November has become a major writing month for me, courtesy of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) It's an endeavor I have often taken part in and one I have already signed up for this year. What NaNoWriMo stands for is writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Some people love the idea and some people have tried it and decided it is not for them. I used NaNoWriMo to get a good handle on my newest published book, Blues at 11, and I am currently editing another book (Dead Man's Treasure) I did as part of writing challenge another year.
Why do I like NaNoWriMo? For me, it's a good way to make myself focus on just one project for an entire month. I've been known to jump around a lot in my writing, but this one-month long challenge keeps me focused. As someone who loves to set goals and then work toward them, I like knowing that I can see my progress every day, and that the progress will be a direct result of the work I put into my writing. It's great for someone who enjoys challenges too. I want to make certain that I can do it. Getting those 50,000 words written in 30 days makes me feel like a winner.
This month I've had people in several of my writing groups say they'd like to try but they don't quite know how to get ready for NaNoWriMo. The challenge of sitting down and writing 50,000 words seems overwhelming. It doesn't have to be. Here are some pointers for you if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo:
1. Set up a writing schedule. Winning at NaNoWriMo means being disciplined and getting the writing done. If you have certain hours set aside for it, that is the most effective. When I was working regularly, I used to write first thing in the morning -- from 6 until 7am. I know I am much more able to get things done that early in the day, so I plan on writing first thing in the morning. After retiring I also found that from 3 to 5 in the afternoon was a good period of time for my creative juices so I generally set aside those hours for my writing. Winning at this requires around 1500 to 2000 words a day, but it can be done. Some days I might find myself writing well belong those 3 hours I was setting aside.
2. Have at least a brief idea of the book you want to write--maybe the beginning and ending. You might also want to do a regular plot outline. I don't usually write with an outline so if you don't have one, I say don't worry. Let your characters and their circumstances take you where you want to go. I've had books and characters all outlined and ready and then discovered once I started writing, that wasn't at all what I wanted to do. I changed things as I went along.
3. Know your characters. This can be critical. Like the outline they can be changed or developed as you are writing, but you don't want to start the first day without even an idea of the characters. You'll spend all day thinking about it. Have a few details of your characters and who they are before you start.
Okay, we're halfway through the ideas here and are you worried about getting stuck? Let's finish with some thoughts on what to do if we get stuck.
4. Re-read your earlier pages. See what scenes you might want to include as a result of what you've already written. Spending a couple of hours the previous night or before you start writing again seeing what you have can get you back into the mood to get going again.
5. Write scenes you want to write or know are necessary for the book. Yes, I know this totally destroys things for those who need to write the story straight through from beginning to end, but sometimes it can help to jump ahead or go back and write a necessary scene. What you don't want to do is to get stuck rewriting the same scene. You can fix it later, but don't let fear of just one scene stop you from moving on. Keep plugging away.
Finally, banish that editor to the closet for the month. Don't worry about fixing everything now. You can always fix a manuscript later, but you can't edit what you haven't written.
Have fun, let your creative juices flow and for one month, just WRITE!
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