Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nanowrimo Tips

In less than 3 days writers all over the world will poise their fingers above their keyboards waiting for the stroke of midnight. At 12:01 AM on Nov 1st the race to complete a full length novel within 30 days will officially begin. Yes, it’s National Novel Writing Month otherwise known as Nanowrimo or affectionately as Nano. I’ve done it. And from my experience, I’d like to share tips where you can successfully do it too.

Before Nanowrimo:

Talk to Your Family
This is one of those things that may seem impossible to some writers because life and family commitments go on regardless. But they don’t have to go on the same way. If you sit down with your family in October and tell them exactly what’s expected of them in November, and stress that it’s temporary with lots of treats in December, you may be able to squeeze out some extra hours of writing. It’s certainly worth a try. Go here for more tips on family life during Nano.

Envision Your Novel
You do have a clear idea of what you’re going to write, right? Even if you’re a pantser, there are things you can do to hasten your Nano journey and these should be done in October:
- Detailed character sketches incl’g quirks
- Map your location
- Draw floor plans for your setting
- Provide photos of the season
- Write an outline – can be as simple as beginning, black moment, ending

Set up Daily Charts
- Nanowrimo Tracking Chart
- Daily Report (see below)

Ready Blank files
These are files you create but will stay blank until you need them:
- Discard (in case you change your mind – again)
- Additions (things thought of after the fact)
- New characters from teachers to dogs
- New scenes (ideas that come as you write)
- Research - you’ll come across things you may need to research. YOU DO NOT WANT TO STOP WRITING and do the research during Nano. Once you get on the net and start surfing, your day will be shot. Trust me. Instead, open your research file, type in what needs to be researched, save it and get back to writing.

This is the single most important thing you will do. The whole concept of Nanowrimo is for writers to take the journey together. It promotes accountability and camaraderie. As writers, we try to keep a word count goal but when the time comes to choose between writing for that extra hour or watching a favorite TV show, most times we choose the TV. Because Nanowrimo is a race against time and you need to report in daily and tell all the other writers how well you did, you’re more apt to choose the extra hour of writing. When you report in, you see how others have done. Some totals will be really low due to life interference. Those writers need your encouragement. Other totals will be so high you’ll wonder if they’re fudging it. But those writers will inspire you. Give and take. Encouragement. Writers helping writers. I love it!

I know of 3 places where you can register for Nanowrimo:
- Nanowrimo - the official site
- Nanowrimo - the official kids site
- eHarlequin - for new novels and more

During Nanowrimo:

Daily Reports
I wrote Charley’s Saint start-to-finish during Nano 2007 using the eHarlequin Nano board because it’s where my friends were. Since I’m working on additions and revisions to Emma’s Outlaw this time around, I’ll register again at the eHarl site because it promotes working on your own needs which may not include a brand new book. I’m not sure how the official Nano site reports in, but at eHarl we go to the Nano board and leave a comment which looks like this:
Title: (working title)
WC: (daily word count)
FW: (first word of the day)
LW: (last word of the day)
Fav Line: (Favorite line)
Total: (Words so far)
Percentage: (of book completed)
Treat: (for yourself)
Tips: (for other writers)

Although this format isn’t mandatory, most eHarl writers use it. The first and last words are for interest only as is the favorite line.

Favorite Line: The fav lines can get very funny and provide insight into other wips. They stress the fact you’re not writing alone. As you write, be aware of sentences you really like. Highlight them. At the end of the day, it will be easy to pick out the highlighted lines. Choose your favorite. Most often, those writers who think they’ll look later are too tired at the end of the day and don’t bother.

Treat: This comes after you reach your word count for the day. It’s a time to sit back and watch the tape of the fav show you missed earlier. Take a bubbly bath. Surf the net. Or relax with a bowl of ice cream. Deciding on a treat at the start of the day will give you a goal for later when you’re most tempted to quit. And relaying your treat to others may encourage them to push out those extra words.

Tip: Anything you found that may help other Nanoers. You cannot believe how much the sharing of like information encourages the next writer.

