Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NaNo Survival Tips!

Only two weeks until NaNo! I'm scrambling to get all the last-minute details ready. As usual, there's a tinge of panic (am I SURE I want to do this? do I really want to increase my chances of heart failure?) but on the whole, I'm amazed at how much better prepared I am this year than last. Chalk it up to learning the hard way.

Anyway, I've had some people ask for suggestions on how to do NaNo. Upon perusing my writing journal and scribbled notes from last November, I've put together a sort of Survival Guide for anyone doing NaNo! Here are a few ways to smooth your passage through the stormy November seas.

Have an OUTLINE. Truly. Even if you never use one. It can be as rough as character sketches and a general plotline; or as detailed as a 60-page scene-by-scene outline with full character development. Whichever works for you is best.

Plan Your Goal. Figure out what you want to do this NaNo. If you're simply shooting for 50,000, that's easy, but if you plan to write more than that, your daily word count will need to go up.

Know Your Word Count. Based on your goal for November, figure out exactly how many words you need to write each day to make it. Then, check your calendar. If you think you'll be able to write every day, then simply divide your word count goal by 30, and plan to write that number of words per day. But if you think there'll be a day you can't write (Thanksgiving will throw the best of us) subtract that day and figure accordingly.

This plan of action should get you nicely set up. What I always do, once I've got my goal and daily word count worked up, is to make a table of how many words I need to write each day, and then, as November progresses, how many I managed to write.

Here's an example from last year:

Nov. 1: Words Written: 2,383 Extra Words: 716

Nov. 2: Words Written: 3,205 Extra Words: 1,538

Nov. 3: Words Written: 2,085 Extra Words: 418

Nov. 4: Words Written: 3,669 Extra Words: 2,002

Nov. 5: Words Written: 1,984 Extra Words: 317

Nov. 6: Words Written: 4,025 Extra Words: 2,358

Nov. 7: Words Written: 2,103 Extra Words: 436

Total Words For First Week: 19,478 Total Extra Words: 7,809

This was based on my 50,000 word goal. I continued to keep this table throughout November, and it was incredibly helpful, both as motivation (beat last week's word count!) and as a way to tell me how on track I was.

Finally, make sure writing becomes your absolute first priority during November. Write before eating, before sleeping, before reading or watching TV, before doing anything that is not absolutely necessary to maintain life. (You will note I don't consider eating or sleeping necessary.) That way, you'll be sure to make your word count. There were a couple of disastrous days last year where I put off writing, thinking I'd have plenty of time later...and then ended up not having any time at all!

Disclaimer: I'm definitely not an expert on NaNo--the views above are simply what helped me last year and what I'm following this year. If you want to read a book by a true NaNo expert (and laugh yourself to death along the way) read Lazette Gilford's book NaNo For The New And The Insane, a free download on the NaNo site.


Louis Edwards said...


Thank you so much for the NaNo input. This is my first year in the NaNo world. My goal is 50,000 words, but I'll be happy just to be a participant. By the way I like your blog site, it looks good. I enjoy the CW also. Look forward to seeing you at NaNoWriMo.


Nina Hansen said...

Thanks very much!!! I hope you make the 50,000! If any of my suggestions help I'd love to hear about it.

Spits said...

Go Nina. Great post. Two thumbs up! Last year it was all about getting as many words as possible. This year, with my insane schedule, it will be about not only finishing...but surviving...

Hannah said...

This is my first year, too! But I'm on YWP, and can't get the NaNo book. :( Ah well! We can all complain to each other either way. You don't consider eating and sleeping nessacary...Silly girl...Tell Rob that, and you'll have to clean up his splattered brains from trying to figure out how you can do that. :P

You'll survive, Ruth.

Of COURSE Dad planned a trip to Fort Wayne so that we come back on November second or something! *wails* DAAAAADDDDDDDD!!!!!!!! Ruth and/or Nina: I'm hitchhiking up to visit you. :P

Aisley Crosse said...

I did Nano for the first time last year, it soon became a viable excuse to get out of the dishes. Lol, "she HAS to write!!!!"

Hannah said...

LOL! I wonder if Mom will use that excuse to get me out of emptying the dishwasher (parents don't seem to like doing dishes). Dad's stricter about chores than Mom is; she'll be my sol comfert in a graveyard of buried hopes. Buried hopes that were formed to get out of chores. :P

Nina Hansen said...

Haha!! Are you doing NaNo again this year, Aisley?

Kelsey said...

Lovely post. Good advice. Especially about the outline. Someday I'll actually follow that. :P

Yes indeed. Eating and sleeping are absolutely optional. So are school and social life. ...well, maybe not school and social life. :P

And that is an INSANE amount of words!

Nina Hansen said...

*cracks up* Social life was on standstill for me anyway last November, so that was no problem.

You think that amount of words is insane? You should've seen Ruth's. ;)

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