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10 Tips for NaNoWriMo Survival

Hey guys! So, it's that time again -- no, not just Post Halloween Sugar Hangover/Weight Gain Day, but also the first day of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as us nerds call it.

This is a self-portrait I took after I finished NaNo 2010. Note the glee on my face, and the crazy look in my eyes. Also note: these are not official NaNo horns, those are just light-up viking horns I have for other reasons that I put on for the Me Party.

Now, I've done NaNoWriMo three times before, and completed each time. Some of my friends venturing into this for the first time have been asking for tips, so here is my hard-earned wisdomosity.

But wait! What is NaNoWriMo all about?

The rules of NaNoWriMo are pretty simple: write a 50,000 word novel in one month. To help you out with this (and to make it official), you register with their website. This allows you to access my fave part of the whole thing -- the bar graph. Every day you enter how many words you write, so you can see on the bar graph how you're doing. In theory, it sounds kind of intense and crazy, but in practice and being very organized, it is totally doable.

10 Tips for NaNoWriMo Survivial

1) Tell other people you're doing it.

Your real-life friends, your online friends, the strangers who follow you on Twitter - this makes you accountable. This is similar to how you achieve lots of other goals, like losing weight or saving money. When you announce your intentions to other people, the GUILT of looking like a loser in front of them can help spur you on.

2) Never look back.

This is not the time for perfectionism, but rather for PURE OUTPUT. Editing and revising is for December. Writing random crap is for November. Did you suddenly change your main characters' name halfway through? NO TIME! Don't go back and change it. Did you suddenly change your entire plot halfway through? WHO CARES, just keep going. Never EVER go back and change anything. It's all about getting your 1,667 words per day.

3) You will write some shitty stuff.

Related to the previous point, remember that a lot of what you write will be SO SHITTY.

4) Interact with other Wrimo friends.

You can join your local forum (I've never actually done that) or just flail around on Twitter using the #NaNoWriMo hashtag. If you write, for instance, "I don't know if I can get out another 500 words! #NaNoWriMo" then I can guarantee you will get motivational messages from people you've never met before. And then you can be Wrimo friends with them and spur one another on! Part of what's great about the whole enterprise is that whenever you feel like quitting, there's some stranger out there somewhere to cheer you on.

5) Follow the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter.

When you're stuck, they run "sprints" pretty regularly where they challenge you to write 1000 words in 10 minutes, and often they give you a topic to use.

6) Crowd source for inspiration.

Similar to the above: when you are super-super stuck and it's near the end and you're giving up? Crowd sourcing can help. This is a trick to use only when you have FULLY GIVEN UP on your book making any semblance of sense and you know it'll never be a real book but you still want to finish. Ask your friends for random words, then work those words into your book. If your friends are anything like mine, then you'll be googling words like "Antidisestablishmentarianism" and finding fun ways to work that into your novel about spaceships in dinosaur times, or whatever. (e.g. "I will not stand for this blatant antidisestablishmentarianism," said the tricerotops, grabbing his top hat. "This community was founded upon the principles of antidisestablishmentarianism!" screamed the spaceship captain. "This is insubordination, sir!")

7) Buy something from the NaNoWriMo online store.

No, really. I mean, their stuff is cute, but also? The orders don't ship immediately. All three times I've done NaNoWriMo, the parcel didn't arrive till towards the end of November... i.e., just when I was thinking of giving up. The knowledge that a mug and/or travel mug and/or t-shirt saying "NaNoWriMo Winner" was on its way force me to continue on. And then when it arrived, I knew I'd have to finish or the mug and/or travel mug and/or t-shirt would GAZE DOWN ON ME and make me feel bad if I didn't finish. Also, it would be a waste of money if I didn't finish, right? So for FRUGAL REASONS, I had to finish.

8) Never skip a day. 

NEVER SKIP A DAY. You may be ahead of your goal at some point, or just tired or overworked, and you think, "I'll just take a day off." Before you know it, you will be THOUSANDS OF WORDS BEHIND and will have to spend a weekend writing FIVE THOUSAND WORDS or even worse, TEN THOUSAND WORDS, and that is awful. Even if you write "this is shitty" over and over hundreds of times, it is crucial to make your 1,667 words every day. Just trust me.

9) #Winning!

When you complete your 50,000 word novel, it's called WINNING. And when you win? It is the best feeling, especially if you've got Twitter friends who you can share your great success with. Also, you get prizes. For instance, last year the winners all got 50% off Scrivener software, which is a great program for creative writing and I'm using it right now to revise my most recent NaNo novel. So winning = frugal!!

10) Don't mind the crazies.

There are crazies out there who only seem to do NaNoWriMo so they can post tweets about how they wrote 50,000 words in 5 hours or something. People who are like, "I completed NaNoWriMo in 5 days! Now what do I do for the rest of the month? #iamannoyingandashowoff" can make you feel like you're desperately behind. Ignore them. They're probably just lying anyway.

Also bear in mind: at the end of the month, you don't techinically have a novel. You have a draft. Don't just print it off and send it to agents and publishers: lots of people do this and it is not a great idea. Hammering out a first draft is a huge accomplishment... and it's also the first step to having a great novel. Lots of people have worked on their NaNo novels to the point of publication -- here's a good list of them. So it writing a novel is your goal, NaNoWriMo is great. If writing a great novel and having it published is your goal, NaNoWriMo is a great first step.


Are you guys doing NaNoWriMo? Or have you done it before? What are your tips??

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