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Tips on conquering Nano
themoormaiden asked you:
Hi! Your blog is super helpful, thank you for taking the time to answer all of our queries. :) Anyway, I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time this July, not only will it be my first NaNo but it will also be my first time writing a full length novel and I’m terrified of failing horribly. I was just wondering if you had any tips when it comes to NaNoWriMo?
For those of you unfamiliar with Nano or Camp Nano, here’s a link! Camp Nano will be holding another session during the month of July, which, for lots of us, means no school and more writing. Hopefully.
Hitting a five-digit (or six-digit, in the case of certain crazies) word count can be intimidating, especially if we’ve never done it before or haven’t done it in a while or have never finished a manuscript before — whatever your case may be. But, it can be done. Here are some guidelines that always help me:
- Plan ahead. Even if you’re not an outliner, having some sort of battle strategy keeps you from hitting any ruts or the damning question of, “I don’t know what happens next.” This can take a chainsaw (the gritty horror kind of chainsaw that’s usually rusted, dripping with oil, and already somehow stained with blood) to your momentum, and momentum is hard to regain once lost.
- Make a schedule. Divide up your final word count goal by the days of the week that you’ll be able to write. If you have conflicts on certain days, don’t count those. Make a schedule of the word count you should reach every day. (Maybe this means counting to 1,700 words every day, or maybe that means adding up the total words you should reach every day, from 1,700 to 3,400, then to 5,100 – whatever feels comfortable to you.) If writing for 31 days straight is going to be a real bummer for you, then consider giving yourself weekends off and make up the words during the week. Make your schedule according to your needs.
- Clear your checklist every day. Eliminate as many stresses as you can before you start writing so that your brain is as clear as you can make it. This isn’t always possible, and sometimes housecleaning becomes very interesting when we’re supposed to be writing instead – but get a couple chores done, don’t fall behind on life things or neglect what you shouldn’t neglect. Find a balance.
- Focus on your daily goal. Don’t focus on your end goal, because 50,000 words is a hugely daunting number, like staring at the top of the mountain you’re supposed to climb when you’re still unpacking your gear into the parking lot. Focus on each step you make, and if you trip, catch yourself before you keep going. If you’re not accustomed to writing so many words a day, remember that the writing stamina builds slowly. Give yourself time to adjust.
- Get yourself pumped up before you begin. Make a soundtrack and listen to the song(s) you need before the scene you write. Draw. Heck, if you do your best thinking when you’re in the shower, then shower first, let yourself stew, and then get straight to writing afterward. If you’ve got specific things you like to wear while writing, put them on. I even used to play certain games before starting, just to get my head in the right place.
- Create a space for you to write in. Make a space around you that has your drawings up for you to see, or any art that reminds you of your story or characters. Surround yourself in your story, so that even if you look up from your computer (or notebook or what have you), you’re still fully immersed in your world. Change your desktop. Change the background on your phone.
- Write what you can when you can. The daily word count doesn’t have to be conquered in one writing session. Some of us can only write in short spurts here or there. Some of us can only write in the morning or in the evening. Some of us can only write while waiting at the bus stop, or on break at work, or while the kids are napping. Whatever the case may be, do what you can when you can and know your own limits. Don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll exhaust yourself too early.
- Participate in your cabin, or find a group of writers somewhere who are also participating. Be each other’s mentors, hold each other accountable every day. I like to prompt for progress reports (which are located in the “ksw nano” tag) so that, like last time, when I miss several days in a row, I have the pressure on me not to give up.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know what the situations are for other writers – you only know yourself. If you can only barely make 1,700 words a day, if that’s a struggle for you, and you see other writers who clear 5k, don’t rip yourself apart over it. You don’t know where they are in their lives that allows them to do this. One of my friends can write twice as fast as I do, but all that matters is that I finish at the rate I’m most comfortable writing. To push myself any harder could potentially backfire.
- Take care of yourself. Eat, stay hydrated, sleep as well as you can, take breaks, get exercise, and for the sake of your organs, use the restroom. Part of keeping your momentum going is making sure your energy level is steady. If you get hungry, eat. Snack on carbs for short-term energy and protein for long-term energy. If you need caffeine, then drink caffeine. This certainly is not the month to be breaking any bad habits, or else you’ll be miserable.
- DON’T PANIC. Miss a day? Have trouble making your word count? Have trouble making your word count for the last three days? Cool it. Set the project down. Give yourself some space. Read on habits and taking care of yourself. You can always make up any time you lose – I’ve seen it done before. Just make sure you put yourself before your writing.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Why did I decide to self publish?
So, you actually managed to write a book, and you don’t know what to do about it. That’s where I was.
I started my book, Cherry Wood, during NaNoWriMo of 2011. It was my second NaNo, and my first win. I’d written 50,000 words, but my story wasn’t finished. I still needed almost 13,000 more. I worked on it for the next year, and had the story finished around 11:00 pm on October 31, right before NaNo started again.
