I remember the first time I did NaNoWriMo. It was 2010, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had never written before, I had no idea for a plot, no idea for characters, and no clue how I was going to finish 50,000 words in 30 days. That first year, it took me until November 25 to come up with any kind of inspiration, and when I did, I wrote like mad and finished 18,000 words in 5 days.
Not too shabby.
No, I didn't win. But I felt accomplished anyways. And I kept writing. I finished 50,000 in 30 days anyway. After all, I made a commitment. That's really all NaNoWriMo is about right? A commitment to yourself to keep writing no matter what, and get that novel out of your head and onto paper or into a word processor.
It's a personal challenge, and nothing more. Yes there is a community built around it to provide friendship and support throughout the challenge, but it really comes down to this: Can you do it?
I participated again this year, and completed 50k words in 28 days.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is: “How do you do it?”
I'm friends with a large number of writers, and even a few published authors, and the general consensus is that doing NaNoWriMo is a pretty tough task. Here's some tips for how I managed to pull it off:
- Don't give up. It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people throw in the towel, telling themselves that they can't do it. You can do it. It's not an impossible task.
- Stay positive, even if you only finish 40k, or 20k, or really anything at all. Those are words you didn't have at the beginning of the month. The idea is to get creative, to stimulate your mind, and to do the best you can. If you wrote anything at all, you accomplished that. And if you said “Yes, I can do this!” you took the first step that many hundreds of thousands of people never take. It's the first step on a journey to write that novel you've always wanted to write.
- Write as much as you can when you have the inspiration. In order to accomplish 50k in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words each day. If you stop each day once you hit this goal, then sure, you've hit your goal, but if you feel like you still have words to write, and you still have time, get more in. There is no harm in finishing early, and this will build up a buffer in case you have days when you can't write as much.
- Write every day. Even if it's just 50 words. The idea is to establish a routine. To write every day, without fail. Make a commitment to your self that no matter how little time you have in a day, you will write a certain number of words each day.
- If you fall behind, don't get discouraged. Everybody has good and bad writing days. Just keep up the routine, and keep getting those words down.
- Kill your inner editor. Yup. Kill him. An inner editor is of no use to you when attempting this challenge. If you hate what you're writing, write it anyway. You're still practising your craft. Worry about editing later.
- And last but not least, one of the most important things you can do to accomplish your goal is get involved with a local writing community. The support and encouragement of other writers around you will do wonders for your creative mind.
Always remember that NaNoWriMo has as many winners as it has participants. Even if you don't write all 50k words, that very fact that you started at all is a big step, and something to be proud of. Good luck next year, and keep writing!
Thomas A. Knight works as a full-time software developer and a part-time writer. His first book, The Time Weaver, is currently available as an eBook from Amazon.com and he is hard at work on the sequel, Legacy.
When Thomas isn't working or writing, he is spending time with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.
A passion for free and open source software and a desire to make a difference in the world has led Thomas to form a partnership with The Helios Initiative, a charity that puts computers into the hands of underprivileged children to help with their schooling and studies. $0.50 from every eBook sold, and $1.00 from every print book sold is donated to this very worthy cause.