Eight Quick Tips for National Novel Writing Month
This is the third November I’ve signed up for National Novel Writing Month but the first year I’ve actually tried to reach the goal of writing a new novel (of at least 50,000 words) in a month.
It was a last minute decision based on two things: the right timing (I’m actually ready to start my next manuscript and quit dawdling over my previous one) and the right inspiration. I returned from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference pumped and ready to rock and roll (or is that sit and spin a story?).
So, you have an idea. You may or may not have an outline you’re working from. I have a partial outline—some on the computer and some in my head. I know my main characters pretty well although I haven’t met most of my minor characters yet. I know my overall theme. I know the direction I want to go. The rest? I have no clue. I’m a combination panster (as in flying by the seat of) and plotter.
My eight tips to make your November easier:
Tip # 1: Write from the heart. From time to time, you’ll get stuck. Some days, your prose will sound like garbled pig Latin. When this happens, stop and take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself what you love about your project. I have an index card on my desk with my original idea for the story—it’s the tag line that got my juices going in the first place. Then go back to your page and write from that space of passion.
Tip # 2: Keep motivated. Next to the aforementioned index card, I have another that has bullet points. One is “This is easy. I meet my word count quickly and easily.” Beneath that I have three other bullet points that have meaning for me. When I feel down or stuck, this is where I go. I also have a GIGANTIC wall calendar for the month. Tonight I’m decorating it with various colored stickers (yes, I’m a girl). Here, I log my daily word count in my favorite pink pen. If I do 500 words in the morning and 1100 words in the evenings, I note that on two separate lines with a running total. In big letters across the top of my calendar I write my daily and weekly word count goals. This not only keeps me focused but inspired when I see I’ve met my goals. (And like today, when work interferes, it shows me what I have to make up tomorrow).
Tip #3: Write fast and in short segments. I find using my timer for 25 to 40 minute writing segments helps me stay focused. I pick one scene or part of a scene and write. I’m nicely surprised at how quickly the words add up. Since I don’t have a scene-by-scene outline, this allows me to get up and do the dishes or something else where I can think about what’s next. When I have it, I set another timer and write.
Tip # 4: Do the dishes. As mentioned above, when I need to think about what’s next, I wash the dishes, go for a walk, clean up my office, take out the trash, or clean up a hairball—anything that involves something physical that will allow me to think over my story. The KEY is to NOT do anything—email, reading, talking to others—that engages the storytelling part of your brain. Leave that open for your own story to simmer in.
Tip # 5: Exercise each day. Moving your body is key to working out the kinks mentally. We need to get those endorphins working for us. Mix it up. Today I went for a 3-mile walk and used my Vibra Trim for ten minutes (one of those machines that shakes your whole body, aka The Booty Shaker). Tomorrow I’m headed to the gym for a 50-minute circuit training (groan).
Tip # 6: Plan healthy meals in advance. If you’re in charge of your family’s meals as I am, plan healthy meals in advance. I currently have two crock-pots going: one with a vegetable soup and one with my homemade spaghetti sauce (tonight’s dinner was spaghetti and tomorrow I make lasagna casseroles for the freezer). Make a casserole, chili, or soup that will last several meals or freeze well.
Tip # 7: Plan your day the night before. This is the best thing I learned. I clean off my writing desk, do the dishes, sweep the floor, finish whatever business stuff needs to be done at night so when I get up in the morning, all I have to do is sit down and write. Plan your writing schedule in advance. If I know I have to go to Seattle for a business meeting the next day, I pack my bag the night before and figure out when I’m going to write: before I leave for a half hour, on the ferry there, on the ferry on the way home, etc.
Tip # 8: Plan your writing the night before. Before you go to bed, figure out what scene you’ll write the next day. If you’re not sure how the scene ends, ask yourself as you drift off to sleep. Your subconscious may have the answers for you in the morning. And, if not? No worries. Go back to Tip #1 and #2.
Good luck! Please share any of your favorite tips that make National Novel Writing Month smoother for you.