(I know you’re curious about the process I used, but I promise to write about that next week, OK?)
So, I’ve got my book, but I really don’t want to wait around for a publisher to decide that they want me. It’s expensive to get your book published. You have to send copies of your book (formatted just so) to each publisher you want to approach with cover letters and everything else that they want. That can get extremely expensive since you’ll probably have to send the book to a variety of publishers.
Fun fact: Madeleine L’Engle was rejected 26 times for her beloved book A Wrinkle in Time. She persisted and won a Newberry Medal for that book. You can learn two lessons from that story.
1. If you believe in your story, you need to persevere.
2. Why waste all that time with publishers that don’t know what they are doing?
I did some research and discovered that Amazon had some interesting looking programs available for self publishing.
- Kindle Direct Publishing-KDP is a program that let’s you publish your book on Kindle without having to go through a publisher. You will end up being responsible for everything though. You take care of making sure your book is edited and arranging your cover art. You need to do all of your promoting. So why am I using KDP? Because I get to keep 70% of the profits from my book. Sure I have to wait 3 months to get paid, but if you go to a publisher, you make much less, and you typically need to wait 2 years before the book is actually published.
- CreateSpace-Have you ever heard about Print-On-Demand? Basically, CreateSpace will only print your book if someone orders it. That saves you the trouble of having to order a huge pile of books to sell or trying to get a new batch on short notice. Book stores can also order this way, so that may work out for you too.
- ACX (Audible Books)-Have you seen an ad for Audible books in your travels around the internet? I see them all the time. Through ACX, you can hire someone to read your book, and then it will be available through Audible (including on iTunes.) You can even record the book yourself.
After seeing all of this, I decided to go with self publishing. You may not make that choice, but that is fine. The publishing journey is your own, and you need to choose the path for yourself.
(When you self publish, you need to take every chance to promote yourself, she here’s a couple of links you can look at if you want the latest information about my book.)
"If It's There, Use It": Pushing Through Writer's Block
During NaNoWriMo’s “In Your Pocket” Summer Drive, we’ll be posting “My First NaNo” stories from you, our amazing participants, and the writing tips you learned from your maiden voyage. Today, valiant intern Michael Adamson, finds himself grappling with severe writer’s block two-thirds of the way through his story:
There was a dark moment for me around day 21 of my first NaNoWriMo experience. I was faced with a word-count debt fast approaching 12,000 words, and any realistic chance of winning was evaporating.
I had only myself to blame. Doubt and lack of motivation had impeded my progress during the first three weeks; sometimes I would go five days without writing so much as a single word.
"Anyone Can Defeat This Challenge": Finding the Confidence to Write
During NaNoWriMo’s “In Your Pocket” Summer Drive, we’ll be posting “My First NaNo” stories from you, our amazing participants, and the writing tips you learned from your maiden voyage. Today, participant Maya Ziv shares the cathartic experience of writing her first novel:
I remember it like it was yesterday. My palms were sweaty; I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that this night I would embark on a journey that would make memories for a lifetime.
I had been thinking of tackling NaNoWriMo for years and finally committed last year: my birthday is in November, and I decided it would be a great present to allow myself to shirk all other responsibilities for a month and write a book.
Writerly: Time & Patience
1. Don’t rush to finish writing/editing. Sure, maybe churn out first drafts really fast (à la NaNoWriMo), but taking your time during the revision process will allow you to produce stronger work. It’s not a race. (That isn’t to say you should take extended breaks and dwell on the same paragraph for weeks at a time. You should keep moving forward. Write every day and stay productive!)
2. Spend time away from a story so that you can forget what you wrote and edit it like it’s someone else’s. Not just a few days, or even a few weeks. Try to spend months, maybe a year or two without looking at it. Write some other things. When you go back, it will be totally fresh. You’ll see all the mistakes; you’ll realize instantly how you want to fix them.
3. Do you have friends who read and offer feedback on your stuff? Don’t be anxious to show them your first draft. Maybe not even your third draft. If you’re lucky enough to have willing readers, you can only get a fresh read from them once. After that, after any changes and improvements, elements of what they first saw will always color their impression. Don’t make the mistake of giving out a story when you know you have gaps to fill in or passages to edit! Show your readers the most polished thing you can produce on your own. They’re there to critique problems you can’t pinpoint yourself. Plus, if you show something rough and the feedback is not so positive, you might get discouraged too early in the process.
4. Don’t send your manuscript out to agents or magazines the moment it feels complete. Mull it over; let it percolate. Reread your favorite novels and try to identify the elements that made you fall in love with those stories. What kinds of characters/style/plot points made the writing irresistible to you? Look at your novel again and see if you’re doing the same kind of thing. Write more drafts. Don’t be afraid to make big changes. Do everything you need to make it as good as you possibly can.