National Novel Writing Month
If you have ever participated in the NaNoWriMo annual 30-day writing marathon, you already know what it’s like. You cross everything else off your schedule, hunker down and write. On second thought, it’s not really a marathon. It’s a sprint, hurdling over writer’s blocks and kick-starting your creativity because it’s all about the first draft. It’s freeing! No one expects you to turn out a polished manuscript. You just keep writing and writing and writing.
The NaNo organization has built a terrific interactive website with incentives, forums, encouraging blog articles, writing buddy networks, local groups, achievement badges and accountability charts that will inspire you to frantic efforts or despair. Or, if you are doing well, they might make you feel a little smug. (Watch out for that.) You even get a gold halo for your profile picture if you make a donation.
My Favorite NaNoWriMo Resources from Helping Writers Become Authors:
One of my favorite writing craft teachers, K.M. Weiland, is doing a series of articles on How to Outline for NaNoWriMo. I have her two books, Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, in digital form, and I buy fresh copies of the corresponding workbooks each time I start a new book. This current blog series is like a super-charged refresher course, and it’s not exclusive to NaNoWriMo. It’s a comprehensive “how to outline and write a novel” overview, and it’s very good. Everything she writes is worth reading and applying. Everything.
Last year, she had a helpful article called 6 Tasks You’ll Love Yourself for Checking Off Your NaNo Pre-Writing List, and there are are several NaNoWriMo episodes in her Helping Writers Become Authors podcast archives.
As I read last year’s article – and others written on the topic – I came up with my own list. It’s a practical, commonsense list of things that need to be done before November 1 if you plan to write 50,000 words and “win” National Novel Writing Month.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo – 6 Important Tasks to Complete Before Nov. 1
- Stock up on groceries. Be sure to buy coffee, soda, frozen pizza, peanut butter and jelly, canned soup, frozen meals that can be microwaved in five minutes or less, cereal and milk, more coffee, granola bars and toilet paper. (You can also eat the Halloween candy you didn’t give out.)
- Take care of the winter chores. Put the snow tires on the car. Install the storm windows. Hire a lawn service (or kids, if you have any) to mow grass, rake leaves and shovel sidewalks as necessary for the month of November.
- Announce to your family that you will not be hosting Thanksgiving this year, but if you can’t get out of it, remember that Pizza Hut and Dominos both deliver. If the family insists on something more formal, your local grocery store or restaurant probably has a packaged “turkey dinner for twenty” that you can buy already prepared. Or – if you are on track with your writing quota – you could take a break and go out to eat. Make reservations, so you don’t waste time waiting for a table to open up.
- Plan ahead! Clear your calendar as much as possible. If there are important birthdays, anniversaries, parent-teacher conferences or other events in November, reschedule them. It’s best to go ahead and take care of them in October, so you don’t forget later. Call your mother and anyone else who might start worrying if you disappear for a month.
- Finish your Christmas shopping and mail your Christmas cards by October 31.
- On October 31 – Halloween – turn off your porch light at 8pm and lock the doors so you can get to bed early. The neighborhood kids don’t need any more candy. (If your own kids are still out trick-or-treating, make sure they have a house key.)
Think outside of the box
You can also use a dedicated computer that is NOT connected to the internet, hire a housekeeper, retreat to a quiet cabin or noisy coffee shop according to your temperament, hide your cell phone… It can be a challenge to write 1667 words every single day or catch up if you fall behind. If you have a day job or family – and hope to still have them on December 1 – it will be even more challenging! Double kudos!!
I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, because I have some looming rewriting and editing deadlines for Baggage Claim. I hate to miss it, but I can’t start anything new right now. I wrote Baggage Claim for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, and it’s finally (nearly!) ready for publication. Look for it in February!
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