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It’s that time of year again – Nanowrimo. Every year thousands of new and seasoned writers try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s chaotic, messy, and can be a lot of fun.

Although I won’t be participating this year, I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times over the last decade. I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve been able to put aside my other projects to devote a month to recklessly writing a new story. Over the years, I’ve put together a few tips for having a good experience during the madness that is a NaNoWriMo November.

  1. It’s not as hard as people think it is. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days seems daunting the first time people attempt it, but it is not as hard as you might think. You don’t have to be all that great of a writer, you just have to be disciplined. If you put your butt in the chair every day, you can write 50,000 words before December.
  2. Be flexible. Start with an outline and be prepared to chuck it out the window when a better idea comes along. Flexibility is the key to NaNoWriMo success because stories take on lives of their own when you turn off your inner critic. Characters appear on the page and steal scenes. Let them. See where your imagination will take you.
  3. Write organically as it comes to you. Don’t worry if the story doesn’t develop in a linear fashion. At the end of the writing day (or in December), go back and highlight all the backstory and unnecessary digressions, so you don’t mistake those sections for the actual plot.
  4. Plan for light days. I try to write at least a little bit every day in order to keep the story thread going, yet I’ve also learned that some days that little bit will be very little indeed. Thanksgiving is a crazy day in my household. Last year, I had both kids home from college plus an extra kid, I was cooking half of the meal at my house, and we ate at my in-laws over an hour away. On top of that, my extremely organized mother-in-law was stuck in a wheelchair because she broke her knee and had to watch me and my brother-in-law prepare the holiday meal. Can you say pressure? The way to get through Thanksgiving is to write more than 1,667 words per day during the first few weeks of November, so you can skip a day or two later in the month.
  5. During NaNoWriMo, forget about spelling and grammar. There is no time to stop, go back, and struggle to remember how to spell relevant (Thank goodness for spellcheck because I just spelled it incorrectly again while typing this post.) You need to forge on in order to get the words written. Spelling and grammar can be checked in December.
  6. Participate in the on-line festivities. There are forums galore on the Nanowrimo site. Visit them. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to use the group’s energy to propel you forward.
  7. Check out the sponsors. If you “win,” there are some interesting prizes. It’s worth looking at the different companies and trying out their services.
  8. Go to a write-in or two. NaNoWriMo has great Municipal Liaisons that organize write-ins and get-togethers. If you are a new writer, learn from the veterans. If you are a seasoned writer, go to support the newbies. Chat with a few people who do nano every year and meet a few other local writers.
  9. Don’t mistake your nano-draft for a finished draft. I wouldn’t even call a nano-draft a first draft. It’s more of an ideas draft. Now that the ideas are down on paper, you can decide if those ideas are worth anything. Some of my nano-drafts went on to be parts of novels. Others were banished to the thumb-drive in the sky.
  10. Have fun with it. There is no point in getting stressed out about NaNoWriMo. There are no consequences for not writing 50,000 words in 30 days. If you’ve only written 35,000 words by December 1st, you have 35,000 more written words than you had before. The point is to see how much you can write in a short period of time. It’s up to you what you do with it from there.