Well I have managed to hit 50,000 words after just 28 days of writing. I remember my first NaNoWriMo in 2012, I was struggling to get to the 50k, and this year I’ve gone over, and I’m still not quite finished yet. While I don’t believe this little story I’ve written will be a prize winner, I really proud of it and I have really enjoyed writing it. I’ll be sad when it’s finished, but then I’ll get to go through and edit it, put things in, take things out and make it the best it can be. But I learnt a few things this NaNoWriMo, and while I am not exactly a seasoned NaNo professional, this being only the third time I’ve participated (although I have hit 50k twice, so that’s something I guess), I thought I’d share them so that any future NaNo’ers, and perhaps some current ones, have some more tips to read that will probably be of no use to them – just like all of the other ones out there.
You don’t need to lose sleep over it. I had a full night’s sleep nearly every night this month. Except for those nights when tv. (That’s the full sentence by the way.) 2012 NaNoWriMo I had a few late nights towards the end and my writing was no better for it. Unless you’re one of those people that are just awake in the wee hours, then I would suggest avoiding late nights as much as possible. Make the most of your waking hours when your brain knows it should be functioning at full capacity – your book will thank you and so will your eyes, which will hopefully be devoid of any extra carry on (bags under the eyes if you didn’t get that).
How did I have no late nights? I woke early on weekends and wrote all day. I did 10,000 words on just about every NaNo weekend. The rest of it I wrote on and off during the week when I had time. If you’re like me and have a job to go to everyday, as well as other commitments, trying to write something every day can get a bit draining (that happened to me in 2012). So I saved up all my writing for the weekend and it was the best. It felt like I was doing my job – doing what I was actually meant to be doing – whereas the five days at work felt like the longest and boringest weekends in the history of humankind. And if you don’t mind living in a hovel for a month (weekends are when I clean, or at least say I’m going to clean) and not seeing anybody that doesn’t live under the same roof as you, then this method is for you. I generally wrote from 8am to 6/7pm, with a lunch break in between and managed 5000 words on each day of the weekend.
Make a plan – even half a plan. First NaNo, I didn’t plan at all. I just started and hoped that I finished. Unfortunately I have the inability to write a full story if I don’t already know how it’s going to end – it gives me something to work towards – so often I can fall over before I’ve barely begun. But this year I sat down and wrote down a rough plan of what would happen at certain points in the story and then just filled it in from there. After having done the opposite in the past, I can verify that planning does have it’s merits. But for those pantsers (people who fly by the seat of their pants) out there, good for you – I am incredibly jealous of you and if it works, it works.
If the words won’t come? Step away from your electronic writing device of choice and pick up a pen and paper. I probably wrote a third of my novel in a notebook with a pen. It is an entirely distraction free method of writing and before you know it, you’ll have another couple of thousand words knocked out.
Pauciloquent, adj.That uses few words in speech or conversation; laconic.
Give yourself a little challenge. This year I decided that I would challenge myself to use the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day in my writing (you can read about it here – final post on this to come). Some of the words were incredibly obscure and were words that are in all honesty, not really in use these days. But because of this, it made me think a little bit outside the box with my writing and kept things interesting. Sometimes I had to create whole scenes just to fit in one word which really helps with the word count when you’re a bit stuck. And the best thing is, I learnt some excellent new words such as ‘pauciloquent’, which is my new favourite word.
Listening music. Some people can write with music, some people can’t. For those who can might I suggest the following: ‘Rhythms del Mundo Cuba’ by Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo. It’s basically an album of popular songs redone as Cuban music. I wrote to it in 2012 and this year I tried to write to some different music but it was hopeless. As soon as I went back to my Cuban music, I went into a writing trance and all was well. I don’t know what it is about it, but if you’re on the look out for good background music while writing, this is a good one (on a side note, One Republic’s ‘Native’ is excellent for academic writing such as essays).
Finally, try and love what you’re writing. As I said earlier, I got great joy out of my novel this year (although it’s quite sad and depressing and I hate myself for what I did to my main character), so much joy that I don’t want to finish it. Not all novels are going to be masterpieces, so don’t try to write one. Anyway, in order for there to be masterpieces, there needs to be some less good stuff for them to be judged against so your not great novel is important in a different way, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. But if you aren’t happy in what you’re writing, you won’t enjoy writing it and it will become a chore. You are the creator, therefore you can make it what you want – you have the power to make it enjoyable or not. My first finished NaNoWriMo novel was ok, but I had no passion in what I was writing and just sort of drifted through. With some heavy editing it might be ok. This year was a different story – I am not ashamed to say I actually brought myself to tears at some points in this story, and I feel as though there’s a little piece of me buried in there. It’s something I would want to read and perhaps that’s the key – write what you would want to read, not what you think everyone else would want to read, because not everyone will like it. I saw an incredibly apt quote the other day, ‘You can’t please everyone. You are not a jar of Nutella’. Truer words were never spoken.