If you're doing NaNoWriMo this year – or any year – then you need to read this. Compiled by Pan Macmillan and Picador's own NaNoWriMo-ers, it's full of hard-won wisdom and will definitely* help you write those 50,000 words this National Novel Writing Month.
*Not yet scientifically proven.
1. Start on the 1st November.
2. Plan. If you can, plan at least your first few chapters before November begins. Another form of planning is to bulk buy notepads and leave them in your place of work, in your gym bag and around your house, so that you can never use this as an excuse not to write.
3. Make it part of your routine. Think about a time in your day you can realistically write for ten, twenty or thirty minutes. Can you get up a little earlier? Make Nano part of your lunch hour? Write on the bus home? This includes writing mildly tipsy after an evening out. It’s an old and noble tradition, which only leads to occasional moments looking at the scrawl across each page and wondering if there’s a sentence you can salvage somewhere.
4. Don’t worry about what the words are, so long as there are words. Any words. Words are good. Like steps, eventually they will get you somewhere. When you get stuck, start describing minute details of the scene – what kind of mug someone is holding, whether the tablecloth is clean or dirty, if the air smells like ozone or car exhausts. This is a good ‘cheat’ to keep you going until you get back on track.
5. One human being only has so much willpower. Reward yourself. Use a chocolate advent calendar if you need to.
6. The internet is a devil which will eat your word count. Be especially wary of Nano tips like this, or YouTube. Similarly, cancel your Netflix and your Lovefilm for a month. Really. And it will save you a tenner.
7. Get a writing friend or a Nano group. There are Nano meet-ups in most large cities. Share your pain. A friend can keep your spirits up and make you feel bad you haven’t matched their word count. Peer pressure is a great motivator.
8. Don’t be embarrassed. Sometimes you feel like it is supremely arrogant to think you can write anything. This is good. It will make you better at redrafting. But frankly, it is not a Nano friend. When you hear this voice, tell it to go away and come back in December.
9. There is always time to wash your hair. Or to get enough sleep. Or eat five a day. These things are good for you. Coffee will not sustain you for an entire month. It certainly won’t last an entire novel.
10. When you’ve finished, give the draft time. Be kind to your words and yourself. If you made a tenth, half or three quarters of your word count, this still counts! Give those words distance. Then come back and redraft them. Then redraft them again. And again.
Calendar image © Nevil Zaveri / flickr.com; Moleskine notebooks © Bill Bradford / flickr.com; Fruit Bowl © David Lenker / flickr.com.
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