Monday, October 14, 2013

NaNoWriMo Preparation

The countdown has begun for anyone considering attempting this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who don’t know, the idea behind this scheme is that writers around the world sit down on 1st November, with the aim of writing 50,000 words by midnight on 30th November. They don’t have to be perfectly honed words, just the first draft.

Whilst it’s aimed at novelists, I think the basic idea works well for any writer. If you want to write a non-fiction book, well, consider getting it written in November. Whereas most novels are at least 80,000 words, many non-fiction books are 50,000 words - so why not use November to write a WHOLE non-fiction book, rather than five-eighths of a novel? And don’t think just books - consider what else you could do with the 50,000-word target. Article writers could set themselves the challenge of writing fifty 1,000 word articles in November. Short story writers could write 25 two thousand word stories. Those of you who write both fiction and non-fiction could do a combination of both!

If you’re going to consider undertaking this exercise, a little preparation goes a long way:

- The rest of the world doesn’t stop in November, much as we’d like it to. Work out when you can fit in, or what you need to give up in order to fit in, the necessary time to write. If you can identify roughly the same time every day, that works best. Can you do every day of the week, or can you only write during the week, or at weekends?

- Once you now when and how frequently you can write, identify what your word count target is for each writing session. So, if you’re going to write every day in November, you need to write 1,667 words (rounded) every day to hit your 50,000 target. If you can’t write at weekends, there are 21 working days in November, which means you need to write 2,381 words in each writing session.

- Do any necessary research now. Collect your data. Do you background reading. Create your characters. Draft your plot. Think of different angles for your article ideas. You stand more chance of success if you can use your writing time to write. 

- Set up a system for recording your word counts. A spreadsheet, document, or even a Post-It Note will suffice. Simply record the total number of words you achieve during each writing session. You need to be able to see how you are progressing.

- If you have a good day and write more than your daily target, don’t think you have fewer words to write tomorrow. Stick to meeting your minimum word count target every day. If you hot your target by 27th November, you’ll feel even better!

And I can’t let an opportunity like this pass without mentioning my own book, The Positively Productive Writer, which has advice on how to stay motivated.

For more details about NaNoWriMo visit the official website at

Good luck.