Routines for Writers is pleased to welcome Darren Gore, the NaNoWriMo Muncipal Liaison for Kitty’s area, Sydney, Australia. Welcome Darren!
In November 2003, I made my first attempt at writing 50,000 NaNo-words. And failed.
Twelve months later in November 2004, I tried again. And failed again.
November 2005 saw my third attempt. And third failure.
As November 2006 approached, I seriously thought that I should chuck in NaNo altogether, because the previous three years seemed to indicate that I was incapable of completing it.
In the end, though, I decided to give NaNo a fourth try – but I knew that I would have to change my approach, or else.
And so I did, both before and during NaNo 2006.
And to my everlasting amazement, at 11:44pm on 30 November 2006 (after a nail-biting 15-minute wait thanks to the dial-up Internet I was using at the time) NaNo declared me a winner with 50188 words for my novel Star Trek: Sanchez – Earth Killer.
How did I finally succeed at NaNo? The following suggestions and tips will show you how – and may also be of help to you.
The 50,000 words is the main thing
Shortly before November 2006, I finally made myself understand the most crucial objective of NaNoWriMo – write 50,000 words or more in 30 days.
That may seem blatantly obvious, but sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of us.
NaNo is not designed to make you a perfect writer, but it is designed to make you a practising writer where you develop a routine and set targets to meet a deadline.
We do NaNo primarily for quantity before quality, which leads to my next point.
Remember, you’re writing a first draft
For many years as a would-be writer, I crippled myself with the mindset that every time I wrote something, it had to be brilliant immediately. As a result, I hardly wrote because I was too intimidated by having to be brilliant immediately and all the time.
For NaNo 2006, however, I finally realised that I would be writing a first draft – which, as I knew from my work as a technical writer, is never meant to be perfect.
What a first draft is meant for is to put down everything you can think of – which is the ideal mindset for writing 50,000 words or more in 30 days. Making it perfect is the job of second, third and further drafts.
Meet other NaNos
In 2003, I briefly made contact with other Sydneysiders doing NaNo. In 2004 and 2005, however, I didn’t see or talk to anyone else.
In 2006, I decided to brave a Kick-Off Party once more to see if meeting other NaNos again would make a difference. And it certainly did.
Why? Because other NaNos are in the same boat that you are. It helps to have someone else to share your experiences with, advise and receive advice from, and (if you want) compete against in friendly rivalry.
Attending write-ins is also recommended, partly for the solidarity I’ve just covered and partly in regard to my next point.
Develop a routine with a special writing time and place
For the 30 days of November, make NaNo-writing a part of your daily routine (but not a chore – more on this in a moment).
Firstly, designate a time (or several times) of the day as ‘NaNo-time’ where the only thing you do is churn out NaNo words. And I mean the only thing – stay offline, turn off the TV, don’t answer the phone, and tell non-NaNoers to leave you alone.
Secondly, find a special ‘NaNo-place’ where you go to NaNo. This can be anywhere you like, but it must reinforce your NaNo-time – it is free of distractions so that you can focus on NaNo.
As the weeks passed during NaNo 2006, I found that I hated writing at home – it was too boring and solitary. Instead, to my surprise, I found that I liked writing in restaurants – NaNo-time added to the fun of eating out, and I found the bustle around me quite stimulating. That’s also why I enjoy write-ins – having others around me writing furiously encourages me to do the same.
Remember to enjoy yourself – don’t make it a chore
Again, this may seem blatantly obvious, but it’s also worth stressing.
Yes, writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a demanding challenge – but don’t look at it as a negative. Instead, embrace it as a positive challenge to yourself, both quantitative (can I write 50,000 words in 30 days?) and qualitative (how creative can I be in making that target?)
Speaking of being creative, that leads me to my next point – which is also my most favourite, because during NaNo 2006 it truly showed me how much fun NaNo can be.
Creatively, go nuts!
At times, you may find yourself worrying that you won’t be able to reach 50,000 words – not because you’re physically incapable of doing so, but because you’re running out of story to write about.
If that frightening situation happens, scare it off by going wild with your imagination.
One Sunday morning during NaNo 2006, I woke up with a problem – after days of writing about starship battles, I wanted a break from them because it was exhausting and repetitive. I half-jokingly wished that I could take a holiday from starship battles…
…and a moment later, that gave me a crazy idea. Why not send my two main characters Betty and Samir on a holiday?
So I did. I paused mid-battle, jumped ahead six months in my story, and sent Betty and Samir to the Star Trek holiday world of Risa where they did nothing but lie on the beach, make love several times and meet a sexy neighbour who invited them to a sumptuous dinner and more love-making afterwards.
By day’s end, I had written more than 4000 words – which was much more than I would have written if I’d gritted my teeth and tried to write more battle-scenes.
And then there was the night of 30 November, when I still had about 6000 words to go. To get those damn last words finished, I creatively went berserk – each hour, new characters and situations appeared by the planet-load. If I had been making a film instead, I would have gone over-budget by tens of millions of dollars. Creatively, it was the wildest and most rewarding time of my writing life thus far.
And, yes, I made it – just. I finished writing at 11:29pm, got my validation at 11:44pm, and didn’t go to bed until about 3am because I was so excited that, at long last, I’d succeeded at NaNo.
If you’re taking the plunge this year, all the best!
Darren Gore is an aspiring writer and the NaNoWriMo 2009 Chief Municipal Liaison (ML) for Sydney, Australia.