Soon, it’s that time of year again (not Halloween this time, no). People are posting cryptic things on their preferred social platform, like “3.567/50.000” or “594 done, 1073 still to go today!”. It’s NaNoWriMo, and every year it’s the same madness.
I’m in it, too. It’s my fifth year, and I actually never made it past day ten or so. The plan is to do it differently this year, and here are a few things I have figured out to help me do it:
I love research. Research is great. And it’s also one of my greatest problems during NaNo. I look up one little thing and five hours later I’m reading a Wikipedia article on the eating habits of sea cucumbers or the history of Turkish delight, not even knowing how I got there.
So here’s what I’ll do this year: I’ll write about things I know. My story is set in my own town, a Steampunk variant, but nevertheless. I know this town. And if I need inspiration I can simply take a walk. Not a bad idea in a month that you’ll probably spend mostly in front of your screen. Also, my story will be ideas from years past and other projects combined. I’ve already done research for most things for them, so everything’s just fine.
Should I find myself in a situation where I desperately need research, I’m planning to set my kitchen timer on half an hour. No more clicking new links after the ring!
I love well-balanced, detailed characters. But knowing the favourite food of “the protagonist’s cousin thrice removed” (Scoundrel’s words, not mine, in regard to my love of detail) won’t help me write them into interesting situations when this cousin doesn’t even feature in the story. Also, and this plays into the “research” field again, too, looking up if the favourite dessert of one of the periphary characters is historically and culturally correct for the person in their individual time and kind of upbringing isn’t balanced, it’s sorta obsessive.
Sure, a character needs flaws and shouldn’t be too special or random, but a completely average person doesn’t make a great hero for something I just want output on. I’ve got time for balancing once November is over. A hero needs a defining trait. I’ll give them one.
Attention Def… Oh, shiny!
Minimize everthing around you that could claim your attention. Turning off the internet would be and option (I’ve got an connection again but decided to go for two internet-free days per week), but honestly, that’s pretty unrealistic, especially as you’ll need it for research sooner or later or at least to update your word count. I plan to write at uni some of the time where I won’t start any browser games or Youtube videos. A public library would also be good, actually, every place with w-lan that isn’t your own home.
There are many programs to help you write. Some make annoying noises if you take too long. Some even start deleting your written content once you’ve spent too much time not typing. I prefer positive encouragement and use Written? Kitten!. If you add /?search=animal# to the URL, you can, by replacing “animal” in the example, make the site display another picture of your favourite animal every 100 words you write (it’s linked to flickr, so according to with what people tag their pictures there can be an odd outcome once in a while). I actually used this for a university paper back in September.
Oh, and with me, it’s otters.
I always keep a note book with me in uni. It’s where all my ideas and to do lists end up. Usually it’s not very pretty – as much as I adore flowered covers I don’t seem to go well with me every day. My note books are simple ones with lines and a linen spine, and paperbacky bendable.
Prewriting is a great thing to do on the bus, during boring lessons, on the train, in waiting halls, or at the whim of a moment during a walk. The bad thing about (analogue) prewrites is that you’ll have to type them once you’re back to your trusty keyboard.
Actually this is discouraged. I’ll do it anyway. The problem with proofreading inbetween is that it tempts you to make things better. Change just that word. Okay, that sentence. Really, only that dialogue. Oh come one, one passage can’t be so much. Yes. Exactly.
Just writing without looking back until you’re done with at least the day’s goal is best. Again: You can still change things when NaNo is over.
As long as NaNo hasn’t started yet the prompts they give out at the official Facebook page are pretty useful to get a feeling for your characters and setting. I also used this questionaire from the NaNoWriMo blog to get to know my protagonists better. Actually the first character I tried it on was a P&P Pathfinder character that lacked a little life, and it worked out just fine.
Are you participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo? I’m listed as Hedgefairy, by the way, feel free to add me as an author buddy (the more the merrier!).