Gearing up for NaNo

Doing what for what?

November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. Aspiring writers around the world sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November or die trying.

Well, not actually die. Over-caffeinate, perhaps. Lose sleep. Ignore loved ones. Giggle inappropriately at Thanksgiving dinner. But to my knowledge, no one ever died.

I’ve attempted NaNo several times. I’ve even completed it twice out of the last three tries, and I’m getting ready to scale Mt. NaNo again this year.

If anyone out there is contemplating giving this a try, I thought I’d pass along a few tricks that have helped me survive.

*Before the end of October, start freezing meals in your freezer for November consumption. Your family is less likely to rebel if they’re fed. I’ve got lasagna, two kinds of chili, stuffed shells and every variety of veggie burger sold in the Springs.

*Teach your spouse/children/roommate/pet to do laundry. The alternative is to stock up on underwear NOW so nobody runs out.

*Get out of the house once in a while. Haul your laptop or legal pad or whatever you write on to a park, the library, a coffee shop…just get out and breathe some fresh air now and then. The bonus is you could overhear some great conversations you can steal.

*That laptop? Don’t limit yourself to only writing via computerized means. If you have a small notebook and a pen or pencil, you can write anywhere. Waiting to pick up the kids. The doctor’s office. Standing in line. Going low tech is a nice change of pace, as long as you can read your own writing well enough later to transcribe it. Don’t do what I do–I use asinine abbreviations that I can’t decipher later.

*Cultivate a teenager or two. No matter what genre you write, teens are the ones who will earnestly discuss trivial details after Thanksgiving dinner. Like whether werewolves get diarrhea, or whether your hero should fall down the stairs or off the roof. Trust me, teenagers invented thinking outside the box. Any conversation is bound to stimulate your poor, tired brain.

*Tell the people around you that you’re doing NaNo. This serves two purposes: it explains enormous amounts of what might otherwise be called strange behavior, and it’s an easy out from unwelcome social obligations.

*Backstory your butt off. I know a lot of writers who drop way too much information into the beginning of their first drafts. So what? You’ve got a goal to reach, baby. Babble away. Talk about the villain’s childhood. Discuss the hero’s mother’s bunions. You can always come back in December and start editing.

*Do. Not. Edit. Not at all, not even a tiny bit. You can’t afford to. If you decide around word 15,000 that the main character should have a French accent or a wooden leg or an advanced degree in astrophysics, just make a note to yourself, highlight it, and go on. From that point forward, poof, Main Character has a poodle instead of a pit bull and lives in Maine instead of Greece.

*Stock up on your favorite caffeinated beverage. Coffee, tea, soda…just have plenty on hand for those moments when you start to flag.

*Have fun. You can really just write down whatever comes to mind, and you’ll be amazed at how freeing that can be.

My own personal secret weapon is about as low tech as you can get. I take a sheet of lined paper and number it 1-30. I take 50,000 and divide it by 29. (I’m realistic–I’m not going to write on Thanksgiving Day.) By each day of the month, I write down what my word count needs to be that day. So, for example, 1-1724. 2-3448. 3-5172. And each day I faithfully write down what my word count is, so I can tell at a glance whether I’m ahead or behind. As a total nerd, I also note how many words I’m ahead or behind. Usually in a red pen. Seeing a bunch of little (+25) or (+193) makes me fairly giddy with delight and self-satisfaction.

Along about Halloween I take this sheet of paper and write all my other November obligations on it. So I know I have a middle school field trip on the 12th, so I’d better write ahead for that day or plan to write at night.

If you’d like to learn more about NaNoWriMo, try the official website.

For another take on NaNo, try the blog of my brilliant friend Ian Healy, who blasts through November in a flurry of words, or that of my other soon-to-be-published friend DeAnna.

I’ll see you on the other side!



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3 responses to “Gearing up for NaNo

  1. Sue

    Go MB! While I struggle to put together “interesting” cover letters for potential jobs, you are tackling NaNo yet again. Send me some bravery and inspiration, will ya?!

  2. Nancy

    As the only sister of MB……and a Non-NaNo WriMo participant…..I’d like to include in your list that people need to inform your out-of-town relatives just what is going on……we have in the past wondered what has happened to MB during the month of November. Has she left the country……ran away from home…….joined a cult in Colorado…..whatever.

    We don’t need an e-mail every day or even once a week……just keep us in the loop.

    Oh, a bathroom break once in awhile would be good too.

    Good luck Sis…..we love you

  3. Cathy Dilts

    I see NaNo as an opportunity to immerse myself in fiction writing guilt-free. The power of numbers – knowing that thousands of other humans are madly producing novels – and a timeframe – all happening in the month of November – is both motivating and freeing. It’s a mad dash to a finish line, while day-to-day fiction writing can feel like a bottomless pit at times.

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