Pre-NaNoWriMo: Last Thoughts


As the last weekend before NaNoWriMo, I thought it’d be fair to share how I feel about NaNoWriMo this year.

I’ll be honest, even though this is my seventh year entering NaNoWriMo, I’m apprehensive. My job is intense right now and I’m barely struggling to deal with my work load, let alone juggling work with an apprenticeship that I’ve nearly finished.

However, I have been writing for the past month because I wanted to enter December with 100k rather than 50k, and because I know I won’t write in December since that’s always manic month for me. Additionally, I have more or less been able to write a little bit every day, so I have a routine for that at least. Hopefully it’ll serve me well for NaNoWriMo too.

I usually write my stories in order, but this time, I decided to write in scenes instead. Snippets of scenes usually. Once or twice, I did write a full scene or so. It’s been so helpful to write in scenes, not in order. The scenes have kept me motivated enough to keep writing every day, so that’s a plus.

Although, there’s now a problem. I haven’t put the snippets in order, nor re-read them, so I don’t know what I’ve already written and how much I’ve written for them. It’d be a waste of time and words if I were to write out a scene I’ve already done. I’m hoping to put the scenes in order on Scrivener and see where I need to fill in. Bearing in mind I’ve never really used Scrivener before. It’ll be a fun challenge, using new software for the first time.

I do have an outline, which I created while waiting for a train. My life has been non-stop travelling for the past three weeks, so I’m quite glad to not be travelling anywhere far this weekend. Although, I am socialising and being kept busy, so I don’t know if I’ll have time to do what I want to. We’ll have to wait and see.

I am sad I won’t get that usual buzz/itch to start NaNoWriMo on the 1st November, but that doesn’t mean I won’t re-find the joy in writing. I only hope I can make it through the next month relatively unscathed.

There are a few things I know:

  1. I can complete NaNoWriMo – I’ve completed it four of the six years I’ve entered under equally as stressful situations.
  2. I can take days off so long as I write more than necessary each day – I’ve found writing 1,700 words every day instead of just 1,667 words helps in the long run. More is definitely better.
  3. Any words are better than no words – even if I do end up rewriting scenes, it’s not as bad as not writing at all.

My main priority is finding a balance. If I can’t, writing will have to be what I give up, which kills me inside, but my work/life balance isn’t great right now. Things will calm down, but this month could get quite rocky for me and my wellbeing has to come first.

Good luck everyone!

NaNoWriMo Prep


As NaNoWriMo draws closer, you might be struggling with doing any kind of preparation for this mammoth task, especially if you’ve never partaken in this before. Don’t worry. I’ve got some tips in mind to help you out.

1. Outline

Outline is the most helpful tip I can you.

I know, an outline can be daunting and constricting, but nobody says you have to stick rigidly to it. Moreover, an outline can be a brief outline, with only the beginning or ending planned out. Or perhaps just a list of the characters you’ll use and their importance to the story. Perhaps you’ll feel better if you write down each chapter synopsis in detail, mentioning exactly what’ll happen when. Just make sure you leave room for spontaneity too.

2. Acknowledge what you write might be terrible

The point of NaNoWriMo is to write. Not to edit it as you go along, or continually start over because it doesn’t sound right. Just writing can sometimes give you gems you might not have written had you been able to edit it as you wrote, and your story might go in a completely different direction to the one you’d planned it to go in. You don’t know what’ll happen, so embrace it. Embrace the challenge of just writing and not editing.

3. Plan your writing schedule

Sure, writing 1,667 words every day seems easy enough, but that doesn’t mean it is. Planning out a chunk of time when you’ll write each day will train you into doing it and make it a force of habit, so each day you’ll be dedicated enough to write. For those who hate the idea of a writing schedule, trust me it’ll be a saving grace when you have those days where you don’t feel like writing, because if you wanna reach that 50,000 words at the end of the month, you’ve gotta write every day. Especially on those days when you don’t feel like doing so. It’s what all published writers say.

Although, if you really can’t write everyday for legitimate reasons (outside you just don’t feel like it), that’s perfectly okay too. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two, especially if you’re forced to. Just be prepared, if you can be, by writing more on the days afterwards.

