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Hi there, misfits! Glad to see you all survived the Halloweekend, and it’s the first week of November, so you know what that means…
IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!
Alright, but in all serious, November is seriously one of the most important months for me and tons of other people across the globe, and it’s not just because of the delicious Thanksgiving food we’ll eat (if you celebrate). That’s right, folks, it’s NaNoWriMo! As I’ve hit word count three days in a row, I thought I would make this post about how to survive National Novel Month without losing your mind!
PS: My username on NaNoWriMo’s boards and website is misfitalexa, and my link is off to the sidebar, if you want to connect with me! I’d love to add you as a writing buddy!
What is it?
Yep, you heard me right. 50k. 30 days.
It seems insane, and most of us kind of are. But the main point of it is to shut off your inner editor and just get words down, however brilliant or silly or horrible they might be! Then, you have December (or the rest of your writing days) to edit it; at least you have a pretty full manuscript on your hands! It definitely isn’t a completed book, but it’s a good starting place for those of us like me who have difficulty finishing their written works.
Planner or Pantser?
The first step to taking on NaNoWriMo without losing your mind is to decide whether you are a planner, a pantser, or something mushy in-between. This means, will you be writing without any planning whatsoever, or will you be outlining every detail and filling out every character profile with care? Hopefully you decided this by the end of October, but if you haven’t, that’s okay, too! NaNoWriMo is amazing because NO ROOLZ! Personally, I’m a super planner. I can’t really finish much without a clear-cut, broken down plan, so I fit on the extreme end of the scale.
You can do as much or as little planning as you want. At the very least, however, I’ve found that most people need to know what they’re writing about, even in the most simple of terms. For instance, a good jumping ground could even be a man jumps into a lake. Bam, you’ve got a plot. What happens before he jumps into the lake? What happens after? Does he miraculously grow gills or a tail? Is he a half-breed of mermaid or octopus? Is he running from the mafia? How do his family and friends feel about his lake-jumping activities?
As silly as the example is, you get the point. Whatever you think you should do, though, Plan-wise or Pants-wise, you should know which one you’re (mainly) doing.
Declare to the World!
What is the best way to make sure you get something done, you ask? Hold yourself accountable! Tell everyone you know, absolutely everyone you see on the street and all family members and friends that you are going cuckoo for the month of November and will be leaving with a manuscript. Maybe not strangers on the street, but as many people as possible. You’re less likely to quit halfway through if you know that there’s a lot of people knowing about it!
Usually, I talk about NaNoWriMo on my various social media; I’ve been documenting a lot of moment-by-moment struggles on my twitter this year. I also have my book and word count information listed on my sidebar, so my readers can keep tabs on me! Plus, the NaNoWriMo website provides you with fun badges, icons, and banners to place everywhere to let everyone know to spread the word!
Typing? Handwriting? Letters by Pigeon?
Okay, this one gets a bit rough for me, because I get very distracted by various programs and technology. But it must be done! How will you be writing your novel? Most people stick to laptops and computers, but there’s many people who use old-fashioned typewriters and even some brave souls who handwrite the whole thing and transcribe later!
The cool thing about handwriting is that if you get into the habit of counting how many words you write on one page, you can write that at the bottom corner of each page as you go. Then, once you know you have 50k, there’s a cool tool online called Lorum Ipsum Generator, that helps you generate a bunch of text, equal to how many words you need. NaNoWriMo works on the honor system, so if you were to cheat and just put some Lorum Ipsum text into the validation box without writing anything, you’re really only cheating yourself.
Anyway, once you decide if you’re typing or not, there’s tons of programs on computers and tablets that are perfect for NaNoWriMo! Personally, I do all of my writing on my laptop on a LOVELY program called Scrivener. I’ll probably be coming out with a post just on Scrivener because it’s so fabulous. It’s currently only for desktop (not on the AppStore for iPhone or iPad), which is a bit of a pity. Those of us in the Scrivener brigade have been waiting patiently for an app, but I hear they’re getting very close! If you need to edit on the go, you can sync with the SimpleNote app, though! The computer app is amazing because it is wonderful for super planners and breaker-downers like me, and it has a ton of templates and setups just for NaNoWriMo! Plus, if you’re a NaNoWriMo participant, you get 20% off your purchase. If you win, you get 50% off! Even more plus, there’s a free 30 day trial, perfect for NaNoWriMo!
In the past, I’ve also used Storyist (similar to Scrivener, but with an App available and syncing over the cloud), Pages for Mac and iPad, OneNote by MicrosoftOffice, and even good old-fashioned Microsoft Word.
The list of apps to use during NaNoWriMo is completely endless, and that doesn’t even get into anything to help you plan or take notes. Like I said, don’t let yourself get distracted, though! Pick one, and stick with it!
Plan Out Your Writing Schedule
This version of planning is much different from actually planning out the plot of your novel. In order to write 50k by November 30th, you need to write an average of 1,667 words every day. So, one of the most important things you need to do is plan out your days. If you’re in college like me, and know you have an important test or presentation somewhere during the month, plan ahead! Write more than your allotted amount every day, and that way, you won’t get held down by the end of the month!
There’s this really cool online resource called Pacemaker that helps you plan out your word count in different ways, such as if you want to do a big bulk first, or if you want to wait until the end, along with tons of other strategies.
Psst… If you’re looking for a fun word count calendar wallpaper for NaNoWriMo, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, as I’ve got some subscriber-exclusive NaNoWriMo gear for my favorite misfits!
Find A Group!
One of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is the fact that it’s community-based — writing is a very solitary thing. NaNoWriMo lets solitary writers come together in groups both online and in person to make sure that we all don’t just hole up forever and so we can share our struggles and discoveries! Go to a write-in! Write at the library! Start a writing group at your school! Let’s all group together and bask in the light of our computer screens!
Get Sleep, Stay Healthy!
I cannot. Stress. This. Enough. You need to stay healthy. This means eating food, drinking more water than coffee, getting sleep, going outside at least once or twice, and giving yourself time to rest. If you just wrote for twenty-four hours straight for thirty days, you wouldn’t be alive. In fact, I’d be worried that you aren’t human, if you’re able to do it. Go to the gym, see real people, and give yourself some rewards for work done or you’re going to go absolutely nutty by December 1!
Number 1 Rule…
Is have fun! If you’re not having a good time or you’re halfway through and are having anxiety attacks over your wordcount every night, then stop. No one is forcing you to finish, and it’s more than okay to quit; your health and safety is so much more important than any writing competition. Besides, how are you gonna publish a book if you die before the month is up? I’ve decided that my personal rewards are watching Bob’s Burgers and Once Upon A Time on Netflix and staying up-to-date maybe splurging on a thing or two I find on Dealspotr, like this deal for 50% off T-Shirts from AllPosters.com! Treat yourself to a funny t-shirt to get you through the month with a smile!
So keep your chin up, keep your coffee brewing, and may your computer battery never die before you have a chance to grab the charger! Good luck, my fellow misfits, and I’ll see you next week!