My first NaNoWriMo

 •  Filed under Writing, Longform

During November I took part in the annual National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it's more commonly known. The aim is simple, write a complete work of fiction in 30 days and your work should be at least fifty thousand words in length. Sounds easy doesn't it? Well I found out the hard way that writing isn't just about putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard in my case.This is just a few observations I made during my month of novel writing.

Plan ahead

Sounds simple advice doesn't it? Well I didn't plan ahead at all. In fact I didn't know what I was going to be writing about until a week before I started. A few things kind of got in the way and I just finished those up a few days before NaNoWriMo started.Planning ahead for something like this is important though, so make sure you give yourself a couple of weeks to mould an idea for a story. Whether it's an outline of your novel or just a list of events that will take place in your story, it helps to have something you can refer to during your writing.

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Fifty thousand words in a month is a big ask, especially when there are other aspects of your life that need your attention. Family and work are two of the biggest things that you will need to balance during your time writing your novel.If the only time you can get to write is during the evening, then pick a time when you'll be least distracted. Writing with a five year old running about isn't going to benefit your focus at all. I usually waited until our son was in bed so that I could get a good couple of hours writing at night.I aimed for seventeen hundred words a day, but that isn't always possible. During the week I gave myself one night where I didn't have to meet my target number of words, but I always made up for it during the rest of the week. This was good as it gave me a little break from the routine of the week's writing.

As for the weekend, I always found that writing first thing in the morning was the best time. I set my alarm for 6am, got a coffee and started writing. Before anyone in the house had woken up and the rest of my crazy day began, I usually completed at least two thousand words. Doing this on the both days of the weekend meant I could keep the weekend nights free.Finally there's work. If you can get to your work half an hour early or an hour early, then do so. A quiet office is the perfect place to get just a few hundred words down, and even a couple of lunch hours a week can also be a good time to do some writing. I managed a few lunch breaks where I completed a few hundred words. It's didn't seem a lot at the time, but it did help.

Keep writing

The last bit of advice I would give is to just keep writing. Currently my novel has plot holes in it, both big and small. Okay, it's not perfect but that's why I am doing a rewrite of my novel later on. You'll get to your rewrite in good time, but during your first pass at your novel, just keep writing.Plot holes, character inconsistencies and sudden changes of themes are things you might come across and you'll be tempted to chuck the whole thing in at some point just because something in your novel doesn't make sense. Don't throw it away, just keep going. Keep writing and let your novel take care of itself.Once the month is complete, you'll have plenty of time in the next year to pace yourself and do a couple of rewrites and fix these problems in your novel. For this month though, it was all about setting the foundations of the story. It was all about just getting a story down on paper and taking part in NaNoWriMo was a great way to do it.

Keep on being motivated

As for motivation, I continually turned to a couple of places that prompted me to write a novel in the first place and kept me on the right path.The first is Nicholas Bate's blog. It's not a specific blog on writing, but Nicholas has plenty of great tips on writing. It's not what you would call a how-to blog in the typical sense of the word, it's more about taking the first small steps in writing. I highly recommend you check out his writing category as it has some of the best advice and tips for getting started.

My second source of motivation was a present from my wife. After toying about writing for a few months, my wife bought me Stephen King's book, On Writing. It's a book of two parts.The first part is Stephen King's autobiography. I thought a career in writing would be a fairly straight forward and easy career, but after reading Stephen's account, I will never think that again. This month has shown me that there's a lot more to writing than I first thought.The second part is practical advice on writing from Stephen. I found this part to contain some really good writing tips. I've been able to already apply some of these to my writing, but I think I'll probably have to re-visit this book before I attempt any rewrites of my novel.

Achievement unlocked

I'm used to writing blog posts, but that's the extent of my writing ever since I left school. Until I started blogging I didn't write anything, so taking part in NaNoWriMo was going to be a bit of a challenge. In the end though, I managed to succeed and on the last day of writing, I wrote my last two thousand words to finish my novel.A minor win in the grand scheme of things some might say, but for me it was a big win. I love a good story, and every week I have an idea for something different. Despite all these ideas though, I never set aside the time to turn them into something.Taking part in NaNoWriMo was daunting at first but it has shown me that I am capable of writing something. It might be good, it might be bad, but it's my first novel that I have written. NaNoWriMo was a great experience and one I hope to repeat in a couple of years.