7 Tips On How To Win NaNoWriMo This Year, As Told By A Previous Winner

7 Tips On How To Win NaNoWriMo This Year, As Told By A Previous Winner

A few notes from a 2011 winner.
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As Halloween draws closer and closer, writers across the world are taking their last breath of fresh air for the next thirty days. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins this week and asks a simple task of its participants: write a 50,000-word novel in one month.

It may sound like an impossible feat, but as someone who completed November 2011 with a fresh novel, I can confirm that it is very doable, as long as you keep to a few simple rules.

1. Plan ahead

You don't need a full outline of your story, because you'll most likely stray from it throughout the month, but you need a general idea of where you're going to start and where you're heading. Think of it more like a list of checkpoints, places the story needs to go that you can work toward every day. If you go in blind, you risk finding yourself lost halfway through the month.

2. Be prepared to change that plan

Any writer knows that the characters don't always listen to you. You don't have enough time to question why the story wants to change, so be spontaneous and let the story go where it needs to. New ideas are going to hit you throughout the month, so rather than avoid them out of a fear of losing track of your original plotline and wishing you could go back, find a place for them and explore.

3. Schedule your writing

Don't assume you'll find the time to write every day. You need to have a time in mind when you'll be able to sit down and write. It doesn't have to be a specific number on the clock every day. It can just be "after dinner" or "after I finish this homework" or "after I make this phone call." Just know when you're going to write by the end of the day.

4. Don't edit as you write

It can take me ages to write a paragraph because I'm constantly editing myself as I go, but NaNoWriMo moves too quickly to reword as you write. Get everything down on the page, and if you meet the 1,666 word goal for the day and really need to fix something, then you can take the time to go back and edit. You always have the end of the month to edit, too.

5. If you get stuck, skip ahead

Writer's block seems to thrive right when you need to write most. If it hits during NaNoWriMo, skip the scene you're writing. Jump forward to another checkpoint that you know you can write. Write a scene you're excited to get to. The most important thing to remember is to just keep moving.

6. Update your NaNoWriMo profile often

Some don't use NaNoWriMo's website to track their progress, but making a free account there can be worth it. Seeing the graph on your profile take a step up every day as you update your word count will make you feel good and inspire you to keep it ticking.

7. Get your friends to join you

The only year every one of my friends finished NaNoWriMo was the year we all decided to complete it together. While completing your novel will feel good, it will feel even better to beat your friends. Tracking your progress against others will inspire you to keep going. It doesn't even need to be people you know in real life, it could be other writers in your town's NaNoWriMo community, or just other people online. You can even add me to your buddies over here.

I'll see you at the end of November.

Cover Image Credit: National Novel Writing Month

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The Key To Ending Your First Draft Blues

Or at least getting through the next chapter with your hair intact
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Ah, the first draft. We’ve all been there as writers. The day we decide to turn a blank word document into a 70,000 word (or more) masterpiece. Or, at least, that’s always the aim. Often as first-time writers, we go into the experience blind, learning as we go, and never really knowing whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

It can be frustrating at times, as most first drafts are a test of sanity. As somebody who had written ten first draft books (nearing eleven) in six years, I have had my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to first drafts.

My first book ever took me four years just to write it, I started at the age of sixteen and finished by the time I was twenty. A year later I had written another. I then wrote one in thirty days, and nowadays I write about three to four books a year.

My point is, there is no science to writing. It is all about learning how to do it, and finding the methods that suit you best. I just wish I could have had someone to tell me all of that when I started.

With that in mind, here are my five pieces of advice on how to write your first draft:

#5 Embrace the Terribleness

The first draft is always the worst version of any story. The sooner you accept it, the easier it is to move forward with your work. So you misspell a few words so bad that even Word can't help you. That shouldn't stop you from going with the flow. Your dialogue will feel hammier than a "Star Wars" film, but you'll clean it up the second time around. You're not expected to create a masterpiece on the first go, so just enjoy the ride.

#4 Suffer for your Art

Writing can be hard. I've said it enough times already, but it's true. You have to be prepared to suffer for it. The reason my first book took four years to write was because I didn't commit to it. The reason I wrote 80,000 words in thirty days was because I committed myself to write at least 1,000 words a day. Now I average 3,000 daily. Is it painful to force 3,000 words to the page every day? Yes, but that's what you have to do to get the draft finished.

#3 Take your Time

Now I know this goes against what I just said, but it's important that you go at the pace you want to. I was happier writing 1,000 words a day, but I was eighteen then. At twenty-three, I'll never get everything done going at 1,000 words a day. Commit yourself to writing every day, even if its only 200 words. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. You'll get to the finishing line quicker if you jog a steady pace rather than adopting a sprint and rest mentality.

#2 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yes, it's important to remember what colour your character's hair is, which one is taller, and what weapon they are carrying. Although with that said, it is important to keep going forward. In my editing, I go over everything with a fine comb, often with a character profile at my side. Don't get bogged down giving every little detail the first time around, you'll have time for that later. The hardest thing is getting it down the first time.

#1 Keep the Story Going at All Costs

This kind of goes without saying, but it is by far the most important step for me. You have to keep moving forward. It doesn't matter if you have to use the biggest Deus ex machina to get your plot going again, you can always edit it away in the re-draft. I use a technique called automatic writing, which means that I don't plan every detail of a chapter. I simply write it as I go. This allows me to give my characters natural reactions as events often come as a surprise to me too.

Obviously it is good to have a rough idea of what is meant to happen, but as long as you can get your characters from A to B, then you are half way there. The other half will be polishing it to the point you can see your reflection.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Cover Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Writer%27s_Block_I.jpg

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4 Steps To Writing a Haiku

It's Fun I Promise
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You've probably had to write a haiku for English sometime in your school career. You most likely found it boring, or difficult, or just plain stupid. I am going to try and show you a more fun way to write a haiku.

1. The Basics: What You Should Know

In case you don't know, a haiku is a Japanese poem that is only three lines long. It is usually taught that the syllables in each line should go 5-7-5. But really, as long as there are 17 syllables or less in the three lines, it's a haiku.

2. Write to Get a Reaction

When you write a haiku, you are aiming to get one of three reactions: Aaaahhh, aha!, or ha ha! For example...

Aaahhh: Laying in bed/dog next to me under blanket/my furry heater

Aha!: Life is too short to love people/who do not deserve/your whole heart

Ha ha!: I'm on the toilet/and my stomach drops/the roll is empty

3. Create an Image

In your writing, you want to create a new image in your readers mind with each line. Take my first haiku for example. I first talk about laying in bed. Then, I say there is a dog next to me under the blanket, so you picture a lump under the covers. In my last line, I call him a furry heater so you imagine a heater covered in fur. The image you create is more important than the syllables.

4. Performing

Lastly, you need to think about performing your haiku. As always, when you're speaking in front of a room of people, you need to project so the whole room can hear you and you need to make eye contact. Another thing to remember is the tone of your voice while you are saying your poem. Dramatic pauses can keep people on the edge of their seat, waiting for what you're going to say next. You also have to remember to be confident! And if you're not confident, fake it till you make it!

Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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