October 23, 2018
NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month. Every November, writers of all ages and skills get together online and in community meet-ups to write their own 50,000-word novel.
In one month (thirty days).
This will be my twelfth NaNoWriMo. I have completed the 50,000-word goal six times. Eight of the books I worked on during NaNoWriMo have been published. My longest NaNoWriMo novel finished the month at 63,180-words. Domme Quixote went on to be published by Riverdale Avenue Books. The most words I've ever done in a day during NaNoWriMo was 23,392 on November 10, 2015. That was not a fun day. I wrote for twenty hours straight. It was for my book The Queen's Wings which was originally published by Entangled Publishing, but I have recently received the rights back to it and have self-published it.
NaNoWriMo at its heart is a numbers game. If you commit to writing 1,667-words a day, on November 30th you will have a completed first draft of a novel. I say first draft because it won't be ready for publication. While there may be a few publishers willing to take a look at your manuscript on December 1st knowing it's a NaNo book, you'll stand a better chance of getting interest on your novel if you put it aside for a month and then come back to edit it in January before sending it out.
If you are a plotter, there are some steps you can do to prepare for the madness that NaNoWriMo can produce. If you are a pantser, NaNoWriMo is just business as usual—on steroids. There are a lot of reasons why I've failed to finish the 50,000-word goal six times. My best excuse was in 2007. I gave birth to my son on November 14th. But the other five times, while life and other commitments did play a factor, the reason I failed is I did not have a plan. When you are writing to hit a goal, you need a map to follow. Just like you wouldn't get in a car and drive cross country without a GPS, you shouldn't expect yourself to blindly write and get to your destination.
Sometimes, it happens that way. The muse takes over and it's all fairy dust and happiness. Most of the time, however, there's a wall waiting for you around the 20,000-word mark. You either hit the wall and stop, realizing you've written yourself into a corner, or that you have no idea what's next. Or you bounce off the wall and go off in a different direction that makes no sense to what came before, but it works, so you run with it. If you weren't on a such a tight deadline, you could write a few more scenes or go back and delete chapters and try again. This is what a pantser does. However during NaNoWriMo, deleting words means you're doing double work to catch back up to the day's total word count. In NaNoWriMo, you must write now, edit later.
In order to better your odds of finishing NaNoWriMo with a workable manuscript, here are a few suggestions for you to do a few days or weeks before November 1st.
1. Get a notebook (or create a document, or get Evernote or some such – anything that will work for you).
This notebook/document/app will have all your book's information in it so you can refer to it when you need to check details like when you forget what color your hero/heroine's eyes are or what you named their pet sheepdog.
2. In your calendar, write where you should be in your novel to achieve the word count goal.
For example, November 1st should have 1,667 written in, 3,334 for November 2nd, 5,001 for day three, etc. This will let you know at a glance what your writing goals should be for the day. Pro tip: It's always good to do a little extra each day if you can, especially the first week.
While you've got your calendar out, look to see where you can fit in writing time each day. An hour before you normally get up or an hour after you normally go to bed, could be a way to squeeze in extra writing. You can write during your lunch hour/half-hour. You can even make a coffee date with yourself to write at a local restaurant or cafe.
3. Decide on a title and genre.
Write it in your notebook. You may want to read a few books in the same genre and take notes on the tropes, what you liked about the book, what you didn't like the book. This will help you frame your own novel with the standards of the genre.
4. Name your characters and do a little work getting to know them.
If it helps, you can set up a Pinterest board and pin things that remind you of your novel, like actors you'd like to play the lead roles, settings that inspire you, or anything that sparks your creativity. You want to do this before November because Pinterest is a time suck, especially when you are on deadline.
5. Do a little plotting.
You don't have to do a formal synopsis or a chapter-by-chapter outline. However from experience, I can tell you that makes the writing go much faster. But some people's writing process might not work that way. So instead, at least have the bare bones of the plot:
a. What does the protagonist want?
b. What's stopping them from getting it?
c. What are the stakes? What happens if they fail? What happens if they succeed?
If you can also go a step further and figure out the major plot points of the story, you have a good structure to your month's writing. For example, if you can visualize the following scenes, you're ahead of the game:
a. The beginning
b. The mid-point reversal
c. The black moment
d. The ending
With these tips, you should have a decent head start on the month. Good luck and remember BICFOK. Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard.
Happy writing! See you in December!
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy, Life’s a Beach, reached #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon and iBooks. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists and the first book in the series, Heat, put her on the USA Today bestseller list for the first time. Her dragon paranormal romance series from Entangled Publishing, has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.”
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