In For Writers, Writing

The other day a reader wrote in asking about my preparations for NaNoWriMo, and I thought it would be valuable to discuss it here in case you’re wondering the same thing.

From my Inbox…

I know this is your first year doing [NaNoWriMo], but as an experienced novel writer, I was wondering if you had any tips. Are you going into November with a book idea in mind? Have you done any research, or just kind of using the month as a springboard for something new? How difficult do you think it will be to reach the 50,000 word goal?

Great questions! Let me preface my answer by saying, there’s no right or wrong way to approach NaNoWriMo. Every writer has his or her own process, and that’s what makes NaNoWriMo so cool: thousands of different writers with unique styles and processes come together to achieve the same goal. 

With that said, here’s how I’m approaching it:

I’ve got a book idea in mind. Since completing Empty Arms, a book idea has been ruminating in my mind. Over the past few months I’ve been working on character sketches, plot ideas, and research so I don’t run out of fuel mid-month.

I will have a “rough” outline. Experience has taught me that I’m most efficient when I work from a detailed outline. However, experience has also taught me that my best ideas pop up in the middle of the writing process. In order to be efficient and open to new ideas, I’ll be armed with a rough outline, that is, the beginning will be mapped out, but I’m not sure where the middle and end will take me.

I will write every day. Okay, Thanksgiving Day and the day before (since we are hosting this year’s celebration at our new abode) may be an exception. But other than that, I plan to begin writing first thing in the morning (no Facebooking, emailing, or blog surfing until 10am) and stop when my eyes get blurry and my mind feels like mush (that’s generally how I know it’s been a good writing day). I think writing 50,000 words in a month is a challenging (but not impossible) goal for any writer; it’s certainly one that will require discipline and a serious commitment.

Though I haven’t done NaNoWriMo in the past, I have written 2 novels and here’s some advice that helped me get from the first word to the last:

  • Have a game plan. How will you get to your goal? How many words/day do you need to write? Do you work better from an outline? If so, work on that now. Are you a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his or her pants)? Then start collecting ideas and inspiration around the topic you’re going to be writing about to keep your creative engine well-oiled.
  • Establish a routine. Pick a time, every day, when you’re at your creative best and use those hours to write.
  • Avoid distraction. Banish yourself from all of your online social activities until after your writing is done.
  • Just do it. Like going to the gym, the hardest part of writing is often getting there. Don’t overthink it or let fear get in your way, just sit down and turn on your computer.
  • Feed your brain. It may sound silly, but writers tend to drink a lot of coffee and tea (and other caffeinated beverages). Eating balanced meals and drinking water will keep your brain sharp and help you avoid those nasty caffeine crashes, which can lead to lazy writing.
  • Harness the high. When you get to the point when your fingers can’t keep up with your brain and you feel that endorphic writer’s high set in, ride that momentum for all it’s worth and don’t let anything stop you.

How are you approaching NaNoWriMo? What advice do you have for us first-timers?


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