Sunday Musings #3 – Writing in November: make the most of NaNoWriMo to boost your word count

Posted on Oct 30, 2016 in Blog, Sunday Musings | No Comments

Hey guys,

It’s that most wonderful time of the year! No, not quite Christmas yet, I’m talking about the writing extravaganza that will be all over Twitter/Facebook/TheWholeInternet all November: NaNoWriMo (starting on November 1st). Last week’s session was all about building a writing system that works and making writing a daily habit, and this week I’ll talk about how NaNoWriMo fits in there. Enjoy!

Making the most of NaNoWriMo in your writing system

A writing system should do one main thing: enable you to write regularly and consistently so that it becomes a habit that is not easily derailed. One thing that helps getting there is to build in accountability. Let’s see how NaNoWriMo helps with that. But first… what it is actually about?

Refresh: what is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month” (sometimes it’s shortened even further to just NaNo). It’s “an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words (their minimum number of words for a novel) from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the process.” (source of this definition: Wikipedia).
So the core mission of NaNoWriMo fits nicely with building a writing system: get started. Write consistently. Keep going.

The main basecamp of NaNoWriMo is at http://nanowrimo.org/ where you can sign up and join a community of writers that are all working towards the same goal. You announce your novel, and update your status regularly which helps keeping you accountable. And even better: seeing so many people getting into writing really boosts your motivation (you can do it too!).

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

So what’s great about NaNo, and which pitfalls should you look out for? Here’s a list:

  • NaNoWriMo greatest hits
    • A clear deadline. It helps to know that this thing needs to be done November 30th, no excuses.
    • Knowing where your are at & how much you need to do. You can easily calculate how many words you need to get done in a day which keeps you on track. Also helps to keep distractions bay.
    • Being part of a community. Being a writer can be very lonely, and friends and family often don’t understand what you’re doing there. In NaNoWriMo, you join hundreds of thousands of other writers in the same quest. And they know what it’s like, are happy to discuss your story with you and help you keep going when you want to give up.
    • Celebrating writing. Writing is such fun, and to me NaNoWriMo is a celebration of the pure joy of putting words to paper.
  • Potential pitfalls, and what to do about them
    • Getting lost. NaNoWriMo is often approached as writing your novel “by the seat of your pants”. Some people work really well that way, but I do find it is easy to get tangled up in your story if you don’t have a rough plan. So even for NaNoWriMo, I suggest creating an outline of your story, however rough. Do that in October, and November is all about pouring out the words.
    • Thinking that the novel is “done”. The product of NaNoWriMo is a full novel, but it NOT a finished book! A first draft always needs more work, often many rounds of it, and a novel written under the constraints of NaNoWriMo probably even a bit more it. There’s a reason literary agents are often closed for submissions in December 😉 So when you’re done, celebrate your achievement and then put away the novel for a while. After a few weeks, you can return and start editing and re-writing (this will be the topic of another session of this bulletin).
    • Sending the novel to an editor right away. Editors are absolutely necessary, no doubt. But the first draft is just too early to send it out already. You first have to go over it yourself. Save your editor’s time and sanity, and save yourself that money.

Using NaNoWriMo in your ongoing writing

I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo once in the original sense, as in “writing a complete novel from scratch”. The draft I created there later turned into “Veined” (the first in my “Guardian of the Angels” YA urban fantasy trilogy). Ever since, I’ve already been working on a novel come November. But that does not mean that NaNoWriMo can’t help you in your ongoing writing.

These are the ways NaNoWriMo keeps me motivated to get even more done during November:

  • Raise your daily word count – try to also write 50k on your current work in progress.
  • If you are currently editing, try to raise your editing goal for that month.
  • Get motivated by all the other authors going for gold!

NaNoWriMo resources

There is a lot about NaNoWriMo available (the hits on Google are in the millions). Here is a short list of resources that I found helpful, inspiring or just fun.

Over to you

So are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? And are you starting a new novel or working on an existing project? What’s your NaNoWriMo idea?
I will buckle down and finish the contemporary romance I’m working on… and then take my own advice, put it down and give it the self-editing treatment a few weeks later.

Writing tip of the week

There’s an awesome new writing and publishing podcast: “Print Run” by my agent extraordinaire, Laura Zats (@lzats on Twitter) and her agent colleague Erik Hane (@erikhane on Twitter). There are four episodes so far, and they are all highly recommended – my favorite so far was episode 3 which breaks down romance genres AND romance novel cover models! Starting in November, they’ll also be doing episodes workshopping queries and first pages.
Anyway, it’s a fun show by two very smart people that have a great on air chemistry – definitely check it out.

Fiction reads of the week

This is a re-read actually. “Bear, Otter, & the Kid” by TJ Klune. This one just gives me the feels. It’s my favorite type of slow-burn romance with just the right amount of angst and conflict to keep me glued to the page.

Bits & pieces

I nope NaNoWriMo will motivate you and push your word count to new heights! See you next week, Anyta


Books mentioned in this bulletin:


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  • Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!

Session #2 – Creating a writing system
Session #4 – Story structure

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