Keep Calm and Write On: it’s NaNoWriMo time!

I know, I know, I haven’t done very well at ROW80 check-ins this round. I haven’t been doing very well at the research for my NaNoWriMo novel either, life got in the way (aka I have no self-discipline). However it’s time to let all that go because tomorrow is the FIRST DAY OF NANOWRIMO! This is not a time to be punishing myself, it’s a time for new beginnings. Last year was my first NaNoWriMo and it taught me something very important about myself: I can do it. You can do it too.

For those of you taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time, here are the top five things I learnt last year:

1) Plan, Plot and Prep: Write a basic plan, even if it is only one sentence. If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know which path to take? Having a plan will also help you on days when you feel lost or like your creative juices have run dry. If you haven’t done one yet, don’t worry, there is still time. Last year I re-wrote my entire plot on day three. Given that I’m feeling slightly uncertain about the plan I’ve come up with for novel #2, I suspect I will end up doing so again.

2) Bum In Chair: Make writing your priority, just for one month. Forget the laundry, it’ll wait. If you feed your family on ready meals for a month, who cares? Big Picture, everyone. This is your month for putting your writing first. Everything else can wait. Conversely, try not to freak out about the Big Picture. 50,000 words seems like a whole lot of words when you’re sitting down on November 1st. The trick is to just concentrate on each day as it comes, 1667 words at a time. If something comes up that really can’t wait and you miss a day, or several days, don’t panic. Just keep moving forward.

3) The internet will steal your novel: All writers have a common enemy: procrastination. If procrastination is the devil, the internet is his Mephistopheles. Say your character talks about their holiday in Spain but you’ve never been, don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’ll just google some information on Spain, it’ll only take a few minutes‘. It won’t. It never does. Before you know it you’ll be watching bull fights on youtube and your time will be up. Never look anything up. Got that? Never. If I come across something I need to research I write [Research]. Just like that. Then I write the scene without the fleshy details or I move on to the next part. Believe me, if you let it the internet will reach up and grab you. You’ll wake up in twenty years and think ‘what happened to that novel I wanted to write?’ and you’ll know the truth, the internet stole it. If you have trouble keeping off the internet, make the NaNoWriMo website your homepage for November to focus your attention.

4) NaNoWriMo is not a whipping tool: NaNoWriMo is a brilliant inspiration to write but don’t use it as a means to punish yourself. You’ll come across people who say ‘I wrote 5,000 words today’ or ‘I’m already at 40,000!’ on day three. If you are one of these people, I’m extremely jealous, but this isn’t how I work. I chisel away a little each day. Try it, it’s much easier than setting unrealistic goals for yourself and then punishing yourself when you “fail”. If you fall behind, just keep going, every word you write is a step forward. This is also why I believe in 4a) Give yourself lots of little treats along the way. A chocolate bar when you have finished your day’s writing, a dram of whisky, whatever floats your boat. It’s only for a month, and you’ve worked so hard, give yourself some love.

5) Writing Buddies: Develop a support network. There are loads of supportive people on the NaNoWriMo site, which is why I’d always encourage participants to join up. The forums are teeming with wrimos on hand to encourage others, offer advice and help one feel less lonely. Try as well to get someone in the real world on your side, whether they are participating or not. Having someone else at home to field questions about the laundry pile, or better still to take on some of your chores for the month, will make a world of difference. I also found it invaluable having a friend in-the-know who called me once in a while to see how I was doing, or who I could call in times of need. Someone who would calmly talk me down from the ledge and remind me of why I decided to be a writer in the first place and that ‘it isn’t 50,000 words, it’s 1667!’

Loving this print on Etsy.com – click for link

To those doing NaNoWriMo, leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve got any tips or tricks, or if you just want a buddy. To those ROWers who aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck with your goals and I’ll try and pop by your blogs to say hi during the month. Meanwhile my blog may be on the quiet side for the next few weeks, but don’t let that fool you: I haven’t forgotten you.

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