NaNoWriMo, Writing Stuff

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo 2017

shield-nano-side-blue-brown-rgb-hires

It’s that time of year again when NaNoWriMo approaches, looming on the horizon like a Grim Reaper for your social life. Back in 2015 I wrote some ‘helpful advice’ that mostly involved things like hooking yourself up to an IV drip of coffee and learning how to live without human interaction, but there were a few useful tidbits in there. This year I’m older and wiser (ha!) and so I thought I’d compound my infinite wisdom into something that might actually be useful.

So here are my top tips for prepping for the coming storm, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month or, more affectionately, Hell Month.

  • Get familiar with your writing patterns. Are you more productive first thing in the morning, or last thing at night? Do you like writing in a coffee shop or holed up in your room? In a group or by yourself? Knowing your patterns means you can carve out your writing time when it suits you and you won’t have to struggle to make yourself write. Your NaNo experience will be a lot less stressful if you know your rhythms, and you’re more likely to hit that sweet 50k.
  • Find your mental writing space. It doesn’t matter where you write; what’s important is that you’re in the right headspace to comfortably concentrate and be creative. Stick in some headphones and listen to that album that always pumps you up. Find an ambient soundscape to help you relax (I really like the Hogwarts common room ones you can find on this site). Sit properly at a desk, or in your favourite comfy chair, or wherever you like as long as you’re comfortable. Half the battle with writing is getting yourself to a place where your creativity can flourish.
  • Plan in the way that works best for you. Of course, that could mean absolutely no planning at all, or a colour coded binder detailing every scene from beginning to end. Personally, I like character sheets like this one I posted back in 2015, and then I write a few sentences to a paragraph on the basic outline for the story. There is no right way to plan; the way that’s most helpful to you is the right way.
  • Get connected with like-minded people. My first experience of NaNo was one of the most wonderously bizzare scenarios possible: a group of stressed out, sleep deprived writers all sat in a public space typing furiously while surrounded by an assortment of fruit (was the fruit as an identifier at the first meet-up just a South Yorkshire thing or is it international? I took a melon and named her Barbara.). If that sounds like your cup of tea, get on your Home Region page to find events organized in your area. If not, get on there anyway! It’s nice to know there are other people just as crazy as you, even if as far as you’re concerned they look like the anime character in their avatar. Then there are the forums that are an amazing resource even outside of November, offering everything from opening lines to adopt to advice on closing plot holes to general encouragement. There’s something for everyone in there, even people who don’t want to venture out of their caves and interact with real human beings.
  • Aziz Ansari says it best:

treat-yo-self-gif-3

         Set realistic goals and reward yourself for reaching them. I like chocolate every 1000 words – other varieties of treat are available. Whether it’s an episode of your favourite show once you’ve reached your daily word goal or popping that prosecco when you hit the big 5k (drink responsibly kids!), finding something to keep you tapping away at the keyboard can be a lifesaver when motivation is low.

And finally:

  • Enjoy the NaNo experience. Yes, NaNo can be stressful and okay, you might cry occasionally, but if you’re not enjoying yourself then why are you doing it? The NaNo experience is a wild ride of creative buzz and caffeine haze, and it’s so much fun. Embrace the crazy, and at the end of it you’ll have something that may not be great, but will have so much potential.
Advertisements
NaNoWriMo, Writing Stuff

Camp NaNoWriMo, or Why Do I Do This To Myself?

It seems that I just can’t help myself.

I’d actually forgotten that Camp NaNoWriMo was a thing. I tried it once before during July Camp and got a couple of days in before I realised that there were other things I could be doing with my Summer holidays, like sleeping for inordinate amounts of time, binge watching Supernatural (I was super into Supernatural back then) and then sleeping some more.

For those not in the know, Camp NaNoWriMo is an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month, which is a thing where tens of thousands of people around the world go insane and try to write 50,000 words in a month (I wrote a survival guide for it last November). The primary difference between Normal NaNo and Camp NaNo is that at Camp you get to set your own word goal. Of course, if you were really sensible you would set it to 0, or maybe 10 if you were feeling really ambitious. I, being a silly person, have decided to attempt 25,000 in what I have affectionately termed a ‘Half NaNo’. The thinking behind this is that if I can achieve a Half NaNo with my new work schedule, I can at least think about attempting a Full NaNo in July. Also Half NaNo and Full NaNo sound like sailing knots, and for some reason that’s funny to me.

