By Nick Coveney
Okay so first things first, writing is hard.
Regardless of your intended genre, format or word count – managing to claw out enough time and determination to get the words down on page is a daunting and difficult task.
We all know that on some basic level, but in practice it can be so much more demoralizing and demanding than anyone wants to admit. That’s often because so many factors impact our ability to write well, but, in my personal experience, the biggest creativity thief is time.
Actually being able to put aside enough of your daily hours to sit and think about what you want to write, and then actually do it, is very difficult. Especially for those of us for whom writing is a secondary career or the pursuit of a personal passion project; whether it’s a side hustle or just an experiment, many of us have jobs/socializing/chores/general life admin—which can make finding time to write challenging.
This is where the fantastic community and resources of NaNoWriMo come in. If, like me, your head is always teeming with ideas for new stories; but you struggle to carve out a chunk of time (however long or short) to dedicate to writing, then NaNoWriMo is for you!
In case you’re unfamiliar with the name, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a global initiative to encourage and empower creative writing, led by the NaNoWriMo team from their US not-for-profit.
There are some “rules” for NaNoWriMo –
- Writing starts at 12:00: a.m. on November 1 and ends 11:59:59 p.m. on November 30, local time.
- No one is allowed to start early and the challenge finishes exactly 30 days from that start point.
- Novels must reach a minimum of 50,000 words before the end of November in order to win. These words can either be a complete novel of 50,000 words or the first 50,000 words of a novel to be completed later.
- Planning and extensive notes are permitted, but no material written before the November 1 start date can go into the body of the novel.
- Participants’ novels can be on any theme, genre of fiction, and language. Everything from fanfiction, which uses trademarked characters, to novels in poem format, and metafiction is allowed; according to the website’s FAQ, ‘If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.’”
Here are some of my personal NaNoWriMo Tips:
Save little and often and don’t forget to log your writing!
And yes that means saving mid-writing and saving at the end of every session (maybe even use a software option which autosaves). There are few feelings worse than that moment of sheer dread where a precious WIP document decides to judder to absolute halt. Did it freeze? After you wrote what was possibly the best sentence you’ve formed to date? How much have you lost? Will you ever get it back!? All legitimate panic scenarios, which are made slightly less painful if you know that whatever has gone wrong wasn’t too long after your previous save.
Back it up
Again, this one seems so obvious that it almost feels a tad patronizing to labour the point, but it’s so crucial. If you hit a key benchmark (whether it’s word count, plot, or character development), that’s worth preserving by making a back-up file (ideally stored on a cloud server) in case something disastrous happens to your laptop or preferred writing device—even if you autosave, also back up!
Team work makes the dream work!
Although physical write-ins have sadly been banned to protect the global writing community during the Covid pandemic, there are still many great ways you can set up online “write-ins” or writing sprints. Here at Kobo, where we have many budding authors, we have a #NaNoWriMo Slack channel and we organize a weekly write-in call where we can virtually cheer on each other’s writing efforts. It’s also a good way of keeping honest!
And life is more fun with friends! NaNoWriMo has some great community features baked in, so be sure to add any fellow writing friends to your list so you can encourage each other!
More ways than one to write.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that, if you want to, you can always use other tools like dictation software or storyboarding software to help you “write” when you’re not able to be physically at your laptop. I occasionally think of something I want to write while at the gym or on a dog walk, and mutter it into my phone’s NaNo Notes folder. If I still like it when I sit down to write, I can cut and paste it in place to buy myself more writing time!