Every November, thousands of writers participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, during which they aim to complete a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in 30 days. With this year’s NaNoWriMo quickly approaching, we asked Denise Jaden
, author of Fast Fiction
, who has taken the challenge for eight consecutive years, to share her advice for those who will be participating this year. We hope you’ll enjoy, and implement, the five tips she offers. Happy writing!
# # #
I’m about as close as you can get to a professional NaNo-er.
I began taking on the 30-day, 50,000-word challenge back in November 2007, when I wrote the first draft of my debut novel, Losing Faith, in only 21 days. I’ve been taking the challenge every year since — and have several books in print to show for it.
I’m here to offer you my top five tips for taking on — and winning — this ambitious writing challenge.
1. Get prepared. You know the old saying “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? So how does one prepare for NaNoWriMo? First of all, think practically. Make some meals during October and stick them in your freezer. Buy some ready-made snacks and store them in your writing area, so you’ll never have to stop writing because you’re hungry. (Halloween candy works great for this!) Tell your friends and family you’re going to need a little EGR — Extra Grace Required — during the month of November. Ask them if they can help out a little more around the house, or by taxiing children around, or by giving you extra quiet time and space to write. It’s only one month. You can pay them back in December.
2. Go in with lots of ideas. They don’t have to be in polished, outline form, but corral all your ideas into one place. I use an iPhone app called A Novel Idea, since I usually have my phone with me no matter where I go. If you prefer the good old-fashioned paper-and-pen method, that works fine too, as long as you always keep the same notebook with you. Ideas strewn on sticky notes around your car and office and bathroom don’t really help when it comes time to write your draft. If anything, they may leave you with a scattered mind and a sense of unpreparedness. Having a notebook full of ideas will never leave you feeling stuck or blocked about what to write next.
3. Put your goal in writing. Whether the goal is writing a novel, losing 10 pounds, or making an extra $1,000 in 30 days, research tells us that people who have clear and measurable written goals are as much as 90 percent more likely to achieve them than those who don’t. Plus, people who achieve their current goals are more likely to achieve future goals, even in other areas. In other words, finishing your novel draft this November could also help you lose weight and make more money!
4. Write every day. I’ll tell you up front, not all writing days will be easy, and some days you may feel like the last thing you want to do is sit at your computer and let drivel drain from your brain and out your fingertips. But writing through those days, rather than following your desire to skip, will keep the flow of your story going and keep you in a state of forward momentum. Think of having a big boulder in front of you. If it’s already rolling, it’s easy to move. If it’s at a standstill, it’s a lot harder to get going. Your writing is like that. If you keep up the momentum, even in one-paragraph spurts, it will be much easier to come back to and continue moving forward. Get up five minutes earlier than you usually do in the morning and free-write before you interact with any other person. Coming out of a dream state, our brains are often filled with all sorts of great new ideas. Harness those plot points and character traits before getting distracted with life. Then, no matter what, you will have done a little work and kept your mind immersed in your story that day. Even if today’s writing isn’t great, tomorrow’s has a better chance of being good if you keep with it.
5. Don’t do it alone. Grab a few friends who also want to give NaNoWriMo a shot. Bolstering their confidence and enthusiasm will have a double benefit — it’ll bolster your enthusiasm as well. Stay accountable by signing up on the NaNoWriMo website. Join up with those in your region and find some buddies. Follow the Twitter hashtags #nanowrimo, #amwriting, and #wipmadness. Challenge others to 15-minute word sprints. Try following a guide like Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! or my new book, Fast Fiction. Whatever it takes to get through the month and write every day.
It’s only one month. You can do it!
So, to recap:
1. Get prepared.
2. Go in with lots of ideas.
3. Put your goal in writing.
4. Write every day.
5. Don’t do it alone.
I hope my tips help you complete this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, as well as many fast-draft novels to come! I’d love to hear in the comments your best tip for getting ready for a fantastic NaNo month!
# # #
is the author of Fast Fiction
. She has participated in (and won) the NaNoWriMo challenge each year since 2007, and she now runs a secondary fast-drafting challenge on her blog each March at denisejaden.blogspot.com. Her second novel from Simon & Schuster, Never Enough
, was released in 2012, and a group of companion stories, Never Enough Stories
, is available for free at Smashwords.com. Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction
was her first nonfiction work for writers. She loves teaching groups of writers of all ages and infusing them with confidence to attempt their own fast drafts. Visit her online at DeniseJaden.com.