Just to make things more difficult for myself, I’m going to try and take you along on this magical NaNo journey with me. Maybe I can inspire some of you who have never undertaken NaNoWriMo before to give it a go come July or November. Maybe I’ll just put everyone off for life. Either way, check back for updates on my word count, the amount of coffee I’ve drunk and how many characters I’ve killed off this time! It should be a fun time for all involved. Except maybe those dead characters.

 

NaNoWriMo, Writing Stuff

Character Profile (NaNoWriMo2015)

I posted this a while ago to my other (now defunct) blog, but in the run up to NaNo next month every bit of prep helps, and if someone else can get some use out of it then I’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside.

This was Frankensteined together (yes, I did just use Frankenstein as a verb) from various character profiles I’ve found floating around the Internet. I’ve picked out the bits I find most useful to focus on, mainly breaking it down to the basics to get a good shape of the character in my mind.

Here we go:

Name:

Aliases:

Nicknames:

Sex:

Birth date:

Place of birth:

Height:

Weight:

Clothing size:

Shoe size:

Left/right handed:

Sexual orientation:

Hair:

Eyes:

Accent:

Tattoos:

Scars:

Distinguishing features:

Place of residence:

General clothing style:

Family:

Friends:

Enemies:

Education:

Occupation:

Skills:

Phobias:

Quirks:

Common verbal patterns:

Favourite: – Food: – Music: – Book:  

Good qualities:

Bad qualities:

Key past experiences:

Romantic/sexual background:

Personal goals:

Professional goals:

NaNoWriMo, Writing Stuff

How To Ruin Your Social Life (NaNoWriMo Edition)

If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month (more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, or just plain NaNo), congratulations. You’re probably a nice, normal, sane individual with responsibilities, a social life and a healthy sleep schedule and I heartily suggest that you keep it that way and close this page straight away. If you’ve already heard of it, or even worse entered it before, I’m afraid it’s too late for you. The best hope is to attach yourself to an IV drip full of coffee and kiss your loved ones goodbye – at least for the next 30 days.

For those who didn’t already know and are now terrified about what weird cult they’ve stumbled upon, allow me to explain: NaNoWriMo is an annual event run by non-profit organisation The Office of Letters and Light which involves crippling yourself socially and emotionally for a month – that is to say, attempting to write 50,000 words or more in the 30 days of November. It’s really fun, I swear. You’ll only cry a few times.

If you haven’t been scared off yet, are feeling particularly masochistic or are completely insane, here are the five things you’ll need to do in order to ruin both your social life and emotional well-being in one go.

  1.  Decide on a plot. Or don’t. That may sound terrifying, but it is a tradition for some to ‘pants’ it through November, or, to put it into non-NaNo speak, to make it up as you go along. This can mean anything from having a basic plot but no notes or plan to sitting down on November 1 without even having thought about it. Both planning and pantsing are equally valid and it’s whatever works for you. Me? I have a colour coded folder and mind maps.
  2.  Have that conversation. If you’ve done NaNo before then you know the one I’m talking about.
    “I’m doing NaNoWriMo next month.”
    “NaNoWhatNow?”
    “NaNoWriMo. You write 50,000 words of a novel in a month.”
    “That’s crazy.”
    “I know.”
    “So what do you win?”
    “…50,000 words you wrote? A sense of achievement? Sleep deprivation?”
    “Why are you doing it then?”
    You then undergo the obligatory crisis and come out on the other side with strengthened resolve. Honest.
  3.  Become aware of the other NaNoers. This can be anything from just acknowledging that they exist and that you are not alone in your madness to actually finding moral support on the NaNo forums to, in very extreme circumstances, leaving the house and actually socialising with them. Crazy, I know, but then this is NaNo, and anything can happen.
  4. Stop reading articles telling you how to do NaNo. I know that’s super hypocritical of me to say that in an article about how to do NaNo, but take it from a procrastination expert that once you’ve read the twentieth article on how to up your word count you’re not even fooling yourself that you’re being productive anymore. Seriously, stop it. Close this window and go and do some planning or something (please don’t really).
  5. Actually write the damn thing. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the only way to win NaNo is to write 50,000 words. There’s no shortcut, no neat tricks. It’s just you, your characters and a bucketload of coffee. And it’s fun. You’re creating. You weave plotlines, get to see your little characters develop (or get tortured emotionally and physically) and at the end you come out of it with a novel, or most of one, and it’s a wonderful feeling to look at something that you made.

So if you don’t mind losing all your friends and not seeing sunlight for a whole month, then I highly recommend National Novel Writing Month. It’s hard work, but boy is it satisfying, and at the very least it gives you an excuse to get high on sugar at 3AM.