It’s that time of the year again… NanoWriMo is upon us!
NanoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month— every November, hundreds of thousands of writers around the world challenge themselves to complete a brand new novel (or at least 50,000 words). Here are some tips and tricks to help you come out a Nano winner at the end of November!
The best part about Nano is the community! When you surround yourself with a squad of other writers cheering you on, the writing process becomes a lot more fun. Use the hashtag, #NanoWriMo2021 on any social platform to find writers competing this year. Make your own posts, announcing that you are participating (and don’t forget that hashtag)! Add other writers as friends on the NanoWriMo website to see your friends progress— talk about #motivation! Many writers are eager to form accountability group chats — this is a place to check in each day and tell your friends how much you accomplished for the day.
NanoWriMo taught me the importance of novel pre-work. Whether you are a plotter or a panster, my secret to going into Nano with confidence is: immerse yourself in the world of your book throughout October. Even if you don’t have an outline, knowing your characters first is the way to understand the dreaded “plot.”
Get to know your characters like you would your friends. Music playlists, and Pinterest boards are great for this! Pinterest boards help pull inspiration for character traits, scene locations, and outfit descriptions! I find it best to create playlists for each Act . Naturally, as you plan songs for acts one, two, and three, you will begin to see a clearer vision for where you want your story to go. Listen to those playlists throughout November; in the grocery store, in the car, while doing dishes, etc. Every time you hear those songs, you’ll think of your story.
Journaling: Learning how to write fast
October should be a month of creative expression. Since you don’t have that word count to worry about just yet, use October to practice the skill of writing quickly, spilling your thoughts on the page, and writing first, editing later. I like to do this through journal exercises. Journaling in character as my protagonist helps me go into Nano knowing my protagonist’s voice, without needing to play around with voice as I work through the plot. Free-writes are great, but some example exercises to follow include: If I were to describe myself….The most incredible thing I ever did was…The turning point in my life was…Every time I think I’m going to get what I want, I…. I struggle with….My parents think that I am…. What makes me angry, is….
Write First; Edit Later
By now, I’m sure many of you have heard this tip before. I had, too, before my first Nano— but never before was I actually forced to listen to it! With NanoWriMo, you must write first, edit later. This is the only way to get those 50,000 words down. Keep a separate word doc open with all the changes you hope to make in Draft Two— but don’t go back just yet!
Treat NanoWriMo like your second job. For this second job, you must set aside two hours every single day for writing time throughout the month. Ideally, you’re looking to write 1,667 words per day— but, I like to focus on the time instead of the word count. Sometimes, focusing on word count alone is enough to make a person not want to write at all. A nice tip to ease yourself into the two hours, instead of jumping into the deep end— is to set aside one hour each day for prep time throughout October. By the time November comes along, you’ll be used to the act of sitting down to write each morning or night. And adding one more hour won’t seem too difficult!
Log your wordcount; Track in scenes
Another trick to combat wordcount anxiety — break down your writing process by scenes. While it’s still necessary to log word count, I recommend creating a weekly schedule based on the scenes you hope to tackle. This helps with writing motivation, because there will be days where a scene is so compelling, you won’t want to finish at your daily word goal of 2,000. You’ll want to write more!
Six months after finishing Nano, I signed with my agent. One year later, and I’m diving back in, ready to write another book this November. That’s a win I never realized could come from this challenge: the writing routine I have now will last me a lifetime. I’ve learned how to write without editing, how to take myself seriously as a writer, and I have found some of the most supportive writing friends I’ve ever had.
The secret to winning NanoWriMo? Don’t worry so much about “winning” NanoWriMo! The real winning comes from the skills you pick up along the way. (But you know— a finished first draft is nice, too).
You can follow Avery Silverberg on Instagram and Tiktok @a.very.fast.reader for more NanoWriMo tips!