NaNoWriMo: Tips and Tricks from the Pros

30.10.17 04:55 PM Comment(s)

Thinking of taking on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month? Each November, thousands commit to the task of writing a novel (at least 50,000 words) over the course of the month. The goal isn't perfection; the goal is to get as many words down as possible.

Luckily, here at PenPower we are surrounded by accomplished writers who know a thing or two about putting words on the page, and as many of our staff are writers in their own right, we even have a few of our own tricks up our sleeves. Here are some of the hard-earned pearls of wisdom from those who've done it before:

Have a routine. Whether that means waking up at the crack of dawn to jot down a few thousand words, or setting some time aside on your lunch break or after dinner, or even dedicating your weekend to it, forcing yourself to just sit down and write can often yield the best results, especially in the context of the ambitious goal set by NaNoWriMo. It's easy to get caught up in the trap of quality over quantity when you're judging your own writing, but sometimes more really is better. You can always go back and edit in December.

Buddy up. Writing is often an inherently solitary affair, but that doesn't always mean you have to go it alone. Find another friend with the same mission and help each other to stay on track. Whether in real life or online, words of encouragement can make a big difference in keeping the momentum going. It can also be a great help to bounce ideas off of each other - while you're not editing or revising at this point, a second set of eyes can help to keep the story fresh.

Shake it up sometimes.While a routine can be a great form of discipline, sometimes it pays to be spontaneous. If you feel yourself getting stuck in a rut, try switching up the location, time, or even method of your writing. Take a notebook to a museum or on a walk through the woods - you might be surprised at the new ideas that pop into your head, or the plot problems that might become untangled. Even just going for a long walk can sometimes give your brain the stimulus it needs to work through things unconsciously.

Just keep swimming. It's often said that writing is a marathon, not a sprint - but NaNoWriMo really is a sprint. At the end of the month you certainly won't have a perfect novel ready to be pitched to agents and editors, and you might not even have something that looks or feels like a novel at all. What you will have is 50,000 words, whether in a notebook or on a laptop or on sheaves of paper strewn across the house. The goal of NaNoWriMo is daunting, to be sure, but to write so much so fast will inevitably help you to hone your craft, persevere in the face of writer's block, and, ultimately, come a little closer to writing a book that you'd be proud to see your name on. There's as many ways to write a novel as there are novels, but NaNoWriMo is a great way to make a start.

Want to know more? Here are some more great resources, pep talks, and words of advice for those of you brave enough to take the plunge:

National Novel Writing Month official website

Brainpicking's treasure trove of writing advice

Author Catherynne Valente on writing a novel in 10 days

Great advice from more spec fic authors

Happy writing!