Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo How-To: You Can!

For the next thirty days, you're going to be hearing a lot about NaNo. No, we're not talking about Mork and Mindy ... we're talking about National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. Thousands upon thousands of writers pour their hearts out onto paper through their fingertips to see if they can be NaNo winners and hit the 50,000 word mark before midnight on the 30th. It sounds impossible, but many succeed.

How do they do it? What are the secrets behind NaNo success?

In listening to these authors explain their methods, several things were common between them.

1. They had the support of their spouses, children, and other family members. They held a family meeting and explained what they were trying to accomplish, and asked for support. When spouses and children pitch in to help reach a common goal, chances of success increase exponentially. Kids can make dinner and clean up after themselves. They can do a few extra chores. Spouses can take over some of the tasks that usually fell to the writer. Teamwork is what makes it come together. Can you win NaNo if you don't have a supportive family? Of course. This is just one way to make it more possible.

2. Each of these writers had a plan. They knew what they wanted to accomplish. They had either outlined the book beforehand, or they would take a few minutes at the end of each writing session to think about what should happen next so they could dive right back in and get to work instead of staring at a blank screen for an hour.

3. None of these authors let themselves get hung up on the idea that what they wrote had to be perfect. In fact, NaNo is not about perfect writing - it's about getting thoughts and ideas onto the page as quickly as possible. You can edit it later - you're told to edit it later. Spend November just getting the story down.

4. Most importantly, each of these writers had a dream, a desire, and determination. They would not let something as simple as fear of failure keep them from trying. They pushed on regardless.

Now, how can you take these principles and apply them to your own NaNo journey?

A. Decide what you want. What burns within you so brightly that you couldn't extinguish it, even if you tried? For writers, it's to write. It's to touch people. It's to reach out and make a difference. Focus on that. Keep that desire in front of you at all times.

B. Whether it be in a Word .doc or a notebook, sketch out your story. You don't need every detail - just hit the highlights.

C. Sit down and write. Seems like a simple step, but you'd be amazed how many people don't take it. Don't hold yourself back. Just pour it all out on the paper. Get it out there.

D. When you need a break, jot down notes so you know where your mind was going. When you come back, you can pick right back up with that train of thought.

E. Eat and drink plenty of good, healthy food during this time. When a writer is on a roll, they often forget to take care of themselves, and then they burn out. Don't do that to yourself. And no, Coke and chocolate do not constitute good, healthy food.

F. Do not turn your computer off at night until you know what you're going to write the next day. Brainstorm. And keep a notepad next to your bed in case inspiration strikes while you're drifting off ... because you know it will.

I'm not much of an outliner. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. But in a challenge like this one, you need to determine your course before you take off, or you'll spend too much time flapping around, trying to find the right wind current. Jotting down your next set of ideas does not limit you - it helps you get those tail feathers turned in the right direction.

Good luck with all your NaNo goals, and be sure to check out the website for the rules. Even if you don't win, or even if you only get a few thousand words in, you will feel such a sense of accomplishment for having participated.


Cindy M Hogan author of Watched said...

This is so exciting. I love your post. It makes me really want to succeed. Thanks

Canda said...

Great tips! I'm easing into the healthy snacks idea. . . chocolate, carrots, chocolate, string cheese, chocolate, water.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Haha ... and exercise. Gotta remember to exercise!

Cathy Witbeck said...

Great post. Makes me want to pick up a pencil and join all the Nano'ers.

Tristi Pinkston said...

NaNo really is a great time of year - and it's so fun to imagine thousands upon thousands of people all united in the same goal!