Making the most of NaNoWriMo
November is a marker of my year, because it’s also National Novel Writing Month, known more widely as NaNoWriMo. In fact, the title itself is misrepresentative; NaNoWriMo is an international phenomenon embraced by thousands, discovered by many, and is the ultra-savvy way to get those darn novels completed – or begun. For many writers, it’s just a starting point.
“Once I get those chores out of the way, I’ll bash out another chapter.” Then you switch the television on to watch drivel. Hey, I’m not preaching here – I’ve done the same – until I found NaNoWriMo. It is a simple concept: write 50 000 words during the month of November. How you achieve this goal is down to your plan of action, but hit it you will, and you’ll find you can. You don’t have to just aim for 50k – go higher if you can, and if you do miss out on the 50k by the end of November, then look back and be proud of the words you did put down. It all counts.
NaNoWriMo is an international phenomenon embraced by thousands, discovered by many, and is the ultra-savvy way to get those darn novels completed – or begun. For many writers, it’s just a starting point.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be about a new first draft. It can be a redraft, an edit, or a tweak of an edit. Even fine tuning words and pages are as good as writing for me. Do it!
Go for what works for you, such as:
• 1612 words every day
• 806 words in the morning and 806 in the evening
• 1000 words per weekday, and then 3750 each Saturday and Sunday
• 2000 per day, to leave less to do at the weekend
Your words. Your choice.
My Experience of NaNoWriMo
For the last four years, I achieved my NaNo target and each time it’s been a fist-punch into the air moment. Knowing that there are thousands taking part is like having your own mascot nearby pushing you to keep going. You’re not alone! Usually, I aim for 8000 words per week and often I’m close to that, but the NaNo target makes you focus. I didn’t have time to ponder, over-plan or think about the correct word in each sentence, let alone if the sentence was needed, or whether the chapter began and ended with a beat forcing the reader to continue. Heck no. The mission was to pump out words, and that’s all I required. I put aside my thinking to do the plain and simple thing: write. Incorrect spelling, grammar, and every writing rule (formal or informal) can be corrected later. That’s why we redraft and edit. For now, I had to write.
In 2015, my idea came during a drive back from a meeting. Over the next few days, characters formed and I found myself researching space stations on the Internet. By Day 3, I’d planned the outline of the plot on an Excel spreadsheet. Why am I telling you this?… Because Day 5 was November 1st, and that meant I could leap into the novel with oomph and motive. Driving to and from work became episodes full of self-reflection over the chapters, the direction of the plot, the need to deviate and to alter events. I didn’t go back and add/remove characters or redo a chapter – I kept writing. All the time, I wanted to reach the end. It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. It’s all about self-achievement.
In the end, I did more than 50k words. I knocked out 58k. And I didn’t stop. I kept the momentum going in my thoughts, until hitting the end on 14th December with 82k for the first draft. In all, that put me almost two months ahead of how long I envisaged it’d take to complete the novel. I was ecstatic.
NaNoWriMo 2016 will be the same. A novel I wrote in 2010 is due a major update with a new plot, and because I know my characters so well, I will reinvent with gusto. This year will be the most difficult; I have a new son, and he eats into my writing time like my cats do into their treats. The challenge is to smuggle in as much writing time as I can, no matter how early or late, and if I only manage to hit 49 999 words by the end of November, then so be it. Either way, it’ll be better than no words.
Go forth and be courageous. #Write
As a veteran of writing festivals, Imran Siddiq loves spreading motivation and belief in writing. He juggles his fulltime career in the NHS and writing his novels. He’s self-published and uses his words to escape from reality. Follow him on Twitter: @Flickimp