Yesterday, at 0500 am, 19 hours before the deadline, I passed the 50,000 mark for my Camp NaNoWriMo novel. The best bit is, I haven’t even finished!
Having taken part, I have now got the writing bug. Despite the fact I have been writing (almost) every day in August, I still want to write more. The advantage is that I don’t HAVE to if I’m feeling rough. I thought that if, like me, you are an aspiring writer, or just wanted to have a go at NaNoWriMo, here are some tips for taking part which I found useful:
1. Turn Off Spell Checker:
This may sound odd, but let me explain. I wrote mainly on the Nexus 7 tablet with a bluetooth keyboard in an app called xWriter. For some reason, it didn’t have spell checker on when writing which I found really useful. It allows you to just get the words out without worrying about the spelling and grammar. It allows you to do the hardest part of NaNoWriMo: Write.
2. Write a document per day:
Again, in xWriter, you can create a file which has different pages. I used a file for every day of writing (which happened to be every chapter too) and had a master file which had every day’s writing in, one a page. I did this mainly for two reasons: 1 it meant I could keep track of each day/file’s word count and the master word count. 2, it meant that when I come to import the book into Scrivener (my editor program of choice) it would recognise them as separate files, and therefore separate identities, making it easier to move about and edit. I also named each file after the date they were written (e.g.: 3108) so that they would order properly in the app and I knew which file was written when (This would also work if used an embedded file system).
3. Just Write!:
The most crucial thing (and hardest) is to write without editing yourself. If you start going back to edit what you were writing last week, you will never finish in time. If you do suddenly think of something you want to write, make a note of it, either in the same file, at the bottom, or in another file with references back to location. Then, when you are at the editing process, you can go back to your notes and make the edit. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to write, not edit. That is the next stage, don’t mix the two or you will find it a struggle (if not impossible) to finish in time.
Another tip I thought of which was useful is to use placeholder names. Rather than sit there thinking of the ‘Perfect’ name for your protagonist, use the name of you dad/mum/brother/loved one/goldfish. It will save time in the short run and allow you to continue writing. “But I’d have to change them all later!” You may say. If you’re using a computer to type this up, then most word processors (Word, Pages, Etc) have a ‘find and replace’ function. You ask it to replace every occurrence of ‘Bob’ to ‘Agganemnon’. This will save you a lot of time, believe.
4. Do Not Use Contractions:
You could call this a bit of a cheat, but as long as you are writing, I would see it as an acceptable cheat. Fortunatly for me, it worked with the story anyway as it is set in medieval times, when they would be less likely to use contractions such as don’t, wouldn’t, I’m etc. It does make for a bit of task at the edit, but it does boost your word count.
5. Update Your Progress Regularly:
This is a simple and easy tip, but I found it really useful. When you update your word count, it will show you the stat’s screen which shows you a bar chart and stats about how many words a day you need to finish, you average wordage, etc.
I found this graph and stats very helpful. It is a great motivator to get you going. I hatted seeing the graph plateau, which helped me to keep writing.
7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Miss The Target:
Unless you stay at home all day, or have a very boring job, then writing 50,000 words in 31 days is hard! So if you enter but don’t make it to the end of the word count, don’t get down. You haven’t lost anything (remember, it’s not a competition, just a challenge). There are no medals to have at the end, or prize for the best novel or most words a day. The only prize you get is the satisfaction that you have completed one of the hardest things ever: Writing a book. Even if you started, it’s a start. You must have had an idea to start, so now you just have to continue.
8. Take A Break:
Once you have finished (completed or not), take a break from the book. Leave it to mature for a while so that when you come back to it, you can be impartial. Writing a book is a big emotional drain (especially if it’s an intense book), so if you start on the editing straight away, you’re going to be a little burnt out (especially if it was a struggle to finish in time). Furthermore, you just finished a book in 31 days, you deserve a break man!
9. Backup, Backup, Backup!:
I cannot stress this enough. You MUST backup your manuscript/files. I had copies of my files on dozens of different devices and locations. I had copies on my Dropbox file, Nexus, Home folders and even my folder at work! I don’t know what I’d done if I had lost all my files in one sudden computer/hard-drive malfunction.
If you are writing by hand, then you can still make copies. I would suggest that you photocopy the pages. Or go really old school and write on carbon paper. Otherwise, keep your manuscript in a fireproof, waterproof, theft proof, alien-invation-proof case and hope for the best.
10. Have Fun:
This is the second most important thing to remember. Like I said, there are no medals for finishing first or writing double the word count, it’s just to write. Have fun! Don’t stress over it! Your files won’t self district at midnight on the 31st day, so you can still write on the first of the next month. I have had a great time writing this novel this August and even surprised myself where the novel took me. It had twists and turns that even I didn’t know it was going to take.
Best of luck, WriMo!