So you’ve signed up to NanoWriMo, got yourself situated and are now staring at the dashboard wondering what the heck to do. It’s getting closer, panic is setting in, and you realize you have no dang idea what you’re doing. Rest assured, even past Nano participants have this feeling of not knowing what we’re doing come Nano-time. We can plot and plan all we want, as it creeps closer, we start spazzing and swear we haven’t prepared enough. Below, I’ll go through some tips for things to do before Nano starts, as well as helpful places to look in order to get some last minute inspiration.
First, announce your novel!
When you log on, you’ll be asked to announce your novel. Be sure to do this! You cannot write a novel before you’ve announced it. You can leave it as “Untitled WIP” or something similar, but you need a novel listed. This is the one that you will be uploading your word counts to come November 1st, so it needs to be added in order to get you started. Come November 1st, you’ll see the website change. Once it does, there will be text boxes to input your daily word count into, as well as a stats graph and a display to track your averages.
Fill out your profile.
Add as much or as little information as you want. On the NanoWriMo website, you can add writing buddies to follow their progress and motivate you on your own. Having a bit of a profile up helps make you easier to find, and uploading a photo makes your profile more distinctive when you post anywhere. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to represent you. If you have an author website or a Facebook page, feel free to add it. You never know, you might find a few new fans after this is all over!
Give yourself a plot, or three.
There are some great websites out there for inspiration. One of my favorites is Fantasy Name Generators. This site doesn’t just do names, though. It has hundreds of generators for names of literally anything. Whether you are looking for a magical item, weaponry, town/city name, company, evil lair, or any kind of item that requires a unique name, you can find generators here to mix and match to create a personalized item just for you. I could get lost on here for hours just writing down names for inspiration. Get lost before Nano starts, or you’ll never resurface. You have been warned.
Another great option to check is the NanoWriMo adoption forums. These are forums set up where people can discard ideas, plots, characters, magical items, dialogue, and other tidbits that they created but realized they won’t be using for their stories anymore. We are a creative bunch, so there are some gems hidden away here.
Always try to go in with a few ideas. You may start writing on one and lose momentum halfway through. It happens. Instead of giving up, set that one aside and start another project, adding both word counts together since you’ve written both for Nano. At the end of Nano, you’ll now have two projects to finish and tweak, or you’ll realize you can discard one and fully dive into the other. I wrote three separate projects for my first NanoWriMo, one novella and two short stories. All ended up being published, as I somehow managed to stumble onto some great ideas while trying to work on hitting that elusive 50k.
Practice writing a rough outline.
Even if you’re a panster like me, during Nano, our pacing can be thrown out the window as we rush to the finish line. Knowing what major plot points we want to hit and when is helpful, because we can then see at a glance where they fall in the story. Breaking a story up into managable chunks helps keep us on track, and keeps that word count steady. For me, I try to separate mine into 10,000 word chunks.
Once I have those set up, I write down what each of those must include. Then I break it down into 5,000, 3,000, and 1,000 word chunks for smaller scenes interwoven into the larger story. Knowing that each smaller scene is leading to the larger arc helps keep my pacing on track, so I’m not rushing too far too fast, or wandering around super slowly.
So, for example, one of my “Main Event” scenes is a kidnapping. My outline looks like this-
—–In Club- 1000
—–In Hell- 2000
—–Discovering she’s missing- 1300
—–Mounting Rescue- 1000
—–Getting Into Hell- 1000
—–Rescuing Captives- 2000
—–Audience with the Queen- 700
—–Returning to Club- 1000
As you can see, I don’t outline in a very detailed way. I write down what I need to happen and some general word counts that I want to hit in order to keep pacing pretty even. If I hit them, awesome. If I don’t, I can add the extra words to one of the other scenes so that it’s still nice and even for that section. What happens in those scenes is wholly dependent on what I write in the scenes above, I don’t plan those. I’m still a panster, but a panster with a loose bit of organization that keeps me on track.
Above all, have fun.
This is meant to be challenging, and it is. But the point is to have fun with it, and not take yourself so seriously. You’re not writing a final draft during NanoWrimo. You’re writing an incredibly rough first draft, which will need lots of tweaking and reworking over the next few months. NanoWriMo forces us all to silence our inner editors and critics, and to just write. For many of us, this permission to let go of our grammar Nazi and pedantic ways for our own writing is part of what makes NanoWriMo so much fun and such an accomplishment. Whether we hit 50k or not, the challenge is to learn to write with abandon. After all, you can always edit what you’ve written after NanoWriMo is over. You can’t, however, edit a blank page.
Good luck, everyone, and I hope to see you all at the finish line!