Additionally, prepare your writing tools. Are you writing in a notebook or on a laptop? Either way, make sure you have a version backed up, just in case. Have plenty of pens. Constantly charge your laptop. Create a writing playlist if you need one. Eat and drink what’ll help motivate you, and keep you healthy, and find the right environment for you. All of these things are pivotal to writing productively and keeping yourself going during NaNoWriMo.

4. Rewards

Rewarding yourself is so important. It’s all good and well to sit down and write every day, especially on those days when you don’t want to, but planning little rewards for yourself is equally as good. Perhaps you’ll reward yourself with that TV episode you’ve been saving, or you’ll buy a brand new notebook, or you’ll give yourself some chocolate.

But make sure the reward is used at a reasonable time. Don’t reward yourself because you sat down and opened a word document and then stop writing for three days while you reward yourself. Instead, reward yourself for hitting 1,000 words, or finishing a scene, or for reaching halfway through. Whatever the goal and reward are, just make sure they balance each other out.

5. Stay healthy

Life can be harsh and definitely unpredictable. If your mental or physical health take a hit, take a break from writing. It might hurt to give it up temporarily, but your wellbeing is more important than writing. Don’t stress yourself out unnecessarily to complete a daunting challenge like this, especially if you can’t find the time to do so. Your writing can wait.

Find what works for you and NaNoWriMo will be more enjoyable. Do what you can and have fun. This is an experience just as much as it is a challenge. And other last inspirational messages here. I’m sure you’ve got a few tucked away in your mind. Hold onto them. Encouragement can be helpful during NaNoWriMo.

What are you doing to prepare to NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo Tips


As a NaNoWriMo veteran, even I get freaked out as NaNoWriMo begins. The panic settles in alongside the excitement, my fingers tingling with anticipation, staring at the blank word document. Watching the clock as the minutes tick down until I can officially start writing.

As a beginner, I remember feeling incredibly nervous and questioning why on earth I was doing this. After all, I didn’t have the time and I was pretty sure I’d discard what I wrote anyway. But thankfully, I grew out of those thoughts and allowed NaNoWriMo to work its magic.

So, for anybody out there who is trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, here are some helpful tips I’m passing along, because these are the tips I’d liked to have heard when I first started as a naive beginner all those years ago.

1. Make time for NaNoWriMo.

I promise you, you will find time where you can write because you’re filling time anyway. If you replace watching that TV episode on your commute into work or idly scrolling through social media with writing, you’ll feel better when you arrive home and not have to write as much as you thought you did. Even if you only write for five minutes per day, that’s still contributing towards your writing goal. But if you can only do minimal amounts of writing per day, try to find time to catch up so you don’t fall behind. Because even though it’s possible to catch back up once you fall behind, it’s not an easy feat.

2. You don’t have to reach the 50k goal.

It might sound redundant since the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to reach the 50k goal. However, reaching any number of words towards your project is more words than those writers who only dream about writing a book and never do, or those writers who decide to write during NaNoWriMo but don’t for the rest of the year (to make you feel better, I used to be the second writer).

Please, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t reach the 50k goal. Real life exists and, unfortunately, it can mess up a lot. As much as writing during NaNoWriMo should be a priority, be realistic with what you can do, especially under the circumstances you’re in. Otherwise you risk exhausting yourself and burning out.

3. Join a writing community.

While it can be daunting to go to an actual write-in, or you can’t due to real life commitments, you can join a virtual writing community. NaNoWriMo encourages you to find a local writing community, which can be difficult if you live in a remote location, because other writers are in the same boat as you and can help you. If you can’t make it to an actual write-in, it’s okay. Forums on NaNoWriMo’s website helps, and if you tag NaNoWriMo on social media, you’re bound to find a fellow writer participating in the challenge. Check your local writing community’s social media accounts too and see if you can connect with them virtually.

I personally find joining a writing community one of the best pieces of advice because it’s the perfect time to ask those random and specific writing questions, knowing there will be a writer who’ll not only listen, but potentially provide you with an answer. Also, if you’re lacking the motivation, they can help give you a boost with word sprints or general positive affirmations you can do this.

However, if you can’t find a local writing community or it’s too intimidating to join one, find your own support system. That support system can be online via social media or by telling your loved ones what you’re setting out to do. Or that support system can just be yourself, although I personally wouldn’t do that if you’re a beginner to NaNoWriMo (unless you’ve been writing for a long time and figured you’d give yourself a writing challenge, in which case, carry on). It makes the whole experience so much easier if you have someone else to lean on and support you when it gets hard (and believe me, it will).

