NaNoWriMo 2016 – How to Make a Success of National Novel Writing Month
We’ll it’s upon us again. The annual festival of over caffeinated writing which is National Novel Writing month, or NaNoWriMo 2016.
This year I’m participating. I’ve also decided to blog and podcast about the experience. I’m hoping to learn something through the month that you might get some value out of.
So why have I taken up this challenge?
Simple. To challenge myself. I’ve been writing ABOUT writing and the business of self publishing for years. I wanted to polish my story chops and tackle a novel. I have been working on a novel for the past couple of years, but like many people have struggled to find the time and dedication to complete it. In a word, I got disheartened that I’d ever get it finished. Every time I returned to the project, I just couldn’t find that mojo to dive in and continue.
Sound familiar to you?
Do you wait until January 1st each year to make a creative commitment to write a novel?
What usually happens is November swings around, life gets in the way and the Great New Year Resolution Novel gets put off for another year.
NaNoWriMo gives you a clean slate each November. complete the challenge and by December 1st you have a 50,000 word first draft already in the can. Much more powerful than making a new years resolution to finally write a novel.
So far, I’m on schedule. I’m writing everyday, pantsing it. I’ve rediscovered the joy of flow and immersion that creating art brings you. I’ve been dipping back into my library of writing books, re-reading Stephen Kings masterpiece ‘On Writing‘ to get some tips and tricks straight from the master.
Now, just like you, I struggle to find time the time to write. I write regularly, but the demands of running an on-line business, blog and podcast have gotten in the way of my desire to indulge in some story telling. I’ve published a book of short stories called Beautiful Lies and other non-fiction titles, but have yet to tackle a novel. A bit ironic when that’s one of the driving motivators of my Madhouse Media Publishing; to help writers write and publish.
NaNoWriMo 2016. has forced some discipline on me. I’ve made some changes that have helped me herd the cats and get the work done while still having time to work on my business and enjoy the thrill of creative fiction.
So, even if you’re not participating this year, I wanted to share with you some of the methods I’m using to hit that daily deadline of 2000 words. It sounds daunting at first but stick with me. All you need is a little re-organisation and some aggressive time management you can get into the groove of a daily writing ritual as well.
It’s all about focus
You’ll be amazed what you can achieve if you get rid of the distractions that keep you from focusing on a creative project. What makesNaNoWriMo 2016. wonderful is you’re handed a very real deadline. Thirty days to write 50,000 words.
With a deadline this short, you do see real progress and with November 30 looming larger everyday, you get a triple caffeinated hit of focus.
When you break it down, it’s really only 2000 words a day. Look at it that way and theNaNoWriMo 2016. mountain becomes much less intimidating.
So let’s get down to it. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far. (Day 9 and 11,500 words in as I write this piece).
Audit your Social Media Use
How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other social distractions Steve Jobs has cursed us with? Do you realise what an endless black hole social media is for writers?
My hack was simple. I just moved my social habits from the morning to the evening.
My guilty pleasure was grabbing my phone the moment I woke, checking Twitter, Facebook and my email before circling around to check the news feed on Twitter. On average 30-40 minutes lying in bed before I got up at 7:00am. Now, when I wake, I get up immediately, make a coffee and start writing. I can bang out 1000 words in 30-40 minutes. Thats 7000 a week. Not bad.
Best of all, writing first thing in the morning keeps me in the zone and keeps the characters and world building fresh in your mind. I’m loving my early morning writing ritual. I start the day ready for work and don’t have any guilt about never finding time to write.
Here’s what the Stephen King has to say about writing rituals.
…I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with. No more; you’ll lose the urgency and immediacy of your story if you do”. – Stephen King, ‘On Writing’
Unplug the TV
I’ll make a confession right up front. I’m a Netflix junkie. I bought an Apple TV and I’ll watch a couple of hours each night to unwind. The gateway drug for me was House of Cards with Kevin Spacey. Great, scripted drama! But, it’s as big a black hole as my smart (dumb?) phone.
My struggle is running an on-line business and trying to find the time to write. The November deadline looms, so rather than waste time with that seductress Netflix, I write to make up my daily word count. Once I’ve hit the 2000 for the day, I then spend some time to review try to work out what’s happening plot wise for tomorrow mornings writing session.
And I’m loving it.
I know we’ve all got busy lives, but you’ve got to open the little windows of free time we all have each day. Remember, it’s not lack of time holding you back, it’s how you use those 24 hours.
Panster or Planster?
Pantsing is seat of the pant’s writing. It’s immersing yourself in the flow and letting your characters guide you on the story. A Planster has pretty much already figured out the story, characters and plot points and just fills in the gaps. Which are you? Do you just let the story unfold, and surprise yourself with the twists and turns of your imagination or do you put some planning in?
I’m pansting NaNoWriMo 2016. just for the creative thrill of it. I’m a musician, and to me it’s a bit like songwriting. You improvise, and the improvisation throws up a chord progression and melody that you can work with and shape into a song. Pantsing is like jazz for writers.
Pantsing gives you incredible creative freedom, but at some point you’ve got to turn those riffs into a story with a beginning, middle and end.
Part of my routine is keeping a diary of the novels progress. Each night I think about where the word count is, what scenes have been developed. How they fit in the bigger context of story. Keeping a diary helps me question what’s going on, plot out what’s missing and flag any additional research I may need to do to make the story believable and compelling.
Stories are found things. Like fossils in the ground. – Stephen King, ‘On Writing‘
Pantsing helps you unearth those fossils.
Use the Right Tools
Scrivener is software developed by writers for writers. I guarantee, once you get a copy you’ll be hooked. The one feature I absolutely love is being able to create your own character and location library on the fly.
One of the hardest things writing creative fiction is keeping track of characters, traits, their appearance and purpose in the story and most importantly, their names. You could do this in a spreadsheet OR you could just select ‘ADD NEW CHARACTER’ right in the document itself. Bang. Now when I need to insert a new character, I just right click, add character. No more typos or scratching your head about who is who in your story.
This is just ONE of the features of Scrivener that makes a writers life much easier and is well worth the $45.
Get yourself a copy here and supercharge your writing. Just click here for more information about Scrivener.
Get in the Flow
What I’ve enjoyed most about NaNoWriMo 2016. is that it forces you to write regularly. If you’re writing a couple of times a day, every day with no distractions, you really do start to see your story from different angles. Your characters take on a life of their own. Dialogue and action starts to flow.
As Stephen King says, you’ve got to write every day to create that flow. You’re spinning a world and that world can evaporate if you’re not coming to it every day with the characters and places fresh in your mind. This is the number one reason why writers abandon creative projects. They drop the daily ritual.
You’ve got to find time to get in the flow and keep at it every single day.
Create your Book Cover
This is great for motivation. Having a name and book cover helps you visualise the end game – a published novel. So why not treat it like one right now? The title is up to you of course, but you can create a book cover for free at canva.com. Print it out, hang it up and look at it whenever you need motivation to keep going. Mine even gave me some ideas for plot and setting. Should I push on next year and actually publish this thing, the cover will change but right now, it makes my crazy pantsing NaNoWriMo 2016. adventure a tangible thing.
If you’re a participant this year, good luck and keep writing! If you’re not, create your own deadline and start a regular writing habit today.
Are you giving NaNoWriMo 2016. a crack? Have you tried it in past years? What’s your tips on keeping on track with sanity intact?