What you’re allowed to do before November 1: Title your book. Read. Jot notes. Name your characters. Think of ideas. Outline. Brainstorm. Check out the nano website. Read Chris Baty’s hilarious and helpful book, No Plot? No Problem!
What you’re not allowed to do before November 1: Generate word count. The actual writing of the 50,000 words must take place between the dates November 1 and November 30.
What you’re allowed to do during the month of November: Write, write, and write some more. Excuse yourself from normal activities like hanging out with friends and family, laundry, cooking, and bathing.
What you’re not allowed to do during the month of November: Edit. There is no crying in baseball. There is no editing in November.
So here’s the rundown.
Write. Keep writing. Never stop writing. “Write shit.” “Bad writing is better than no writing.” Quantity > Quality! Prompts and Pointers says “Start on November 1.” Write every day. Catch up on weekends if you get behind. Write more if you have extra time so you can get ahead. Galleycat suggests you try WriteorDie (my favorite!), Q10, WrittenKitten, or writing by hand. Try saving your work in one huge document or a new smaller document for each day. Every time you say yes to doing the work, you’re proving to yourself that you can.
DO NOT EDIT
November is an edit-free zone. Writing is an act of flowing creation. Editing is an act of cutting containment. They’re both good, but only one of them is going to get you to your word count. You have another eleven months out of the year to edit your novel. Don’t you want to have that novel written first? “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Better good today than perfect later (or never).
DESIGNATE YOUR TIME
Form your writing habit. Same amount of time, same time each day. (Require a daily minimum of yourself but never set a maximum: one hour every day, but it’s okay to do three hours that Saturday your lunch plans get cancelled.) Try one hour every day day at 7am. Try one hour every day at 9pm. Tell yourself that it’s okay to go over the daily goal but not okay to go under. Find what works for you, then hold fast! “Put your brain in work mode.” You are honing your ability to write simply by doing the same thing at the same time every day.
DEFEND YOUR TIME
When people ask you if you’re busy, you say yes! Many people don’t take writing seriously, so if you don’t feel comfortable telling them that you’re writing a novel, you have my permission to lie. You have an appointment. You already promised someone that time. You wish you could go do such-and-such with so-and-so, but you’ve got something else you’ve really got to do and you just can’t get out of it, Sorry! Because guess what. Those things are actually true–you made an appointment with yourself, a promise to yourself, and you really do have to write your novel! You owe it to you and every awesome idea you’ve ever had but never given life to. Now guess what else. If you don’t prioritize your writing, no one will. A year from now you’re not going to remember that you missed out on Girls Night. You will remember that you wrote a novel.
DESIGNATE YOUR SPACE
Choose your writing space. Make it sacred. Use this space for writing only. Don’t do anything else there. This is an internet free zone! You are training your brain to know that as soon as you’re in that space, it’s business time. Find a lamp. Find a comfortable chair. Put motivational quotes and posters all over your walls and use them as your computer backgrounds. If you have a writing totem, put that little guy on your desk. (I like to use a baby pumpkin. It’s seasonal, and cheery-bright!)
DEFEND YOUR SPACE
Defend your space from yourself and others. Don’t let anybody bully you out of your favorite desk or chair or couch. Don’t let your roommate pile trash there or your kids scatter lego caltrops there. Don’t let anybody, including you, clutter your writing space with nonwriting nonessentials. If you need a cup of joe, by all means, keep your favorite coffee cup on standby. But you don’t need six dirty mugs and three stinky socks. So clean it up and keep it clean. Clear surface, clear mind.
Post about it constantly on Facebook. Prompts and Pointers says: tell your parents, your friends, your cousins, your boss, your teachers, your church, your clubs, your dog. Tell your everybody! You get the idea! Tell them: Yes! Ask me how it’s going! Constantly! If you know that everybody knows that you said you’re writing a novel, chances are that peer pressure is going to help keep you on track. If you know someone else who is doing Nano too, you can be partners and encourage each other. These are all forms of accountability, and accountability is awesome! If you have $10 to spare, become a donor on Nano. You get a cool halo on your picture and you’ve just invested in yourself. That’s ten more reasons not to quit.
Focus on your Big Goal by meeting your Little Goals. The way to eat a whale is one bite at a time. Set a daily goal. Set a weekly goal. Get yourself excited about word count! Remember, you have eleven other months to edit. We are not going for quality in a first draft! We are going for ideas on the page. We are going for kernels of excellence that we can sift out of the muck later. 50,000 words in 30 days means 1666 (or 1667) words per day. Awesome happens when we least expect it and crud is part of the process, so go-go-go and keep go-go-going!
Use inexpensive treats to reward yourself for meeting smaller goals. Candy, stickers, pens, notebooks, chapstick, and so on! Different things work for different people. If you normally buy yourself a Starbuck’s coffee every day, why not tell yourself you can’t have that coffee until the daily writing is done? Trick yourself into being even more awesome. But Galleycat gives us warning from a pro: “Never reward writing with not writing. That’d be like rewarding yourself for quitting smoking by having a cigarette.” (That’s from Paul J. Sylvia! He has a PhD!) Don’t break good habits once you got ’em. If you have an extra $10, $20, or $30, check out the Nano gift shop. I like to pick out a tee shirt or poster that’s gonna be my Grand Prize if/when I win.
More Galleycat: “When you feel unmotivated, have contact with other forms of art. Draw something. Take silly pictures. When you go back to your desk, just write.” You’ll have times throughout the month that it feels easier or harder to write. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. The Nano forums are great for distraction and motivation. You can link up with your region or genre, sign up for the emails, read pep talks from authors. Also be sure to check out tumblr. And don’t forget to stay tuned to this kickass blog.
The purpose of Nano is to prove to yourself that you can do it. That you are capable of finishing a project. That you are capable of generating words. You can put words to paper! There is no “prize” to win because the accomplishment is the prize. “If you write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have permission to feel like a winner. If you don’t, you do not have permission to feel like a loser.” (That’s from Chuck Wendig, a real live author who gets paid! To Write!) Because guess what. If you wrote 10,000 words? That’s 10,000 more than you had before you started. Nano is just the beginning.
Sources: Galleycat, Galleycat Nano-specific; Prompts and Pointers, Prompts and Pointers Nano-specific here and here; WikiHow; terribleminds and terribleminds Nano-specific; Chris Baty’s awesome book NP?NP!; and yours truly.
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