Adapted from a presentation by Elaine Malit, Big Data Software Engineer at Kobo
What IS NaNoWriMo?
If you’re new to these parts, you may not have heard of National Novel Writing Month, a global call to action challenging writers to get 50,000 words written over the month of November. Those who are able to validate that they wrote 50,000 words are declared “winners”. It’s a fun way to connect with an international writing community and a great way to focus on really prioritizing your writing for 30 days (especially in that run-up to the holiday season, where so many of us may find that writing takes a back seat!) The main event is November, but for those who find this event motivating, there are Camp NaNoWriMos in April and July. The “camp” version allows you to set your own word-count goal.
So how to succeed and “win” the 50,000 word challenge?
1. Personalize Your NaNoWriMo Goal
What does 50,000 words mean when your end goal is a novel? According to Writers Digest, an acceptable range falls between 70,000 and 110,000 words, with most adult general fiction between 80-90,000 words. For those who write fantasy or sci-fi and build entire worlds into their novels, 100,000 to 115,00 is a typical range. That said, while word is a tangible way of tracking, don’t fall into the trap of making it your only measure of progress. It’s easy to write a lot of meaningless words; instead focus on how your plot is progressing—reframing your goal to establish where you should be in your story is a more manageable way of meeting your goals.
2. Prepare: Make Writing Easier
While you can’t count words written before November, you CAN prep—and preparation can be the difference between success and failure. KWL author Chris Mandeville wrote a great piece on how you can strategize in the lead up to NaNoWriMo last year. Research, plotting and diagramming can all help you stay focused and get as much as possible out of the 30 day window!
Fantasy writer Rachel Aaron‘s guide on writing more efficiently proposes 3 factors that affect your output: knowledge, enthusiasm and time. While we all have limits on time, we actually can work on increasing knowledge—and enthusiasm.
Let’s look at “knowledge” first. Plotters, this is where you excel! Spend some time before November researching, thinking and sketching out an outline for the general flow of the story, and then if you can, a scene-by-scene outline. Having this outline will give your writing some purpose and direction once you get down to it in November!
But what about the pantsers, those who write “by the seat of their pants”? Try spending at least 5 minutes at the start of each writing session making a very rough outline of what you want to accomplish.
The third factor of writing output is enthusiasm, so if you can find some way to get really excited about your story, that will help you write more and makes it feel less of a chore.
NaNoWriMo is actually very good at motivating its participants. They provide you with several councillors who share weekly tips. You can also form groups with other NaNoWriMo participants who are called “buddies”. For every milestone you reach, you get badges. I would also recommend getting a couple of people outside of the online community to cheer you on; perhaps friends or some family members or even co-workers. (Kobo staff members have an annual KoboWriMo group!)
Don’t just rely on others though—look for ways to motivate yourself internally. Write what you really want to read, and if you come to a scene that just bores you, skip that for now and come back to it later. Try looking at 5-star reviews of your favourites books (pretend they were written for you!) for inspiration, or remind yourself why you’re writing. Listen to music that motivates you; make yourself a strong coffee; take exercise breaks . . . find what you need to hit those writing goals every day!
Give Yourself A Break
All that said, if you really don’t feel like writing, don’t force it. Give yourself a break, and try to make up for the discrepancy on a day when you’re feeling better. Sometimes the words just won’t come. Writer’s block happens to everyone, and beating yourself up about it is counter productive. Make yourself proud—that’s what this writing challenge is really about!
It’s not too late to get involved with NaNoWriMo yourself! Sign up here, and if you’re based in Toronto, please do join us for our NaNo write-in/pizza party here at the Kobo office! We’d love to meet you!