Are you a NaNoWriMo Newbie? Advice from a NaNo veteran5 min read

by | Oct 6, 2017 | Writing | 0 comments

The image above is my very first NaNoWriMo. Which I hand wrote. Oh what I have learned since then…

It’s Plotober.  The month where all the planners (and some of the pantsers) start thinking about what they will be writing next month.  Because next month is NaNoWriMo.

Ah yes, it’s already that time.

For those of you that have done this before, you’ve got an inkling of what you’re letting yourself in for… though no two Nano’s are ever quite the same.

But what if you’re a Nano noob?  What can you expect from your first NaNoWriMo?

I didn’t win in 2016, so here is my last Winner’s banner, courtesy of NaNo.

Is it bad that my biggest piece of advice is expect the unexpected?

NaNo is both a joy and a dark place, a creative zenith and a blank page.  It is my favourite time of the year, but I hate living through it.

But I want to try giving slightly more practical advice.  So, here it is.

On days when the words are flowing really well, keep going for as long as you possibly can.  Build up a word count buffer, because days will come when you will need to take a break.  Right now you might be rushing home after work or school to write.  Writing might be the thing that gives you the deepest happiness in life, but you could find that when there are deadlines and word targets that happiness starts to fade.  NaNo can be stressful.  Life might already be busy.  And now you need to find time for 1,667 words a day.  So build buffers when you can, and take a few days off later in the month when you need them.

Join a local NaNo group and try to go to at least one write-in with them.  Having a group around you who are trying to attempt the same mad goal is really encouraging.  Some may be steaming ahead on the word count, others will be lagging.

The veteran NaNo laptop, which has since been retired.

Some will also be NaNo newbies.  I wouldn’t have reached the 50K goal without those scheduled write-ins.  They forced me out of my house and into an atmosphere of focus.  I could usually manage about 3K in a few hours, just from being surrounded by other people quietly working, occasionally swapping tips on Viking weaponry.  And eating the excellent spicy chips the cafe served.  If there is no local group you could try to find a buddy to work with.  If not, keep active on the NaNo forums to get that support and motivation.

Remember to take good care of yourself.  We’ve done whole posts in the past about looking after yourself when writing, particularly during NaNoWriMo, as it’s an intense and time-pressured period.  Get plenty of sleep, try to eat vaguely sensible meals, go outside and walk about a bit now and again.  Don’t beat yourself up if your word count doesn’t even reach four figures.

But the most important piece of advice I can give is to dive right in and DO IT.  NaNoWriMo is such a great experience.  Every year I write something completely different to what I was expecting.  Some of it is crap.  But there is gold there too.

Sign up.  Sign up now.

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