Friday, October 31, 2014

Gearing up for NaNo?

by Susanne Dietze
November is National Novel Writing Month--NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short.

In one month, authors from all over the world participate, committing to do their best to complete 50,000 words--1667 words a day. Does it sound doable? Impossible?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The crock pot is your friend. Dump food in it in the morning. Family is happy at dinnertime.
  10. 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.
Anyone else have any good NaNo tips?

Want to give NaNo a shot? Here's the website:


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,


  1. I've done NaNo a few times. I'm debating about this year (better hurry up and decide, huh?). The addition of the new job and the new role with ACFW Colorado has kind of devoured my schedule, and somehow writing always gets shoved to the back burner, so maybe it would be a good thing to force me to Write.Every.Day. Maybe I'll set a 25K goal, instead of 50K.

    1. You have so much on your plate, Niki! I think 25K is a huge goal (50K is beyond huge) and I'm proud of you for considering it! I'm cheering you on!

  2. I'm going to give it a try. I know how many words I need to write each day, and it will be difficult with my already overwhelmed schedule. But I'm still going to do my best! Thank you for the motivation!

    1. Good for you, Suzie! Are you all registered? We will have to cheer one another on. It's so hard to put in that time every day, but it really helps get a first draft out into the world. Go, Suzie, go!

    2. I'm going to sign up in just a bit, Susie. Thank you for the encouragement. I sure need it. Yes, let's all cheer each other on!

  3. I think you have it covered. I did this one year and finished a first draft that I later worked on. I also did my own NaNo... it's just a great way to get the story down which is half the work. Good for you. I think the widget would be rather intimidating. I guess I'll come over and look in a few days! ha!

  4. Thanks, Deb! The widget certainly is a motivator for me, but alas, it's at 0 right now. Off to get something down!

  5. I participated once, although I didn't sign up online or anything. My best advice is warn your family in advance and come up with plans for them to help you through it. For example, dad might have to be on call to pick up take out, and kids might have to help more with laundry and remind you when they need rides.


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