The Actual Writing
During Nanowrimo, we write at a hectic pace. We’re supposed to shut off our internal editors and go strictly for word count because ‘we can’t edit a blank page’. For my first Nanowrimo, I was told to ignore spelling errors, capitalization, grammar, etc. Anything that slows down your writing. One person even said she uses the Word strike-out feature when she wants to erase a word and sentence. By striking it out, it’s ‘gone’ but the words are still counted. I tried that for one day. It may have worked for that person but I found it time consuming and redundant. It took precious seconds, if not minutes, to go up, click on the feature, strike it out, and click off again. Then I had to rethink what I was going to write. Ugh. And those extra words may have counted at the end of the day but did I really do myself a favor? If I need to write 3000 words a day to reach my goal of 90,000 words at the end of Nov, will the word count be accurate if I count all my strike-outs and other garbage? No.

I also found that trying to remember not to capitalize or use dialogue quotation marks screwed up my timing since they are second nature to me. However, I do ignore the red spelling and green grammar lines when I’m on a roll. And because I enjoy the spirit of Nanowrimo, I write everything that comes to me and let my imagination reign. If I think of something that needs to be added to a previous day or something I have to research, I quickly go the file I’ve previously opened for times like these, note the appropriate page numbers and what needs to be done later.

I’d like to continue this post next week as we’ll be on Nano Day 5 by then. If you have tips you’d like to share, let me know in the comments section and I’ll incorporate them in my post.

What works or doesn’t work for you? What tips do you have to share? Does anyone know what the official daily Nanowrimo report entails? Any other sites you can register at?

Click NaNoWriMo under Labels in the left column for more info.


Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the great tips, Anita. As November 1st draws near I seesaw between excitement and what have I done! These tips help to aproach Nano in an organized manner.

I've talked to my family and stocked the freezer. Great tip on organizing your computer files. I'm determined to ignore those pesky green and red squiggly lines starting Sunday.

I have one character sketch left to do and its Nano here I come. Gulp.

Good luck over a eharl! Look forward to hearing how you're doing on Emma's Outlaw.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'm sending from Pizza Hut in the city. Internet still down at home. I guess there's only one tech in town at home and he's sick with the flu. Hazard of living in the country.

Karyn, I'm rooting for you! Sounds like you're on course.

Emma's story is really coming along. I've been avg'g 8 hrs a day on it between the day and evening. I seem to have gotten my second wind and am fired up. Two days in a row now I started working on it first thing in the morning even before breakfast. Really excited! Thanks for asking.

Helena said...

Bless you, Anita! Earlier this morning I mentioned in an email to SRW members that I am "seriously considering" doing NaNoWriMo, then I pop over here, and now I feel I have no choice!

I've just been to the official site and it seems they only want your word count at the end of each day. That appeals to me as quick and easy.

Since I have just come home from Surrey and the fabulous conference that has me motivated like you wouldn't believe, this should be the element that will not allow me to lose momentum.

Thanks for sending me your tracking chart, and keep those posts full of encouraging tips coming.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Unfortunately I'm not able to do Nano this year, but I'm really impressed with the organizational tips you've given us here. I'm going to print them out for next year when hopefully I can use them. And they'll probably come in handy for book-in-a-week in January. Good luck to you Anita, as well as to Karyn and Helena. May you write your dreams.


Deb H said...

great info Anita!
wish i could do NaNo this year, but the little guy is going to keep me busy. still, al your tips will be great for me the next time around (especially since i bombed miserably previous NaNo years)
actually the tips are great for any time of writing focus.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Helena, good work signing up for Nano. Look out for both Karyn and Silver over there on the official site.

I think Karyn goes by Prairie Chick.

Silver...I can't remember if you gave us your handle or not...

Keep us informed Helena and we'll keep you motivated. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Deb, I'm glad you made it. Did you know that Dee over at eharl has been doing a monthly Nano since June? Hopefully there will be enough interest and she'll keep it up and then you can join in a few months or so.

Take care of the little guy. So glad you're doing okay. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana, sorry about this year's Nano. But you're right about the tips... they are the same ones for BIAW so you can use them in Jan as well.

Glad you all got back from Surrey without problems. Thanks for stopping.