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Preparing for NaNoWriMo - Are You Ready To Write 50,000 Words in a Month?
What is NaNoWriMo?
A multi-year tradition, National Novel Writing Month challenges people to write a novel in a month. For the purposes of NaNoWriMo, a novel is defined as at least 50,000 words. Most published novels are, in fact, longer, but 50,000 words is a reasonable target that most people can meet without cheats such as repeating sentences.
To 'win' NaNoWriMo you need to hit the 50k mark on or before November 31, without having started work on the novel before November 1. This does not mean, however, that you can't prepare for it. Here are some tips.
Pick the right idea
NaNoWriMo is about two things: Finishing your novel and having fun. The idea you choose needs to be one you feel confident that you will enjoy devoting yourself to for a month. Some serious writers use NaNoWriMo as a way of encouraging themselves to get a good start on the draft for their next published novel.
Most people who do it, however, are amateurs. There are no rules as to genre or topic. In fact, although some consider it cheating, some people write fan fiction or spin-offs from somebody else's work.
An original idea, however, is better. The best tip I have is the same tip I give everyone starting out in writing. Write something you would like to read. Don't worry about what anyone else might think about it, but write something you will enjoy yourself.
Decide how it's going to end
The point of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel draft quickly. In general, this does not leave room for outlining, planning and plotting. However, it's much easier if you know where your novel is going, even if you end up changing it halfway through. Deciding what kind of ending you want will also help keep you on track and result in a novel that actually has a plot.
Know Your Characters
The rules say that you can't start work on the novel before November 1. That doesn't mean you can't write prep work. Writing a brief background and personality for your main character, and possibly some unrelated scenes involving her will help you know exactly what kind of character you are dealing with and what that character is likely to want and need. The character and the plot also need to go together. Some people find it easier to start with a character and some with a plot, but they need to match.
For lesser characters, jotting down their names and a few notes about them will set you in good stead.
I'm not talking about your world and characters here, but your aims. Don't try to write A Song of Ice and Fire for your first novel. Start with something relatively simple, something you know you can do and are confident with. Remember the adage about writing what you know and do something that feels comfortable and familiar.
Once you have completed one novel you are likely to be hooked, and then you can branch out and challenge yourself.
Set a Quota
50,000 words in a month sounds like a lot. It's not quite so bad when broken down.
To win, you need to average 1,667 words a day. In order to allow for real life to intervene, writer's block, or days when you just need a break, 2,000 words is a good quota to set. They don't have to be good words, of course. The point is that this is a first draft, which can be fixed up later. If you find you are writing well on a particular day, by all means go over your quota. Finishing early can be even more satisfying than simply finishing on time. Going over your quota on one day will also help you deal with a day when the words won't come or life takes over.
If you are doing NaNo this year, then good luck! Hopefully you will be able to proudly tell the world you won. And if things go well, perhaps you will even join the ranks of published novelists one day.
Good luck with your writing.