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Saturday, 29 October 2016

So You Want To Write A Novel?

So, you’ve signed up for the 50,000 word challenge that is NaNoWriMo! Not sure what to expect? Well, look no further! I’m here to give you a few pointers based on my personal experiences with this maddening yet addicting challenge.

First off, if you’re new to the game, welcome! I wish you all the best in your endeavour this month. You are amazing and don’t let anyone tell you different. You are a writer, and that is not to be taken lightly. If you write - poetry, Sci-fi, romance, thriller, Fanfiction -  you are a writer in my eyes. If you're a veteran returning to the game, welcome back! It's an honour to write alongside you again.

Now, I won’t tell you that this endeavour is going to be easy. It isn’t. In fact, you will experience moments of extreme fear and crippling self-doubt. You might even get a week in and think, “There is no way I can do this. 50k is too much!” For some of you, it will be. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay! It really doesn't matter how many words you have upon crossing the finish line at 11:59pm on November 30th. What matters is, you finished!

But, in spite of everything I mentioned above, you will experience many more moments of immense joy and ample amounts of support. If you can, meet with the other writers in your region, even if it’s only online. Share your stories, listen to others’, and be part of the community. Within this community you will find others like you experiencing the same emotions you are. And these people are more than willing to stand in your corner and cheer you on. Just remember to do the same. We may be in different boats, but this isn’t a competition. It’s merely a challenge and we’re all going through it.

Everything I'm writing about in this blog post, I’ve learned from personal experience. I’ve been participating in NaNo since 2012, and I have yet to win. That’s right. Four years in, and no wins. Yet. Is this my year? I have no idea. I’ll know when I cross that proverbial finish line at 11:59pm on November 30th. But, winning is not why I participate every year. No. I participate because I love the community of writers I have met through NaNo. Many of those writers have become my friends, and a few more I consider family Mother Nature never provided me with.

When I did my first NaNo, I signed up about three days before NaNo was to begin. My first social write-in occurred on the first Friday, which was an event I’ve kept running since then. Anyway, I sat down at a table occupied only by an ML (Municipal Liaison), and immediately after introducing myself, was asked what I was writing. In 2012, I was working on my trilogy, and was excited about it, as I always am. The person who asked me about my novel got excited about it and was eager to hear about it. That was enough to sell me. There was no going back from there! I was hooked. And now, four years later, I’m one of Toronto’s MLs, and I’ve kept a weekly write-in going every Friday evening.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to read about all of my experiences. You came here for tips! So, here is my list of tips for NaNoWriMo:

  • WRITE!!! I had thought about keeping this tip until last, but this is the most important tip I can give you. Just write, and keep writing. You can’t edit a blank page.

  • Join a region and post in the forums! Even if you can’t make it to physical write-ins, having a place to vent your frustrations is a wonderful thing, even if that place is online. My saving grace every year is my region’s chat room. It’s there I get my support, and use word sprints (or wars) to get in my word count. It is also where I can give my support to those who are experiencing the same doubts and frustrations I am. The sense of community makes my NaNo experience what it is and keeps me coming back year after year. There is also a NaNoWriMo Facebook page with people from all around the world. It's a closed group, but all you have to do is ask for an invite. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NaNoWriMoparticipants/

  • Let your friends and family know you are taking part in NaNoWriMo. Warn them that your evenings may be taken up by write-ins, and that you will need writing time every day. Yes, every day. Tell them you will need an hour, two hours, three hours per day to get those coveted words written. Inform them that you will need caffeine and chocolate in order to function (well, at least I do). But, most importantly, tell them that you will need their support because NaNo is not easy.

  • Write every day! Yes, every day! It makes the 50,000 (or whatever number you’re aiming for) word goal easier to reach. The easiest way to do this, is to divide your goal number by the number of days in the month and figure out your daily word count goal. Breaking down the main goal into several smaller goals makes the task not quite so daunting. To reach 50,000 words by November 30th, the magic number of words per day is, 1,667. I’m hoping to push that daily goal to 2,000 in preparation for those days when life gets in the way. Because life always gets in the way.

  • Ignore your inner editor. This is the one tip I struggle with the most. I am constantly editing as I go. I can’t help it! Every NaNo, it’s all I can do to keep my inner editor at bay. Sometimes, I’m almost successful. Almost. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been able to get through a season without my inner editor raising its large head and bellowing at me. And, I tend to listen to it at least once. However, if you can, ignore that voice no matter how loud it gets. December is for editing. November is for writing.

  • HAVE FUN!!! I know I said that writing was the most important tip I had, but, actually, I think this one is. NaNoWriMo is not a cut-throat competition. I repeat: NaNoWriMo is not a cut-throat competition. It is merely a challenge that you have accepted, a personal challenge that you and thousands of other writers worldwide are taking on. We are in this together. Yes, you will get frustrated. You might even break down in a fit of sobs. THAT’S OKAY!!! You are allowed to do this!!! (I do it at least once or twice every NaNo!) But, the most important thing to remember is something I’ve mentioned a few times already. Others are going through the same challenge you are. You have joined an amazing community of writers, and writers are awesome people to be around. Some of us may be way off in left field, but that’s part of our charm, and all part of the fun. That’s what NaNo should be for you. FUN!

And there you have it. A few tips on getting through NaNo relatively unscathed. I wish all of you participating this year the best of luck! I also will remind you, again, that you are awesome! You are a writer, and you fill this world with the stories that need to be told. Keep it up!

Happy writing!