Sunday, October 20, 2013

Winning Nano, Part One: Do's

On October 31, 2011 at 5:30 p.m., I made a life-changing decision.

I decided to do Nano.

For the uninitiated, Nano refers to “National Novel Writing Month,” a contest in which writers are challenged to write a minimum 50,000-word novel in 30 days, from midnight November 1st to 11:59 p.m. November 30th.

I had nothing beyond a thin semblance of a story outline and no clue where I would get 50,000 words in 30 days. But I had the will to begin and a brand new laptop, and that seemed like enough. And so armed, I compiled 50,461 words in just 27 days.

“Mini-wave in celebration of me. A-whoo-hoo!”

Two years later, I am poised and excited to do it again. This time, I feel prepared. Not just because I gave myself more than six-and-a-half hours to prepare, but because my first experience taught me a thing or two about what to do and what not to do for a successful Nano.

Let’s start with the Do’s.

1.      DO tell your housemates what you’re doing.
Based on your living situation, this might be anything from unnecessary to a major risk, but I told my husband about my commitment to Nano the night before I began. I wanted him to cheer me on, sure. But I really wanted him to understand how this decision would affect the household. Once we settled a few minor issues, he was all the way on board and encouraged me every day.

Speaking of which…

2.      DO take daily advantage of adjectives and adverbs.
When polishing our work, we use these grammatical spices sparingly. But for the sake of the word count, look upon the descriptive duo with a friendly eye. I started every Nano writing session by reviewing yesterday’s work and adding them wherever possible. Not only did that give me confidence as I began a new writing day, but watching that word count inch higher and higher boosted my confidence that I would hit the 50,000 mark.

And on that note…

3.      DO create a document in which you track your word count.
This is a simple way to foster personal accountability and encourage diligence. When you review that first week and see how your word count has increased, you’ll be more determined to write the next week and the next and the next until your goal is reached. I still have that document—a list of writing dates and the number of words—and it makes me smile every time I read it. 

And speaking of smiles…

4.      DO enjoy the ride.
Nano is stressful by definition, a month-long game of “Beat the Clock.” And its importance increases if, say, your additional goal is completing a working draft of the fragmented-but-has-good-bones NanoNovel you started two years ago. But Nano can be enjoyable if you let it be, a jolly good time if you want it to be. Whether you reach your goals or not, every day you rise to the Nano challenge is a good day. So put the top down, crank up the music, and enjoy the ride.

And to help with that…

5.      DO pad your downtime with shameless frivolity.
Conjuring up 50,000 new words in 30 days is exhausting, so fill your non-writing time with restorative fun. Reading Twilight fanfiction—and repeated showings of Breaking Dawn-Part 1—kept me fueled and happy in 2011 and inspired me to start writing fanfiction the following month. I don’t know what will move me this year, but I plan to have plenty of it all month long.

So those are my hard-earned Nano Do’s. Do you have any helpful hints to share?

I’ll be back next Sunday with my Don’ts.

See you then!

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