Tips for a first time NaNoWriMo participant

I failed at my first attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in November. I failed even more dismally at my second attempt. I finally got the hang of it by the third attempt and this year I’ll be going for my third win.

As a moderately seasoned veteran (of both success and failure) I thought I’d write some tips for first time wrimos.

1.  You can write a lot in a very short space of time. Much more than you think you’re capable of. Quality is not the big issue here, it’s quantity. More than one person has been known to finish 50,000 words in 24 hours. I’ve managed to write 6,500 words in one day and I’m a terrible procrastinator. You’ll be capable of word-generating feats you didn’t think possible BUT you must sit down and write. There is no secret that gets you around that fact.

2.  Bearing point 1 in mind, try your utmost not to get behind the target word count (1,667 each day). Especially if you’re a new wrimo, you’ll find it very demotivating and demoralising. I always stay up til midnight on 31st October just to get in a couple of hundred words to kick start things. I then try to take 1st November off work (or reserve it if it’s a weekend) and write all day to try to put me ahead of the game.

3.  DO NOT EDIT. I mean it. Leave anything you’ve written well alone until after November, even if you realise it means the rest of your novel make no sense whatsoever. Moving forward is your only goal for this writing challenge. Everything else can be dealt with later.

4.  Make the most of spare moments. Last year was my first with an iPhone and I found I could write pretty quickly on the little notepad. I had a 40 minute commute in the morning. I could manage about 400 words. A 40 minute commute in the evening. Another 400 words. That only left me with 600-ish for the evening. Easy. The year before I bought a netbook. I’d pop it in my handbag and knock off 600 or so words at lunch time. The iPhone is the best gadget, I admit, but even the humble paper notepad helps. One year I found myself scribbling in the queue for an ATM.

I found these retro-style school exercise books yesterday and customised them with stamped leaves

5.  Make your workspace beautiful. Make it a place you don’t mind spending 2-3 hours a day for a month, staring at the wall. One of my treats is an expensive scented candle I burn when writing, to create a pleasant atmosphere. I went through a phase of filling my drawers with Lindt chocolate balls and rewarding myself for each 1,000 words, but I found I was just eating them regardless.

My desk, all tidied up ready for last year's nanowrimo

6.  This is a little trick I have up my sleeve for eking out words when the muse has packed up and left without leaving a forwarding address. Before November, I sit down and brainstorm a list of slightly unusual and exciting things that could happen in my novel. Things that will shake things up and that I’ll enjoy writing about. I call these ‘Plot Escapes’. Last year this included things like,

  • Shell lands nearby
  • Difficult letter from home
  • Something breaks
  • Colonial troops arrive
  • Horse appears
  • Patient dies
  • Dogfight overhead

Good luck! You might not win, but you won’t be sorry you took part.  You can see all my posts from previous year’s nanos on my old blog here.

5 thoughts on “Tips for a first time NaNoWriMo participant

  1. kirosl Post author

    I’d like to write there too! Sadly I’m currently living 200 miles away from my desk, so I have to make do with what I’ve got. If I manage to get a job before the end of November we could be reuinted 🙂

  2. Dane

    Jen ! Thank you for the link! That’s really positive and inspiring and I love your attitude. I think whats really going to work for me is to meditate for 5 minutes before each sit-down, because I know I can be distractable. I’m also going to turn off the internet and keep my phone downstairs out of my studio. My music is going to be all unknown so I don’t sing-along (another of my pitfalls). I can’t wait to buy a big candle too. I have a retro teas-maid so I am going to set it up for like 1.5 hours after I starts so I don’t go down to make a brew. And my word count is count to HAVE to be bigger than 50 divided by 30 because I work 12 hour shifts once a week. But even then my current routein is an hour in a weekday morning 7am-8am before work. I’m thinking out loud!


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