Advice for NaNoWriMo newbies

So it’s almost November – which means National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done and won this seven times now. (No, I’m not obsessed…) If you’ve decided to sign up for the first time and take a crack at it, here’s some advice for you:

Writing 1667 words in one day is not the hard part. I’m a slow typist and I can knock that out in a couple of hours. What is hard is doing that for day after day after day. That’s the real discipline of NaNoWriMo and writing in general. But, build up a word cushion when you can. However disciplined you are, you can’t avoid unforeseen events that stop you writing that day. Get ahead so a day lost is not a disaster.

2013-Participant-Square-ButtonIs it okay to…? YES. Whatever it is you are asking about, say the content or style or way of writing your novel, you were going to ask, then yes, it’s all right. You can write in any POV you like, or non-linear or whatever. There are no rules to writing. Selling it is another consideration, but it’s too early to think about that. You don’t need anyone’s permission to write the book the way you want to write it.

And following on from the last point, do not attempt to write a novel by committee. Don’t go on the NaNo forums asking “Is my character a Sue?” “Is this believable?” Or worst of all “Would you read this?” For one thing the advice you will get will almost always be contradictory. Brainstorming ideas with others and getting suggestions is great. But it’s your book, you’re the executive producer of this show. You get the final word.

Don’t listen to anyone giving you advice couched in absolutes – you must have an outline, you must always do it this way or that way. Nonsense. Figure out the way that works for you. Take advice from people who are basically saying “This works for me, so I’m passing it on in case you find it useful too.” And mix and match the advice and techniques until you find your own way of working. Many outlining techniques for example can be useful just as they are, but they may be even better for you in combination and turned into your own unique method.

Don’t make a fetish of your writing environment. It’s fine to have ideal writing conditions, but don’t turn an ideal into an essential. The only essential thing is some way to make words. Don’t convince yourself you need just the right music, your lucky hat, that particular brand of hot chocolate and the cat no more than three feet away from you. This just gives you excuses not to write when the cat is hiding, someone borrowed your hat and the supermarket was out of that type of hot chocolate. It will lead you to waste what might have been useful writing time and in NaNoWriMo more than at almost any other time every moment counts!

2013-Participant-Vertical-BannerBackup‼ It shouldn’t need to be said. But every year I see people on the forums wailing about how they’ve lost their novel to a hard disk crash or file corruption. It’s sad because it never needs to happen. If this is your first time writing a novel you may never before have put so much time, effort and love into one fragile little computer file. You must protect that file with as much care as you’d protect a baby. Back up every single day. Losing one day of work is sad, but you can still recover and go on. Lose several days and you’ll probably give up the challenge in despair. Backing up could well prove to be an important part of your strategy to make it to 50,000 words. How you do it is up to you. But DO IT!

I hope those tips will help some of you out and maybe I’ll see you around the NaNoWriMo forums – after you get your word count for the day. Feel free to buddy me over there and say hi! My profile on NaNoWriMo

And I’ve written a few others posts about NaNoWriMo
Why NaNoWriMo is not about writing.
Why am I doing my 7th NaNoWriMo?
How NaNoWriMo helped me get where I am today


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