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Monday, October 31, 2011

Countdown to NaNoWrimo: Helpful Do’s and Don'ts For Your Success

It’s finally here, tomorrow is the start of NaNoWrimo!
Most writers by now are familiar with this month long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  But, if perhaps you are new to hearing about this strange acronym, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, click here to discover a whole new level of writing.
Last year was my first year as a Wrimo (that’s what the writer’s who participate in the challenge are nicknamed. I did not misspell Wino!) and I wanted to share with those of you who may be returning to the challenge or attempting it for the first time, things I learned from my experience.  
I’ve put together a list of my top do and don’t tips that helped me push through the challenge, and when November 30, 2010 arrived, I had completed the first rough draft of the second novel in my middle-grade series, The Clara Jeane Mysteries.  
Let’s explore:

The Unknown Author’s Top Four Do’s
Do set a writing goal each and every day: 
There are thirty days in November and when equally divided they equate to approximately 1,666.7 words a day.  Does that mean you have to write that many words a day?  

Absolutely not.  

In fact, in my first day, I wrote over 5,000 words.  But by setting a numerical goal you commit yourself to at least achieving, and in some cases, exceeding your daily goal.  I found there were some days I far exceeded my goal, which helped me on days when perhaps something arose or I just couldn’t muster the motivation (yes, unfortunately, you will have days like that).  
Go for it, you just may surprise yourself!      
Do allow yourself to freewrite:  
Recently, I wrote an article about the art of freewriting click here.  Basically, freewriting is a skill writers use to let their creative side have full reign when it comes to putting words to paper/screen; without allowing their critical side to interrupt and point out errors.   
So go ahead, ignore those misspelled words, incorrect commas and awkward sentences!  Remember the end goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  
Time for a did you know moment!  When Stephen King writes a new story he does so at full speed ahead, puts it away for six weeks, and then begins the rewriting process.   
Do take a break:
It’s vitally important for your mental health, and your physical health, to take a break.  Take a walk around the block, spend an hour a day at the gym or take time to find out how your loved one’s day went.  Whatever works for you to relieve stress or recharge your creative juices, do it! The writer’s life can tend to be a secluded one, but only if you allow it to!  
Do allow yourself to extend your word count by spelling out contractions!:
This tip is a fun one.  In fact, I discovered it through connecting with other Wrimo’s last year.  It was an eye opening experience for me to write out contractions.  I never realized how often they are used.  

Go ahead try it, it’s fun!

The Unknown Author’s Top Four Don’ts 

Don’t stop to edit along the way:
This tip goes hand in hand with allowing yourself to freewrite.  Don’t allow your self-editor to join in the NaNoWrimo fun.  They have plenty of work to do when it’s finished.  In fact, many months worth!  So let them go on vacation, they’ll need it! 
Don’t be afraid to write the end first or the beginning last:
Many writers, I for one, sometimes have the ending in mind before they even start to write a story.  If this happens to you, create a file folder with the title of your novel and within that folder have individual files of scenes that come to you as you write.  Then when it’s time to put it all together, it’s simply a matter of cutting and pasting.  I have written several novels this way and it is a time saving skill.  
Don’t get distracted by Twitter, Facebook or surfing the Net:
Actually, this tip works with or without NaNoWrimo.  Social networking has become a very important tool for writers to gain recognition, but at the same time, it has become a deterrence and often times an excuse not to write. 
Making the decision to write a novel in a month is a big decision for any writer, and even though there are no repercussions other than you fail the challenge if you don’t succeed, a lot can be said for self pride.
My mother was right when she used to say, “‘spend your time wisely.’” 
Don’t forget to thank family and friends for their support and understanding and most importantly don’t forget to eat turkey come the 24th! 
Unless you live in a household of writers, chances are the one’s closest to you, although they support your efforts, may not completely understand your deep seeded desire to write a novel in thirty days or what it takes to make your desire a reality.  

It does mean missing a dinner once in a while and many days turned to night and nights turned to day; holed up in a room creating a new world and bringing people to life through the strike of a keyboard or the stroke of a pen.  

But when all is said and done, no matter what, when November 24th arrives, sit down to a table surrounded by your family and friends and give thanks to them and their support.  And if you’re like me, you’ll give an extra thanks for the opportunity to live in a country where you have the freedom to seek your dreams and make them a reality.
Good luck fellow Wrimos, and if this year is not the year for you, hopefully, some of these tips will help you in your everyday writing.
Until next time,
Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!
T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

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