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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

What I know about surviving NaNoWriMo

Last night, I typed up a whole long list of tips for someone on Tumblr, but the app seems to have lost a bunch of stuff from last night, so instead of cross posting, I'll try to remember all I said. This is everything I can think to tell you about getting through the crazy idea of writing a whole novel in one month.

- 50k counts as a novel, but it's a technicality--the average novel is twice as long. That means you have so much space to fudge it--if something is holding you up, just skip it, and put [SOMETHING HAPPENS HERE], then keep going.

- Momentum is the key--it's more important in this challenge to keep going than to "get it right".

- Before you start, make a list of 30 plot points you need, so every single day you know at least something to aim for in that day's work and never sit down with no idea what to do.

- Update the list as you go, because the story is definitely going to mutate in unexpected ways. Run with it. Deadlines are the mother of creativity.

- Keep track of your word count. Make a sheet (or find one and print it) with the total you're to aim for each day, and fill it out after you write that day's words. And use a widget to visualize. The official NaNo website has a graph on your profile and a progress bar you can put in your blog, and it's SO HELPFUL to actually see it.

- Don't write in a vacuum. Follow #nanowrimo and #nanowrimo2014 and such on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram, Google for blogs of people who are participating, and / or sign up on the official site and use the forums. Stress gets high as the end of the month approaches, and it helps SO MUCH to have other people who know what you're doing from te inside. If your library or bookstore has write-ins, try to go to them, too! Make friends!

- Don't over plan--flexibility is better than set plans, because it's easier to go with the flow than to battle the story.

- Bank words at the beginning, when it's new and fresh and exciting, and whenever it's really flowing, so you have a buffer--that way you can skip a day or so if something comes up, and you won't damage your totals. Much better to have more words than you need than to have not enough.

- They call it "winning" NaNo, but you don't lose if you don't make it. You learn what your limits are, how much fiction you can shove through your head and for how long, how your personal habits and thought processes work in a situation like this, and you get a feel for whether an idea has enough possibility to make a whole book about it. That's stuff you can apply to other projects. And I call that a win, too!

- Always revise this mess! First drafts are always a mess, and being written this quickly, they're bound to be even more of a mess. Don't go through this thinking you're creating a perfect final product--you're writing a draft-zero. No matter how messy it is, it will tell you what it actually about, and anything that's written can be fixed.

- Don't edit as you go, even if you usually do--one, there isn't time; two, sometimes (most of te time?), you aren't always writing the book you think you are, and when you get to the end it might need different work than it did at the beginning. If you edit as you go, you've wasted a lot of time you could have been writing.

- Have an idea of at least a main character, a starter setting, a tone, and a basic story goal--it doesn't have to even be a plan, just enough that you can start writing and know where you are.

- Run with it! Whatever happens, see where it goes. 

- Wake up early to get your words in, rather than staying up late, especially if you have a regular schedule; it'll damage your sleep less, and a well-rested brain works better. Also, writing right after waking is a way to get around your inner critic--those dudes are always lazy.

- Protect Your Magic. If the challenge is making you overtired, too anxious, crabby, or otherwise not-good, modify it or stop. You can always try again next year, or in June (where there's another official challenge and it's not right at te beginning of holiday season!), or you can pick any month when it's good for you and do it again. Pushing so much through your brain an your hand can be as exhausting as physical labor, and if it's too much, remember that no one is forcing you. This is supposed to be fun!

So good luck! And keep us (the internet) updated, whether you make it or not--it's the process and the experience that matters, until that moment when you have a finished book!

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