NaNoWriMo: My Two Cents

Well, it’s official: 2015 will be my EIGHTH year NaNoWriMo-ing.

And so, as a NaNoWriMo Veteran, I’ve decided I’ll share a few tips and tricks that’ve helped me reach the coveted 50,000 word-count goal in the past.

The first tip: Scrivener.

You guys, buy it. Buy it immediately.

Scrivener is absolutely excellent for drafting. The way it’s set up (with each scene appearing like a separate document) helps extensively in combatting the urge to look back and criticize everything you’ve already written. I’ve found this to be unspeakably helpful, seeing as the goal is to look forward, not back, and get words down.

With a book coming out in two weeks, I have officially navigated every stage of the tumultuous writing process. This means I’ve had to train my eyes to look at my writing differently, to look at everything through varying scopes. First a broad scope while drafting, drinking my manuscript in as a whole, and later narrowing that scope to pick up on the details readers will expect to collapse together with perfect ease.

To help myself do this, I’ve adopted a ritual: Scrivener for drafting. Microsoft Word for anything at or beyond the copy-editing stage. And now, the second I open Scrivener, it’s like my brain just automatically widens its scope based off association alone. I’ve classically conditioned myself with some kind of incredibly effective Pavlovian technique that’s allowed me full control over my previously uncontrollable inner-editor. Scrivener stuffs a sock into her mouth, while Word hands her a megaphone to spew criticism to her (little, black) heart’s delight. It’s magic.

(Thank you, Scrivener. I love you.)

The second tip: Community.

If you’re signed up on but don’t have any Writing Buddies, get them right now, like today. You can start by adding “AnnaVera” as a buddy, and do so without fear of rejection or scorn, because she’s got a rule of adding everybody back and being friendly.

The NaNoWriMo writing community is the real prize here, even above reaching 50k in a month’s time. They will commiserate and cheerlead you through the spiking peaks and staggering pitfalls of your writing life—during NaNoWriMo, and beyond. They will hold a metaphorical whip at your back and crack it every time your writing slows, or you decide to take a break for a bit of Netflix-binging, or rationalize your way into giving yourself the day off.

This accountability is priceless. Welcome it.

The third tip: Figure out your writing style.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you know what those terms even mean?

The thing about writing is everybody does it differently. It’s a destination reached through a web of differing back-streets, avenues and highways, and everybody has a preference in terms of which route they take (and if they don’t, NaNoWriMo will help them figure it out).

Personally, I’m a plotter and if I don’t have an outline in place, I might as well not even try. So, by knowing my preferred route, I know I’ve got to invest time prior to November identifying plot-points, hashing out character profiles, and figuring out how everything ends, because if I don’t do those things, I’m dead in the water.

Knowing myself as a writer, and anticipating my needs before they have time to put a stick in my spokes, can make or break my chances at making that 50k.

If you’re a pantser, your job is to prep for NaNoWriMo by not prepping. It’s to your advantage to not think about it—or, rather, not overthink it.

And again, everybody is different. There are different levels of pantser and plotter, and my advice is to essentially work to gauge where you stand on that spectrum, and consider strategies that will cater to your specific writerly style.

The fourth tip: DO IT.

Listen, I’ve read a ton of “My tips for NaNoWriMo!” blogs, but it really all comes down to just doing the job. Don’t let a day pass without making that 1,700 word-count goal, even if the day prior you hammered out 10,000 words. It’s my opinion that NaNoWriMo is less a lesson on fast-drafting, and more a lesson on learning to write when you don’t want to.

So, to recap: Get yourself all set up on whichever word processor works best for you (though I highly, highly recommend Scrivener for drafting). Take time to connect with other NaNoWriMo writers and build the foundations of a support system. Figure out what your style is as a writer, and consider ways to play to your strengths. And last but not least, remember that the new words you write during NaNoWriMo are far better than no words, which you might have had otherwise. If you want to make this happen, you can, but if you don’t . . .

Well, that’s okay too. And there’s always next year.

Good luck my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers!

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