Yes, you. You need a plan, I need a plan, we all need a plan if we are going to tackle the 50,000 word challenge and emerge as healthy, happy human beings at the end of it.
There’s a general attitude in the amateur writing community that there are two basic types of writer:
- The Planner. The planner, as the name suggests, plans things, sometimes to within an inch of their lives. Chapter outlines, character concept sheets, interviews, charts, day-to-day to-do lists – you name it, a planner has probably done it. They likely have a document already twice the length of the eventual novel with all the background they could ever want or need. And maybe only one or two sentences of that material will ever make it into the finished product.
- The Pantser. A.k.a. every year, all the time, always. Hey, I’m working on it. And, as a general rule, there’s no problem with this method. It works really well for a lot of writers. That said, this method comes unstuck when you mix it with 30 days, 50,000 words and other time commitments like work, school, and a social life.
So I’m gonna make this super clear. Your health (mental and physical) is more important than a book, than a month, than a challenge.
Which brings me back to my first point – if you want to tackle NaNoWriMo and survive it, you need to plan.
Planning for Pantsers
Yeah, I know – you don’t have time, planning stifles your creativity, your writing flows better when you fly by the seat of your pants. Normally, I would agree with you but for November, I’m just gonna refer you to the first half of this post.
(Planners, you already got this bit so you can skip to the second set of dot points.)
- Do you know the general shape you want your story to take? (This may (read:will) change as the month progresses. So what? Having an idea of the overall shape will help, I promise)
- Do you have a protagonist?
- Do you have an antagonist?
- Is there conflict?
- Do you have a space where you can write? Can you easily make space?
- Do you have the right materials?
- Do you know how much time you have each day to write? You don’t want to be sacrificing too much sleep or ignoring all social obligations or not turning in assignments or skipping shifts at work just to complete a challenge that means nothing in the larger scheme of things.
You obviously don’t need to have concrete answers to all of these dot points but you may find it helpful to mull over them as October draws to a close.
Y’all need to be paying attention to this bit.
Ok, I know I haven’t really emphasised this very much* but you need to look after yourself during November. It is really really easy to fall into a pattern of caffeine abuse, junk food and bum in seat inaction.
I’m not going to tell you to not eat chocolate/
poison treat of choice or to take up running/rock climbing/ocean swimming/extreme yoga. That would be ridiculous and I certainly wouldn’t be following that advice. You’d never tear me away from chocolate. So instead here’s a few tips to minimise the damage.
- Drink water. I know some people aren’t huge fans of water (a lot of tap water in the U.S. seems to be pretty undrinkable from what I’ve heard) so if you can’t stomach the idea of straight water, try tea. Energy drinks and soda will only get you so far. I honestly find that a glass of cool water does more to wake me up and help me focus than a shot of coffee.
- Have some healthy snacks on your desk. Fruit or nuts or seeds or carrot sticks, whatever you want. Have that chocolate handy too but mix things up.
- Move. Stand, stretch, walk, dance. If you can stand while you type, that’s better for you than sitting the whole time. Kill two birds with one stone and meet a friend for a walk. Take a dance class.
- Try something new. You’re going to spend a whole month focusing religiously one one thing. It’s little wonder that so many NaNo-ers suffer writer’s block. Mix things up, take a class or watch some YouTube videos and learn a new skill. Your brain, your body and your writing will thank you for it.
- Read. When you’re not writing (during your commute or before you go to sleep) flick through a few pages of a book from a genre completely different from the story you’re writing. This will help you avoid cliches and could give you a insight into some really cool writing tricks.
- Enjoy it! Let’s be real, NaNoWriMo, for most people, is no walk in the park but you shouldn’t be so stressed and miserable trying to hit your words goals that you’re getting nothing out of the experience. I honestly feel I learnt more about writing and myself the years I didn’t hit the 50,000.
If you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you. It ended up a little longer than I intended.
Best of luck in November and feel free to add me as a writing buddy 🙂