I love that a published author like yourself is participating. This might sound bad, but it's kind of reassuring to think a "seasoned professional" will struggle as much as me :P I'm sure you'll do great! Best of luck!

I added you as well!
http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/128574

hannah said...

Mia--practically all the Musers are doing ghost stories for NaNo. I'm predicting it's gonna be the next thing...meaning we're ahead of the curve, woohoo!

MBee--that sounds really cool. And I totally love the diversity of people who do NaNo! I didn't start doing it until after my 1st book sold, but I've loved it ever since, and I love that it gets both the writing world AND people who aren't serious about writing all together for this one thing. It's so so fun. And I totally struggle!

Shayda Bakhshi said...

I LOVE the idea of starting with a first line and having it in your brain beforehand.

I usually take the if-I'm-not-looking-it's-actually-really-good approach and just slap something at the top of the page. And run. Quickly.

I'm totally going rebel this year, though, and adding 50K to an extant project. At least, that's the plan. But Nano has this funny way of surprising it's participants each year; don't you think?

Also, I have my support group on speed-dial. Excellent post. All bases covered.

CharmedLassie said...

Some good tips there! I especially need to pay attention to 'don't pace yourself'. I've got this habit of writing to my goal then being supremely pleased and stopping in the middle of something when I could easier have written on... and on and on.

Here's to writing all night!

Arlaina said...

Dude. I'm in.

Thebe said...

Great advice cause its gonna be my first try this year, I'm going with a mystery/thriller. It's a good thing I'll be done with exams by then, but it's not like I study anyway so it doesn't really matter...my pro...http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/683192

E. Kristin Anderson said...

Hannah, I write skinny drafts, too. My first drafts are usually about 35-40 words max, and I spend the next several drafts adding meat to the bones. So 50k will be a stretch for me. I will consider myself a success if I can finish a first draft, even if it's not 50k. Though 50k first draft would certainly be a nice accomplishment.

I'm also challenging myself: I plan on writing a magic realism/fantasy story. I usually write snarky contemporary issues-y stuff. Big change!

GO US!

Amie Kaufman said...

Great advice, I can't wait to get started! I realised just yesterday that I had no idea what I'd type when I sat down at the keyboard. I've been madly thinking about first lines ever since!

Just added you! I'm Siesta, right here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/493938

Jessica Lawlor said...

Thanks for the awesome tips! I tried last year, but just didn't succeed. I really want to power through this year. I just added you..my profile is here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/438228

:)

Tricia Conway said...

Oy vey. I'm only ~1500 words in and my mental outline isn't translating into words as nicely as I'd like. But I won't give up! Or will I? Hmm.... nope. I like to win things. I guess I like the validation that Yes! I can write! (Who cares if it's trite crap, right?!)

Here I am!
http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/500950

Tura Lura said...

Finally read this post. It's only been open in my browser since the day it posted...

Added you as a writing buddy. I'm turalura there, too. ^_^ http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/220710