My NaNoWriMo Experience
Spoiler alert. I kind of killed it.
Bask in the glow of my 66,263 word count on the last day of NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words is the goal, by the way. I feel an odd sense of satisfaction despite not really having won anything.
How did I do it? First off you have to make sure you have no life whatsoever in November. If anyone tells you otherwise (and they have a full time, non-writer job) then they are lying to you.
What is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? I had never heard of the online event until 2013 when one of the booksellers I worked with talked highly about it. Chris Baty started the first one July 1999 in San Francisco and the movement grew and evolved from there. They’ve hosted it every year since. From the first day of November to the last, you must write your brand new novel every day and update your NaNoWriMo profile to reflect your new number. Your goal by the end is 50,000 words. On their website you can find writing buddies or purchase merchandise.
This is the first year I decided to participate only because I planned on writing the sequel to Girls Who Wear Glasses anyway. On a whim, the second day I switched to my first attempt at science fiction/fantasy: Living Book. I had realized that NaNoWriMo was going to help me push through writing a category that is foreign to me.
My one concern about NaNoWriMo is that I wasn’t super happy with how my book was turning out and had to keep going back during November (using my my writing time) to edit it. After all, their whole shtick is quantity over quality, something I loathe in the fast pace “get anything out” attitude of today’s publishers. I don’t need my favorite author to pop out one/two novels in a year. I’d rather they put out a quality book.
This is though, all about getting people to finish a novel if they’ve never done so before and it’s effective in that goal. You earn these little badges every time you get over a hump so there is that incentive of enjoying brief achievement while watching it light up.
Living Book is currently at 87,000 words and will likely end up (according to my outline) with 24,000 more.
How to succeed in NaNoWriMo?
You must plan a detailed outline beforehand.
I took a really good Masterclass (James Patterson) that went over something that has hurt my writing all my life: outlines. Now that I understand them, I’ve found that they are essential for a quick, finished product that includes everything you needed to add to the story. Outlines suck, I get it. It takes a chunk out of your writing time to do them but there is no possible way you can just write a tightened novel for NaNoWriMo without one.
Like I said, have no life.
Are you planning a wedding, bar mitzvah, or wanting to binge on the newest Netflix series? Then don’t get your hopes up about finishing NaNoWriMo. I have a full time job so I had late nights and full weekends of nothing but writing, writing, writing. Good thing I love it so much. That meant I missed out on fun stuff but it was worth it in the end.
If you get stuck in your novel, read pages from a book that inspires you.
I have an unhealthy obsession with Michael Chabon’s
genius books so when I got stuck on a scene that needed some flowery detail, his novels were my go-to. When I was stuck on an action scene, reading Harry Potter books helped me get my groove back. As you’re reading, it will happen when you least expect it and you’ll run back to your laptop.
Don’t obsess over anyone else.
Not long ago I had my first taste of writer envy. It’s my fault. I kept going back to witness every single success this new author was enjoying but you can’t do that. If you obsess, you’ll be taking away some of your work time so congratulate and move on. Don’t think about it longer than you have to and remember that every writer’s path is different.
Scrivener is a life saver.
No one’s paying me to say this, by the way. However, I couldn’t have written an organized novel of 60,000+ words without Scrivener. I’ve been putting off using it for years because it costs about $30 and I’m stubborn as hell but how did I live without it? It took a friend of mine named Will, who is so smart he once worked for NASA to tell me it was essential and it is. You can organize your scenes on a cork board. You can create pages for extra dialogue for your book. Scrivener’s easy to work with, I promise. If you play with the features, you’ll figure it out but there are also YouTube videos to help you if learning new tech is not your thing.
I’d recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone who is planning their next novel. My favorite thing about the event? The sweet swag you get when you’ve “won” the word count. They send you an email of discounted writer goodies. If I’d been more patient, I would have been able to buy Scrivener for 50% off but there would be no Living Book without it.