For those of you doing the painful challenge of NaNoWriMo this year, I applaud and bow down to your dedication. Some of you may be scratching your head and going... "NaNoWhatO?" If that's you, let me explain.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's always in November of each year, and, as it implies, your goal is to complete a full novel in a month. It's not a competition, but if it helps you to think that, it's a competition against yourself. For youths (those of us who are 18 and under), it's easier because we get to set our word goal count manually. It can be as low as 100 words to as high 100,000 words! Not so easy for those of us who are "adults" (yeah, being an adult doesn't have as many benefits when it comes to that area).
For some (maybe most, maybe even all), NaNoWriMo can be quite... overwhelming, daunting, even scary. But if you're equipped with the right knowledge and preparation, I promise that it will be less stressful and maybe even really fun. :) Here are some things that I do before NaNoWriMo and during to prepare and meet my word goal. Hopefully, it will be helpful to some of you.
#1. Actually have an idea. Yeah, it's hard, I know, even if you're planning to start NaNoWriMo the day before, it's a really good idea (obviously... duh.) to have an idea of what you're going to write. Even if you don't have an idea at all, you can start by asking yourself some questions. What genre am I writing about (or want to write about)? The protagonist's personality vs. antagonist's? Those kind of questions. What I might do sometimes (ssshhhhh) is look at a few of my favorite movies or tv shows and take my favorite aspects from each and try to come up with an idea from that. But that's only if I'm desperate and on the brink of brain deadness. Pinterest always helps, too. Looking at story inspiration boards really helps... more than I could ever fathom, really.
#2. When you have an idea, outline it, plot it. Yes, yes, I know, I know, you've heard this a million and a half times, and it can get... redundant. I hate plotting. I absolutely HATE it! It makes me feel like I have to stick to this one thing, I have to get organized, and I have to stay in a box. But it's really not like that. I have found (for the unorganized and list haters out there like me *cough*) that if you plot the beginning, middle, end - along with critical turning points in the storyline (which I usually write in different sentences at the end of the document) - then it's not so bad and lets you be more flexible with your storyline. But for those of us who are strict plotters, I applaud you and encourage you to do just that.
#3. Character personalities. This is an area that I feel I'm stronger in (unlike plotting *hides face in shame because I'm not one of those people who can plot extremely well*), and is actually one of my favorite aspects of "planning". In order to have a good novel, you MUST have characters with strong personalities. Not strong as in overbearing, but strong as in sound and dissectable (yes, I made that word up), not shallow and boring. The key to this is really getting to know your character, feeling your character, putting yourself in their shoes. I know with some characters it's a bit hard to "be" them, but that's where imagination comes in handy. Character questionnaires are also a great way to better know and develop your characters. You may have an awesome storyline, but if your characters are shallow and stink, then it's not worth the read. The other way around, however, might be forgivable. Stinky plotline maybe possibly be saved by amazing characters. Trust me, it's worked for me in the past.
#4. Set a schedule. On the NaNoWriMo website, once you type in your set goal wordcount (for YWP, where you can set your word goal), it automatically tells you how many words you must write a day for you to finish on time with your set word goal.
#5. (Optional, depending on what kind of a writer you are, if you can stand this sort of thing) Have inspirational music going on in the background as you write. I know - for me, at least - that when there is righteous music going while I'm writing, it inspires me, makes me feel the emotions of what I'm writing, and also makes me feel that I can do (write) anything! Also gets your brain juices flowing. ;) If you don't already do this, then I encourage you to at least try it. If you're looking for good writing music, I have a list made out especially for writers, some of my music. :)
#6. Write. "Well, duh, Angie." Yes, this one is a bit obvious (a bit?), but it can also be the most challenging. Actually find time to write in the day. If you're super busy, find time at night, or early in the mornings. This is critical to meeting that word count goal. (Well duh again)
#7. Push through. Sometimes when writing, we can get bored with out plot or characters or whatever aspect on the book (as a huge procrastinator, I find this very true for me). We can even get discouraged at our daunting word count goal, or even the way the story is turning out. But no matter what, PUSH THROUGH! It will be totally worth it in the long run, trust me. Here's a little tip I have for this "sickness": write another scene, switch POV, change your text color to something bright and different every time a new speaker or paragraph or scene comes on. Believe me, these little things can actually help. What I DON'T suggest doing: going on pinterest for inspiration. If you do that, then you'll be stuck there for eternity. Take it from the Queen of Procrastination, you don't want to do that.
As I said in the beginning of this post, NaNoWriMo can be really scary, but if you just tackle it head on with a clobbering stick, then you'll be just fine this November. I applaud you, writers for NaNoWriMo 2015. You are brave souls.