Anyone who knows me can attest to how excited I am about the first of October.
Halloween is my favorite holiday – seriously, I spend a lot of time and energy finding a costume – fresh Honeycrisp apples, pumpkin carving, and the mandatory viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
But this year I’m adding a new tradition. This year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. Writers worldwide join the quest to write 50,000 words from November 1 until November 30, the minimum word count for a novel.
It isn’t a contest; you win the event if you reach 50,000 words period. To reach this word count, you should write roughly 1,700 words a day, but nothing stops you from skipping a day and catching up at a later time or on the weekends.
NaNoWriMo is not without its critics and supporters. Those against the event argue that it encourages shitty and unnecessary writing. The whole world is already filled with crappy novels, right?
But it breeds so much more than speedy writing. It’s a large community of writers all reaching for the same goal: finish a novel and be published. No one expects their first draft to be excellent which is why subsequent months are spent editing and re-writing drafts, much like what every writer goes through.
Personally, NaNoWriMo forces me to move toward a goal and the experience the craft of writing. Through the forums I’ve already learned so much from those published and unpublished who participated for several years since it started in 1999.
It’s an epic challenge for me because I’m new to writing creative fiction and on any given day, my goal is to write at least 500 words whether it be a story or my blog. So, to prepare for my novel, I’ve developed plans throughout October.
1. Ideas and Outlining
I had a small idea for the subject of a novel and includes characters, a general direction, and an inciting incident. Once I had my idea, it was time to get to work. Are there other characters? If so, how do they interact with the protagonist? Are there subplots? How will this end?
I have to answer a ton of questions; ones my readers are going to ask. I’ve perused the NaNoWriMo forums as well as other websites to see what outlining method will work for me. I’m such a planner, not a pantser – someone who writes with abandon by the seat of their pants.
I tried a method where I used index cards, writing each scene in my story on each card. If I want to move a scene around I can do so in a stack or on a corkboard. The corkboard method works great for me.
Lastly, I’ve written names and descriptions of each of my characters on a legal pad. I feel like a nerd, but I even took the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBPT) for each of my characters and found the descriptions surprisingly accurate. Not bad for my imaginary friends.
Started by Rachel Stephen, Prep_Tober is a community of writers all preparing for NaNoWriMo next month.
There’s a website with all sorts of videos and tips from Stephen as well as an ebook outlining her advice from a previous NaNoWriMo. The group has me pretty pumped and I have a calendar from the website with suggestions of actions I should perform each week.
I highly recommend checking out her website here and following Prep_Tober on Twitter.
3. Making Time
Writing, like anything worth pursuing, is hard work. Some days I have a blast writing while other days I feel like the biggest failure in the world. Some days I’m so distracted by social media and TV that I can’t get more than five words onto the page.
But, I have to make the time for my dreams to come true. I schedule time every day to write and it can be anything like writing an hour or two when I get home after work or taking advantage of my lunch hour. Luckily, the firm has its own library so I can write in silence; I’m not so lucky at home.
During NaNoWriMo, I need to use my time effectively. Hence, all the preparing and outlines.
Additionally, I have to make time for reading. I started writing because I love stories and the use of words. Alliteration is one of my favorite techniques which is probably why I love Peter Parker so much.
I want to enjoy my time because I’ll go crazy if I constantly work without playing. Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
4. Survival Kit
This was something I never considered, but after reading the NaNoWriMo forums, it’s a great idea. I’m going to spend a lot of time in my chair focused on writing a book that I want others to read. This calls for all the comforts of home and physical and mental preparation.
Stephen King may have the time to write 2,000 words a day, but I spend a great portion of my day at work so it’s harder to fit in my novel. Here’s a list of some of the items I’ll need to survive November.
5. Mini Writer’s Retreat
When I read an article – found here – about creating my own mini writing retreat on the DIY MFA website, I loved the idea.
I live with my husband and my family, so alone time gets pretty scarce. The only place my desk fits, along and all my stuff, is in the living room with a big TV, all our gaming consoles, Netflix…you get the idea. I’m in distraction heaven.
So, I decided to get away for one weekend in November where I could focus on my novel and my word goals. The hotel is booked, but not too far from home. I haven’t decided some additional writing locations although I see coffee shops in my future. But don’t worry, I’ll chronicle everything and some things I’m sure I’ll learn.
Nicole C. Thomas
Nicole is a writer working on her first novel Samantha Darkened, created during NaNoWriMo 2016. She writes weekly posts regarding books, writing, and mental illness. She has an interesting sense of humor which includes a love of alliteration and puns.