It was with some trepidation that I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo last year, but I’m delighted that I did. Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – happens in November each year and the goal is to write 50,000 words towards a novel during the month. It’s free, it’s intense and it’s huge fun.

You can find out more about it at www.nanowrimo.org. Feel free to befriend me; I’m definitely doing it again and I’d love the company.

Here are some of the things I did to give myself the best possible change of success:

  1. I started the novel before NaNoWriMo started so that I was already 7,000 words into it by 1 November and this proved to be crucial. It was a huge boost to my motivation and confidence not to wake up on the first morning and start a project from scratch. I obviously didn’t count those words I wrote before November towards my 50,000 word goal – don’t cheat, it messes with your mind.
  2. When I ended a chapter (mine are short), I started a new one the same day, even if it was just 100 words. That gave me a nice intro to work with the next day so that I din’t have to start with a blank page.
  3. I got up a bit earlier each morning and tried to write at least 500 words before I started my regular morning routine. I din’t always manage it and some days I only do 200 or 300 words, but it’s tremendously helpful to get a start early in the morning. I’m not one of those dedicated prolific writers who can knock out 2,000 words before breakfast – after 500 words my attention starts wandering around outside the window. What I do instead is write in three or four sessions a day and bit by bit I chip away at the daily target so having 500 words done before breakfast was very motivating.
  4. I made sure I achieved the 1,666 word target every day. During the first week, I wrote just over 2,000 words per day so that I had a two-day buffer that was only to be used if I got hit by a bus. In the end, I finished my 50,000 words three days early on 27 November and I drank some beer that day.
  5. Here’s an important thing I learned and in fact, it was a revelation. It turns out I am almost incapable of following my plan. I’m not a great planner at the best of times, but I had a sort-of idea in my head with a sort-of ending and I was going to have all kinds of themes and stuff carefully woven throughout the novel. Then I started writing and my characters took that plan and $&@? all over it. They completely ignored what I told them to do and kept going off on tangents and getting up to all sorts of mischief. I was often writing a sentence without any idea what the next sentence would be and even less of an idea where I was going with the chapter. It was fascinating and I got to a point where I couldn’t wait to start writing the next day so I can see where the story went. Because of the pressure of knocking out almost 2,000 words a day for 30 days in a row, it was as if my sub-conscious took over and wrote the novel almost as a freewrite. It ended up better, I think.
  6. Following on from the above point, there are times when I can’t see the way forward and in the past I would have stopped writing because I’ve hit a wall, but during NaNoWriMo I couldn’t because I had those pesky 1,666 words to write. So there was nothing for it but to write some drivel and without fail I always got to a point in all my drivel writing where the path forward suddenly opened and off I went again. Obviously I didn’t delete the drivel, because it was Nano and every word counted! I’ll fix it in the rewrite.

In summary, I loved NaNoWriMo and I see a long and lasting relationship between the two of us. I’ll be back in November to knock out another 50,000 words and I look forward to having partners in crime this year. I’m writing crime fiction so I mean this literally…

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