NaNoWriMo | writing

3 things to know before attempting NaNoWriMo

Here we are again! It’s almost November, which for many writers and authors around the world means preparation time for National Novel Writing Month or it’s more affectionately known acronym; NaNoWriMo.

So what is NaNoWriMo for those who don’t know?

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.

It’s a challenge, not a competition. There’s no winners or losers, but if you do reach the 50,000 words you do get a nifty certificate. But it’s more about committing to writing for a full 30 days.

I’ve competed in NaNoWriMo a total of six times. 2012 was my first, and in 2015 I wrote part of the first draft of what would become The Memories We Hide. Yes, my debut novel was born through NaNoWriMo! So I guess I could be considered a bit of a NaNoWriMo success story, which is why I thought I’d share three things that I think you should know before attempting NaNoWriMo.

#1 You’ll need to sacrifice something

If you’re keen on giving NaNoWriMo a go, the first thing you need to do is commit to doing it. Writing 1,667 words a day for thirty days isn’t an easy task, and depending on how you write, it’s not usually something you can fit into five minutes here and there. But, how do you fit the writing in? You have to sacrifice things.

Whether it’s your favourite TV show, your weekly catch up with friends or your sleep in, something has to give. After all, if you could simply slide writing 1,667 words into your day easily, then you’d be doing every day, right?

When I first attempted NaNo in 2012, my writing time was between 9pm and 11pm. A couple of years ago, I made the effort to get up half an hour earlier each day and write. This year, I’ll still be in the midst of redrafting my rom-com novel, so it’s not going to be easy to also write a brand new draft at the same time. So, there might be a few things that I’ll have to sacrifice – tv shows, social commitments, housework, reading and maybe even my regular baking! But it’s for only for one month. And the month goes by in a flash!

#2 This is no time to be precious

I love writing the first draft. I love the exhilaration of getting down new words, meeting new characters and seeing where the story will take me. I know how messy a first draft can be too. But I also know, as the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page. I also know that a first draft is no time to be precious about what you’ve written – especially during NaNoWriMo.

If you’re the type of writer who likes to edit as they go, or maybe read over what you’ve written the day before and polish it up, then you’re going to have to change your ways. (Unless of course, you have hours set aside to do so (which applies to approximately .0000006% of the writing population)

To get those words down you need to write – and write only. There’s no such thing as a great first draft. They are messy, often incoherent, and always need lots of work when done. But that work comes later. Not now. During NaNoWriMo the aim is to get the words down, you can deal with them later.

#3 It’s not life or death

While NaNo is definitely a challenge, but it’s not life and death. My advice is to treat every day as a new day and not to let the word count get on top of you. There will be days you don’t reach the target and other days when you smash it. Then there are the days where you get a big fat zero.

I always remind myself that although I may not reach the 50,000 word target, any words I get down during November are words that I didn’t have before I started. And that is always a bonus.

So whether it’s 5,000, 20,000 or 49,900, they are words I can build on after NaNo. Any words are a success. In fact, in 2017 I only reached 13, 362 but that story is a good one. And it’s one I will come back to and build on soon. One that I know will, with more work (lots more work!) will become a novel I release in the future. So while the word count wasn’t great in terms of NaNoWriMo, it was well worth it!

If you haven’t given NaNoWriMo a go, you should. It’s fun, exhilarating and it gives you a great head start on that idea you’ve been thinking about.

Head over to the NaNoWriMo homepage to sign up and find out more details. And for more tips, you might be interested in my previous NaNo posts:

NaNoWriMo: The Good vs The Bad

3 Reasons to Dive into NaNoWriMo

How I Won NaNoWriMo 2018