I’m asking myself this very question as November approaches and another National Novel Writing Month comes along with it. I’ve done this three times and I’m thinking about doing it again this year. Why would I subject myself to this torture for thirty days?
For one, it keeps me writing so it’s very good for discipline. I won’t sign up at all unless I’m committed to finishing by the deadline.
However, I think insanity also plays a part in this because I have too much on my plate this year to give this a second thought. I have a PT job, the holidays are coming, and we all know what that means when you work in a retail environment. The only redeeming feature here is that hubby will be out of state for part of the month. When it’s only me, I can eat anything at any time and not make a fuss with dinner or clean up. I can also adjust my sleeping schedule to a certain point, having to consider the job as well. I’m thankful I can function on two hours of sleep. Sometimes that comes in handy.
Two, they have great discussion boards to take advantage of if you’re stumped with your writing endeavor. All you have to do is post a question and some brilliant person will come along to answer. You’ll find a discussion boards for almost every topic you can imagine. I have to admit I rarely take advantage of this discussion feature because, as we all know, it’s easy to be caught up socializing and not working on your word count.
NaNo requires you to write 50,000 words in a month. If you make it, you “win” and different things are available to you, such as writing software and books at discounts. There are also helpers for editing and if you get your book finished in six months, there’s a discount on self-publishing. At least there was last year. This never happens for me. I’m still working on my last three NaNo projects. Someday I’ll have a series worth publishing.
The team at NaNoWriMo sends emails and pep talks to your inbox. Some brilliant people write these, designing them to keep you motivated, your butt in the chair, and your hands on your keyboard.
There’s a great community of other writers at NaNo and if you’re lucky enough to live in a bigger city, there will probably be organized write-ins with others that live there. This helps to keep you going too, although my town is too small to take advantage of this.
If you make your 50,000 words by November 30, you’ll feel so great and have such a sense of accomplishment. Your story may not be finished, or ready to edit, but you’ll have a great start to a book.
Everything has a downside and NaNo does too.
You must write 1667 words a day to finish by November 30. This is a huge commitment. It takes time away from your family and holiday activities.
You need to prepare yourself for writing your brains out and let nothing hold you back. You have to stay disciplined and committed. There’s no penalty if you don’t “win,” but you’ll feel better about yourself if you do and also know you can do it.
Don’t get distracted by anything unless your house is burning down. This means avoid FB and any other social platforms. Don’t spend hours on email during your writing time, if you want to finish. Save this for after you make your daily word count.
Do not watch TV or anything else until you’ve reached your daily goal. If you can do more words, then you can take a day off during the month, which is the way I do it. That way you don’t feel totally left out of things going on in your daily life and your husband and kids won’t want to kill you.
Brew lots of coffee and stock up on snack food, which is bad thing to say, but sometimes that’s all you can do if you want to keep going. You don’t want your hunger to sidetrack you. If you leave your chair, there’s a good chance you won’t be back in it later in the day. I’m only speaking from experience here. When you’re in the zone, stay put.
Some last thoughts:
If you intend to participate, do your character sketches now and write down plot points for your story. You are allowed to do this beforehand. You just can’t start writing your story until November 1. I usually make a few notes, even being the pantster I am. That way you aren’t totally lost and know what you want to cover in the story, and you don’t get your characters mixed up that way, which helps later during the edit process.
Resist the urge to edit as you go. I can’t stress this enough. You don’t want to spend any time on anything except writing. Editing can wait.
Back up your work daily. Don’t turn the computer off until you do. Writing is too hard to risk losing everything. I back up everything twice, once to my external drive and once to Dropbox, which is a great cloud storage place and is free, up to 2 GB of space. If you need this program, you can get it by clicking on Dropbox above. THIS IS A CLEAN LINK. I downloaded one last year that had viruses attached, so be careful. Now, or any time, you don’t want to deal with that.
Sign yourself up here for NaNo, so that’s done when the first rolls around.
Above all, have fun and good luck.