4. Let your story come naturally.

NaNoWriMo is all about getting those words out, not editing them. I know, the inner editor will creep out and tell you to tweak what you have, but don’t do it! It’s a challenge of putting down words just as much as it is resisting the temptation to edit your work as you’re working on it.

Additionally, if this is your first time ever writing a story, stories never go the way you want them to. The characters will decide not to do what you planned, or the plot will just decide to throw in a subplot for you. Go with it. During NaNoWriMo, weird stuff will happen. It’s inevitable. You’re so desperate to write down the words that a character deciding to go for a drive at 3am only to discover some life changing advice will happen. As will your character deciding staying inside all day is a perfectly good idea. Again, go with it. You’ll read it back later and probably question what on earth you were thinking, but you might also find a hidden gem you never would’ve discovered if you hadn’t let the story do what it wanted.

5. Reward yourself.

Reward yourself for writing each day. Reward yourself for giving your character something to do. Reward yourself for reaching the halfway mark. Reward yourself for actually hitting the 50k mark.

Writers love to reward themselves. Just make sure it’s justifiable. It’s incredibly easy to pat yourself on the back for writing down a single word and then proceeding to watch Youtube videos for 3 hours. We’ve all been there. Perhaps tell yourself to write 500 words, then you can reward yourself by watching an episode of your TV show. Perhaps tell yourself to plot out a scene, then reward yourself by going on a shopping spree. Whatever makes you happy, keep it as a reward for doing some good writing. Or for when you’re in a writing slump and you just wanna smile for a while.

Most importantly: enjoy yourself!

If NaNoWriMo becomes too stressful and you’re only writing to reach the 50k goal, don’t. Sure, it might seem like a competition, but it’s supposed to be a challenge for you to complete because you want to write this story. Not for bragging rights or to keep going no matter what. We all have limits, so please listen to them.

Good luck everyone!

Are there any tips you wished you knew when first starting out in NaNoWriMo?

What Is NaNoWriMo?


NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month as its known, is a non-profit organisation that created a writing challenge where you have to write 50,000 words in November. A chance for writers each year to up their productivity or for new writers to start a project, regardless of what their final word count is.

The challenge is as intimidating as it sounds, especially for new writers undertaking the challenge for the first time. However, NaNoWriMo is the chance to be encouraged by other writers to make it to the 50,000 word mark with organised write ins, word sprints and other writing related events/tasks to try. The community can be so supportive and are designed to help you in whatever they can. The website has a section for you to find your local community so you can join them, even if it’s not in person. They might have a forum or a Facebook page you can check daily for help, inspiration or a kick up the ass.

While NaNoWriMo can help you reach 50,000 words, it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach the end goal. Any words you’ve written towards your project are still words written. There are plenty of people out there who want to write and always talk about their stories, but they never write them down. Taking the first step to write down actual words is the first huge step.

However, I have heard complaints about NaNoWriMo because if you do want to write as a career, you need to be writing all year round. Additionally, 50,000 words isn’t that long for most stories, so you’d need to write more after NaNoWriMo, and I’m definitely a guilty person for not doing so (although, that’s because December is always manic month for me). I do definitely agree with the complaints, especially if this is something you want to turn into a career.

NaNoWriMo is an intense writing challenge, but it does help just as much as it might hinder. It can help you decide when you write best, or help you find time in the day to write. Writers always say to set aside time to write, but if you don’t have a deadline, it can be hard to motivate yourself. In that respect, NaNoWriMo is brilliant. It gives you a set goal to work towards. Add in a friendly community to encourage you to write and little tasks to keep up your pace and you have a great challenge that will help you make serious leeway on your story.

But if you’re only going to put in the work during NaNoWriMo, you won’t make it into a career. Writing should be year round if you’re serious about it, regardless of everything else going on around you. Even if you can only squeeze in 300 words everyday, that’s still writing everyday. If you leave writing to NaNoWriMo, you won’t be disciplined enough to do this full time, because then what would you do with the rest of your year?

To summarise, NaNoWriMo is a great challenge to undertake if you’re new to writing or want to make serious leeway on your story or for bragging rights. If you’re serious about writing, keep going even when the challenge is finished. You will finish that project if you do, I promise.

Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Will you be entering this year?