I’m Writing a Novel This November, What Are You Doing?

By Erica Root

Erica Root
Erica Root

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as we insiders like it call it.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge of epic proportions.

For budding/aspiring/wannabe writers like myself, this challenge asks its participants to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

It is a way to jump start those creative juices, put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and just write. Don’t edit, don’t think too hard. Just write. Every day.

To break it down for you, that’s 1,667 WORDS A DAY you need to write to stay on track.

I’ve successfully ‘won’ NaNoWriMo once, two years ago. I hit my 50,000 words for my novel and then stopped. Altogether. After those thirty days were up.

For me, that means I have a first draft of a story that is 75% done. I’ve worked on it in spurts in the nearly two years since this project began, and yet it remains unfinished.

At the end of last year I wrote a GOTG article about setting goals, not resolutions in the new year. My 2015 goal was to finish this damn novel… I mean this future bestseller that I’ve poured my heart and soul into.

OK, I kid, a little, but it really has been a lot of work. Writing is hard. Mostly starting to write is really hard, but keeping the momentum going also requires effort. Effort that can be easily derailed by an array of distractions.

So, this year I am going to utilize NaNoWriMo as my launch pad to get this writing project done. At least my first draft and maybe a few scene re-writes. I need a set challenge to force me to buckle down and get ‘her done.

While this is generally frowned upon, original fresh stories being the crux of National Novel Writing Month, I don’t care. If this helps me finish my project, then I will do what needs to be done.

Since I am mentally preparing myself for this upcoming month, I’ve spent a significant amount of time reflecting on what worked for me in the past (and what didn’t) and thought I share some tips in case you decide to join me on this epic adventure.

 

Things that work:

  • Accountability – If you’ve listed to Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, you know all about accountability. Or maybe this is something you practice in your day-to-day life but haven’t yet identified it as being accountable. This step is crucial for most life changing goals and resolutions. You are more likely to succeed in an endeavor if you have a plan and share that plan with others. Me, writing this article, will give me a much better chance of success this month. The first and only time I completed NaNoWriMo I actually emailed my daily writing to a few trusted people. This tactic worked great for me. People expected the writing, gave positive feedback (that’s the only kind of feedback allowed at this stage), and placed the requisite amount of pressure on me to get those 1,667 words down.  
  • Getting Ahead Is Easier Than Catching Up – If you have a two day conference in LA scheduled during November then you have a few options available to you: you could say you will make the time to write while you are at the conference (but we ALL know you won’t), you could get ahead and write more in the days leading up to the conference, or you could play catch up once you are safe and sound in Sacramento. I recommend getting ahead, because feeling like you need to play catch up is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to staying on track during NaNoWriMo. Suddenly 1,667 words a day turns into 3,334 words you need to write to be on track. As that number grows, your confidence in getting the project done plummets. So stay ahead, stay above water, because you are treading ALL month long.
  • Create a Space to Write – A few years ago I bought this beautiful tiffany-blue desk from World Market. This is my writing space. I only use the desk to get work done and writing a novel in a month is – obviously – a whole lot of work. But I know when I go to the desk that I need to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by shiny objects or squirrels. A sound track is helpful in creating your space as well. I’m partial to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack, the Kiera Knightly version, which is available on YouTube. Yes, I listen to music on YouTube, but that’s a discussion for another day.
  • Plan What You Are Going to Write – You don’t need to have the whole story map written out before you get started on this journey. In fact, that’s not really recommended. However, spending the first 5-10 minutes of the day mapping out what you are going to write about THAT DAY is immensely helpful. Even if what you write is total crap, you’ll have a guide to writing that crap.
  • Say Yes to the Supernatural – If things look dire, make someone a vampire and your story will immediately be revived. (Credit for this tip goes to my boyfriend who doesn’t actually books with vampires or werewolves, but knows I do.)   
  • Alcohol This one is self-explanatory. But, in case it is not, I will explain it to you. Booze lowers inhibitions. Inhibitions prevent you from feeling silly enough to write that steamy sex scene you’ve been meaning to get to.

 

Things that don’t work:

  • Spending Time Re-Reading/Editing – Don’t edit! This is not the time and you will just get frustrated with how bad your writing is. Don’t re-read, just pick up where you left off, you should remember since you just wrote the day before. Didn’t you? You better not have skipped a day.
  • The Internet – The internet is a tempting siren, desperately trying to lure you away from writing. So turn off your internet access, go to a coffee shop without free Wi-Fi, and get to work.
  • Maintaining a Social Life – Maintaining a social life is hard to do if you take on this challenge. If you really want to be successfully and hit the target 50,000 words, you have two options: become a recluse or surround yourself with friends who participating in NaNoWriMo. The website will actually connect you with local groups who meet up to have write-ins, so join if that’s helpful, I’ll stick to working with my book club ladies who have decided to to work on their novels as well!

So what do you think? You ready to take this challenge with me? Sign up now.

Good luck!

 

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