Gearing up for NaNo?
by Susanne Dietze
I think it's both, depending on the day. But last year, I gave it a try, and found it a great way to finish a first draft of a historical novel that's now out with publishers. Each day that I wrote, I entered my word count into the program (I'd already registered) and the number was broadcast on my profile page on the website (and on my website, since I'd installed a NaNo widget) so the world could see my progress.
That widget was enough to get my rear end to stay in the chair.
The NaNo community is encouraging. There are local gatherings, if a writer is so inclined. Not everyone finishes, but that's ok. And it's not a system that works for everyone.
But I need to finish a first draft ASAP, so I'm giving it a try again this November.
I'll put into practice some tricks I learned last year:
- Pray for discipline and diligence. And grace and creativity, too. God has given you this story to tell, and He alone knows the plans He has for it. Maybe publication, maybe not. But if we write to honor Him, He'll be glorified in what we accomplish.
- Prep in advance. I have a synopsis, a Pinterest story board, character worksheets, and an XL spreadsheet broken down by chapter and scene, all ready to go. When I sit down, I consult my XL chart and see what happens in what scene, and in whose Point of View I think I it should be. This helps guide my writing.
- Take notes on these sheets if something changes as you write. This happens. As I write, I realize a character has a dog or has a nervous habit--or would never do what I have neatly written in my XL sheet that she does. No biggie. Jot down the info for reference.
- If I'm stumped by something happening in the story, I make a note in the text (I use ***), add a note to myself on my sheets (ie "figure out if John does X and why") and then skip ahead to something easier to write. Sometimes, something has to get figured out in my brain in a later scene before I understand what should have been accomplished in that earlier, tricky scene. Later, I do a search for *** and find all those spots again, easy peasy.
- Any other problems? Come back to it later, when it's not NaNo. This is the time to churn out words, not to fuss over adjectives, syntax, or imagery. If it's not flowing, leave it to fix in rewrites, which are far easier for me than first drafts anyway. Sometimes, this means flat writing. "He walked down the path. There she was. He struggled for words." Just spit out what the action is and (wait for it) Come back to it later.
- Do not do research online. Or check email or Facebook or Twitter. This is time to get words on a page. If you have a research question, mark it with your asterisks or whatever you choose to mark question areas. Then come back to it later.
- Get a hot mug of coffee or tea, a snack, and a blanket so you don't need to get up if you're cold, etc.
- Set a timer for 45 minutes (or whatever works for you). Write nonstop during that time, and then take a break. Your body needs to do something other than sit all day (and your brain needs a break, too). Use the restroom, fold laundry, walk around your house, brew more tea. I tend to listen to a CD or album on my phone: when it's done, that's my cue to get up and move around.
- The crock pot is your friend. Dump food in it in the morning. Family is happy at dinnertime.
- Some days you will get no writing done. That's ok. You may not even meet the 50K word goal. That's ok too. Life happens.
Want to give NaNo a shot? Here's the website: http://nanowrimo.org/
Susanne Dietze is busy looking over her notes for NaNo, but she'd love to hear your NaNo tips. You can also find her on her website, www.susannedietze.com