NaNoWriMo: Advice for a Month of Daring Imagination

Are you a WriMo?

I know, I know. Some of you are looking at that title and asking, “NaNo-What-Now?” I had the same reaction back in 2009 when I first discovered National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s an international event where writers commit to writing a novel of 50,000 words (or more) in just 30 days. Sound crazy? That’s what I thought, too.

But let me tell you a secret: NaNoWriMo changed my writing life. And it could change yours, too, if you’re willing to take the dare.

shield-nano-side-blue-brown-rgb-hiresImage courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

What’s the Deal with NaNoWriMo?

For the uninitiated, NaNo can really seem daunting. And in a way, it’s probably supposed to be a little intimidating. Because without risk, the reward isn’t quite as sweet, right?

This year will by my sixth time taking the challenge to write a novel in a month, and every year when it rolls around and I tell myself, “I’m going to write 50,000 words in November,” I always have to stop and consider how cool that sounds. And for a typically slow writer like me, the payoff by the end of the month feels really good.

So, not only can you get a lot of writing done in thirty days, but you can also feel like a rockstar when talking to your friends and family. Watch their expressions. I can almost guarantee that you’ll see sparkles of admiration in their eyes. Revel in it a little. Let it motivate you.

Now that we’ve gotten past the Ego-Fest that comes with NaNo, let’s talk logistics.

How to NaNo successfully:

Let me be honest here: NaNoWriMo works differently for every writer. It even works differently from year to year for the writers who participate. So, with the knowledge that your NaNo journey will be completely your own, I offer the following advice as someone who has been there, and survived.

1. Let your imagination out to play!

The point of NaNo is to turn off your inner editor, and let your story take over for the month. If a surprising little plot bunny shows up out of nowhere and points you down a crazy path, don’t trap it in a cage. FOLLOW THAT BUNNY and see what kind of magical places it can take you!

If it turns out to not fit your story after all, that’s fine. Keep the words it brought you, and move onto a different path. Editing is for December. Trust me on this. It’s hard, but it’s worth it to just let your brain have free reign.

2. It’s TOTALLY OKAY if you don’t win.

(And by “winning,” we mean reaching the 50k by November 30.)

Confession time: Out of the five times I’ve done NaNoWriMo, I have won three times (one of which was by participating as a rebel — which is a different thing entirely, and one I don’t recommend for rookies), and I HAVE CRASHED AND BURNED TWICE. Like, HARD. My first year into the fray, I jumped in at the last minute on October 31, and started writing with almost zero plan and no idea what I was doing. I didn’t make it to the end of the month.

But guess what? It was still awesome! I learned a lot about my process, and I was excited to try again another year. And I made progress on that always intimidating first draft.

3. Don’t go it alone.

One of the best things about writing your novel in November (as opposed to a different month) is the COMMUNITY that comes with the WriMo experience. There are online forums you can participate in, you can join your local region and actually meet–in person!–other writers who are in the trenches with you, and you can get involved on Twitter or whatever social media you love to share your struggles, compete in word sprints, and encourage other writers on to the finish line.

Writing is often a solitary sport, but the cool thing about NaNo is that there are literally hundreds of thousands (over 400,000 in 2015) of writers who all have the same goal for the month. You’re not alone, and that in itself is pretty incredible.

4. Inspiration is everywhere–utilize it!

NaNoWriMo has been around since 1999, which means the people behind it have had time to make it awesome. There are tons of resources on their website and across the web for how to NaNo successfully. My favorite places to find inspiration and tips are on the official site, but I’ve also found great resources from other writers. Check them out!

NaNo Prep (official page) and Pep Talks

Christine Frazier, of the Better Novel Project

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles

Do you dare?

I see you over there, with your finger hovering over the link to sign up. Do it! And tell us in the comments!

Let’s connect and do this challenge together. I’ll be back in November with an update, and tweeting about it in the meantime.

Be sure to check out NaNo on social media, too!

author-dana-blackDana, signing off to brainstorm my NaNo project!

Also, don’t forget the giveaway we have going on over here until Friday, Oct. 21st!

8 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Advice for a Month of Daring Imagination

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