Monday, November 1, 2010

It's NaNoWriMo! Some Tips to Get You Through

It's National Novel Writing Month! Hooray! Although I won't be participating this year (I'm dedicated to finishing up my revisions on last year's NaNo...SEE? It takes more than a month, people!), I did win last year, with hours to spare. I posted a pretty nice set of tips/lessons/"what I learned" after winning, but since the blog was pretty new at the one really read them. Plus they were ill-timed at the end of NaNo so...that's not really helpful.

So I thought instead of leaving that post buried in the back of my archives, I would re-post it today, where my followers can actually enjoy it and get some inspiration. I've also added some cheeky comments (as I do), and those are in blue. But only because when I put them in pink they're too hard to read.

Heather's List o'Awesome NaNo Lessons, v. 2.0 (originally posted here, on 11/30/2009)

1. Old habits die hard. I'm a big procrastinator. I like to say I work well under pressure, but really I just think that I'm lazy, then all of a sudden my deadlines come up and I'm like OH CRAP. Case in point: I am really excited about my novel, and got off to a great, super ambitious start with the word count. But once real life started to interfere, I feel behind. I caught up a little in the middle of the month, but then I feel fell* behind again. Finally, with less than 48 hours to spare, I decided I couldn't let my six adoring fans down and put fingers to keyboard and cranked out the last 10,000 words. (Which is why I was starving tonight - I wanted to finish up right away, so I came home without dinner. Like a misbehaving kid.) If you think I'm making this up for the purposes of good blogging, here's graphical proof, in both line and bar chart form, because I know everyone learns differently:
*apparently, I didn't think editing was too important at the time. Maybe that's why I only had six readers...

I AM SUCH A GEEK. I can't believe I posted not ONE but TWO charts about my NaNo performance. But the even geekier part is I still think these are REALLY SUPER COOL.

2. Write as much as you can when you're excited, so that when you're not as excited, or when you're tired, or when you'd rather have a martini kthanks, it won't matter. See the charts above for a visual example if it didn't sink in the first time. (Which are still dorky/awesome.)

3. Knowing where you're going is half the battle. Since the idea for my novel came so close to the start of November, I didn't get to outline much before it started. I really only had time for the basic world building elements, character ideas, and first few chapters...maybe the first 10,000 words? I wrote the first 10,000 words in about 3 days, then took another 10 to write the next 10,000. Say, I wonder if another look at those charts would help demonstrate things... I cannot even stress to you how much an outline would have helped. My current round of revisions involve changing the plot around quite a bit and a lot of new scenes, so I did some heavy outlining, timelines, etc. And WOW. I'm flying through it. I also know my characters better and can hear their voices immediately. But still. Preparedness would have helped. I already have index cards stacked up for my next novel with notes all over them (dorkdorkdork).

4. Having a support system is extremely important.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the women in my book club who did NaNo along with me, and everyone from my local group, especially those who came out to the write-ins I attended. Also everyone who reads this blog, because you people are awesome. Still so true!!! And those book club ladies are now my writing group. And I still want to thank them. Because they are epically awesome. As you know.

5. Sacrifices have to happen. I typically read somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 books a month, give or take. Last month, I read four, and two of them were books on tape so I feel like they shouldn't count, plus one of them I had already started when November kicked off. But I knew that, throughout the month, writing was more important than reading. (Even though reading is extremely important for a writer, too, and don't you forget it.) The good news is, I don't really sacrifice reading anymore. I've managed to get back up to my usual quota, even with a heavy revision schedule. Now I just sacrifice sleep and exercise and normal human companionship instead. 

6. When in doubt, write. Even if it's terrible and you know think you won't use it, even if it's the worst piece of crap ever, even if it's an ADVERB (!!) just write it anyway. You can always use a strikethrough font to note that you want to get rid of it, or just delete it in revisions. But you also might come up with the best scene/idea ever. (Unless it's an adverb, which is never, ever a good idea. Ever.) Man, I was hard on adverbs! Sometimes they're kind of OK. But only in small doses. Like, really, really small ones. But it is true that writing is the best way to get through writer's block. I totally stand by that. Current Heather is patting Past Heather on the back right now.

7. A working title is just that...working. I always knew I would part with my title, but tonight I decided for sure. It's got to go. I even posted a new working title on NaNo, but since I'm sure it won't stick for long, I'm not going to share it here. Once I have something I feel confident about, I'll post it. And then I'll post it again once I have to change it for my agent/publisher's fancy. This line item makes me laugh. I even broke up with my title in a very dramatic, public, and hilarious way. Then, a month later when no one was looking, I ran back to it. I heart my title.

8. It's not over til the fat lady sings. Which in publishing is when I see my book for sale. (And even then, it's still not over. That's what I've learned in the last year. That fat lady never, ever sings. Stupid hag.) That means, even though I won the NaNo battle, I still have to fight the novel war. I need to finish the book, then revise, revise again, revise a third time, cry myself to sleep every night, let some other people read it to get some opinions, wonder why my manuscript is bleeding (oh, wait, that's just red ink because the draft is so awful), fix all the mistakes, revisereviserevise, add some more steps I'm sure I haven't thought about yet, then send it off to all my favorite agents and watch as the rejections come pouring in. But it only takes one yes (well, a series of yeses, but let's not get picky) to get published. Actually, I think we will get picky, because it takes about 1,000 yeses to get published. That's another thing I've learned. Oh well. I'll still fight the good fight!

Hope all you NaNoers have a great month! 


  1. Stupid hag indeed! :D

    Great tips Heather. I'm off and running on day one and I'll certainly put these to good use!

  2. I love your charts! :D Great tips!

  3. Stupid hag -- bahahaha. Ok, now my extreme nerdiness is compelling me to make a chart for my first NaNo!

  4. Keep fighting the good fight. We need your novel. Seriously, thanks for the blog post... day 1, NaNo 1 for me... did 2000 words... felt elated, then remembered 48000 to go... but still elated... but your graphs are a nice warning of what comes in the doldrums around 10,000 words. I will work on point 6. In the face of doubt I procrastinate. This year, this month, in the face of doubt I will deliberately use adverbs.

  5. Great tips! And I do kind of love the charts :)

  6. Seriously awesome post, Heather. Wish I had read the stuff about an outline last month. I kept procrastinating (see today's post) and now I have no outline and I feel screwed. Once I'm doing going through my reader (see! procrastination!) I am going to outline. Hooray!


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