Friday, October 28, 2011

[NaNoWriMo] It's the Final Countdown. . . Tips and Strategies

Sorry about the cheesy 80s blog post title, but I couldn't resist. I'm not made of stone!

The madness of Nano starts on Tuesday, so we have a weekend (a long weekend, if you're Irish) to plan and prepare. Here are my favourite first-week tips:

1. Get ahead of target early.
Cannot stress this one enough! I've used up all of my annual leave for the year, so I can't take the Tuesday off to get a head-start (I did last year), so for the first four days, I'll be balancing Nano and work. Still, this step is important. For the first four days, I'll be aiming to write more than my daily target of 1667, so that if I have a bad day, I'll still be somewhat ahead.

If, like me, you're balancing Nano and work, school, kids, etc., just carve out some time as early as you can and pull ahead. I've planned a full day of writing with Writer Friend (who isn't doing Nano, but is in the late stages of an edit and is using Nano as a motivator) on the first Sunday in November, with the intention of creating a nice little cushion of words in case something comes up later in the month and I fall behind.

2. Plan the first bit.
I'm a pantser rather than a plotter ('half the fun is getting there', as the Greyhound ads used to say), but for Nano, I plot the first sections of my book. Sometimes it's just a few scenes, sometimes it's a chapter, but it's a fantastic way to stop those moments where you freeze 500 words in and think 'OK, I got her off the bus BUT NOW WHAT??'

My planning looks usually looks something like this:
Kate arrives at the house. Goes inside. Talks to parents. Goes upstairs. Sees letter on bed. Reads letter. Calls Marge. Marge's reaction. . . . etc.

So, when I start writing, I have this skeleton to flesh out with descriptions of the three characters (and probably some description of Marge, too, although we don't see her) and I'm less likely to get stuck while Kate is chatting to her mum and forget where to go next.

Usually I do this for the opening bit and then allow myself to revert to my classic pantser ways :)

3. Make the most of the first week or two.
I find that during the first week, friends and family are cheerfully indulgent about your inability to spend any time with them or behave like, you know, a normal human. I hear lots of 'It's great that you're so dedicated!' 'That's such a cool thing to do!' and 'Can I read it when it's done?'.

But after a week or two, I start to feel guilty for saying 'no' to everything, and I start to make plans and accept invitations. Also, as November wears on, we get over closer to Christmas and I always find that things just crop up and need to be done.

So get as much done as you can while the guilt is at its lowest level!

4. Ignore other people's word counts.
Nano is a competition with yourself, not with anyone else. Don't worry about anyone else's word count. Some people on the Nano forums break 50k on the first day. Also, don't fall into the trap of assuming that everyone writing faster than you is writing total rubbish - they might be, they might not. But don't give them any headpsace, positive or negative. They are on their path, you are on yours. Put blinkers on and get back to writing.


  1. Hi Ellen! Some great tips on NaNoWriMo, best of luck getting your 50 000 words! My best friend and I are doing it again this year and looking forward to it. I know I'll spend a lot of time procrastinating, though!

  2. Good luck to you and your friend, Katie! I'm 'nycelle' on the Nano boards if you want to look me up there.

    Procrastination is all part of Nano, just don't forget the massive sprints to make up for it :)

  3. I've got a feeling, that a pretty big blog project I offered to do for someone is happening in November. Oh well, sleep can wait :-)

  4. Good luck getting there! A number of bloggers I follow are doing it this year.


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