Writers world-wide are getting psyched up and ready for the month-long writing marathon lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
I’ve seen the Twitter feeds, the Facebook posts, and the Google search statistics. People are looking for the magic formula. The how-to to beat all how-to’s.
I understand. That’s what I did too.
And then I won.
They say only 18% manage to finish, on average.
A year after my win, I can look back, reflect, and feel more certain than ever: I know the one thing you need to be one of the 18%.
But first, here’s an abbreviated list of the ten tips I offered up last year at this time, before I won. (I read through the full post this morning and they’re still pretty good.)
Tip #1: Love the deadline.
As with any project, a deadline tends to get you going. The work ethic kicks in; we know we can’t stop.
Tip #2: Get in the zone.
Remember that zone you had to go to when a paper was due? That “all-nighter” zone?
That’s the one you need to find again.
Good stress brings good adrenaline—and you’re back in the zone.
Tip #3: View your book as a project.
I used to work in software development and good project management was priceless.
There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate before the product is finished. Each part is just as important as the other; they depend on each other.
And so it is with a book. Manage it, step by step.
Tip #4: Get organized.
The first time I tried NaNoWriMo, I failed fast.
In short, I wasn’t organized. (More on that in a minute.)
Tip #5: Get messy.
Forget being perfect.
I know. It’s hard. But you have to let it go.
Whatever you write, whatever you plan, it’s okay if it gets messy.
The work you’re doing is for November, not for ever.
Tip #6: Say ‘Yes’.
Say ‘yes’ to the commitment to write.
Say ‘yes’ to the support of your partner, family, and friends.
And, here’s the most important one: say ‘yes’ to having fun. You’ve committed yourself to writing a novel, not to a nunnery.
Positive energy—make it, share it. Repeat.
Tip #7: Say ‘No’.
Say ‘no’ to self-doubt.
Say ‘no’ to naysayers.
Say ‘no’ to unnecessary distractions.
Create clear boundaries and reinforce them. Eventually, everyone else will see them too.
Tip #8: “Excuses be gone”.
(Thanks to the late Wayne Dyer for this one.)
I can’t even count how many times I’ve said, “I don’t have the time”.
We can always find a good excuse if we look hard enough. When I was a smoker there was always a reason why I couldn’t quit, why there was a better time on the horizon, and it always seemed perfectly reasonable.
But really, you create your own reality. If you make a reality of excuses, that’s what you’ll get.
Have you ever noticed how much time and energy it takes to create excuses?
Tip #9: There’s enough time … really, there is.
No matter what you’ve got going on in your life, there’s time. The problem is not really about time, it’s more about whether you’re ready to write.
This may sound harsh, but someone has to say it and it might as well be me—time has always been my biggest excuse.
I’ve read countless stories of writers stealing 15 minutes in the car between jobs and errands, or getting up at 4 instead of 5 in the morning, just so that they can write.
I didn’t do those things.
Now I see it. There was time. I just wasn’t ready to write.
Tip #10: Just do it.
All of the things I’ve listed have one thing in common as of today: they became more real to me in the doing.
I’ve read variations of them in advice books and articles for years, and I believed them to be true, but something happens when you start doing it, instead of just thinking about it.
The words become your own; the ideas integrate into your own practice.
So, What’s the One Thing?
Patience. I’ll get to it in a minute.
You might even figure it out before I get there.
But first, I want to share some resources. These are the things that helped me get ready.
- Larry Brooks’ website has a series of posts that take you through his prescribed “story engineering” process. You can also read the whole book, Story Engineering, if you have time. (Return to Tip #9 if necessary.)
- Jami Gold, paranormal author, has generously brought together all kinds of spreadsheets and worksheets to help fellow writers get organized.
- If you’re struggling with story structure, K.M. Weiland has a database. Yes, really. A database!
- Scrivener. They sponsor NaNoWriMo and offer a FREE version of the software for the duration of the marathon. I used it last year. It helped me track word counts, sort my scenes, and submit the file in the correct format for the win.
- How to Plan and Outline Novels (Using Scrivener). For $19, you can buy access to this course on Udemy. Sean Platt, a bestselling author himself, gives you a step-by-step on the process that he and Johnny Truant used to write over 1.5 million words in one year.
Now For The One Thing
You may already know what it is.
If not, I hope I didn’t frustrate you, leaving it to the end like this. I just wanted you to read to the end, to be sure you saw the resources, and the ten tips too.
Because they all tie together into that one thing: organize.
To the pantsers out there, stop rolling your eyes. I’m not trying to kill your buzz.
Getting organized doesn’t mean you have to fall into line and robotically do what everyone else is doing.
Far from it! Organization can be a creative act. Seriously.
In fact, if it’s going to work, you have to create your own unique way of doing things. It has to work for you.
Rather than seeing it as an either/or proposition (as in ‘pantser’ or ‘plotter’), see it more like a spectrum in which you position yourself based on what you need for success.
The tips and resources I offer here are all about giving you ideas, but you have to find your own way to get clear about the steps in your process.
- Collect your chosen tools.
- Get off the Internet (after you share this post with your “WriMo comrades” ).
- Get organized.
Now, off you go. Remember to have fun … and write me if you need a boost.
P.S. In the spirit of trying something new, here goes …
I’ve been watching my Facebook friends throw what they call “Linky Parties”. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?
I’ve joined one, just to see what it’s like. If you’d like to try it too, check out #Blog, Share, Learn. (I’ll report on the experience after I’ve tried it for a while, so stay tuned for a future post!)