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The Milestones of NaNoWriMo

 

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Sound the trumpets, the moment is here!

Introduction

As we closer to the time to begin our journey to 50K words, I thought I’d share some ideas of things you can do to help you to not only achieve the 50K words, but also to cross each word goal during the month. A variety of incentives to help you strive for those words each week.

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Start Your Engines

It’s Day 1 and the path to the end is clear. Well, it’s clear as far as the first day. As we stated before, sometimes real life can get in the way. Your first milestone is, of course, 1667 words. That’s how many words you need to write every day in order to accomplish the 30 Day trek. Now some of you Math Geeks will state that it is in fact 50,010 words long which it is but there’s nothing wrong with going over the amount.

Now you can celebrate your first days’ worth of work by having some chocolate or just getting up from the computer and share the news with your family. But the better thing to do is keep writing and strive for 5K so you have some padding when Life comes knocking on your door.

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5K Every 3 Days

This is the mantra I’d created to help us stay focused. This should be considered the first TRUE milestone as increments of 5K would be better suited as an accomplishment for your writing. Now would be a good time to get up from your seat and away from the computer for a bit. Go outside and walk down to your mailbox or, at the most, take a walk down to your local convenience store and grab a soda or coffee.

You can also take a moment to update you Facebook status to let your friends and family know that you’ve accomplished 5,000 words. In the long run this is a small amount but it is enough to create short story. Congrats and keep going!

☺ I just wrote 10,000 words! ♥

Congratulations you are 1/5 of the way there. This is quite an accomplishment for anyone who’s not a regular writer of stories. If you follow the mantra it should only be Day 6, or maybe Day 2 depending on how fast you are churning out the words. They say that Week 2 is the hardest on any NaNo participant as the excitement melts away and you realize that this is going to take longer than you thought.

People usually give up on their stories somewhere between Day 8 and Day 12 as the sense of reality hits them and they think, “What have I gotten myself into?” or “I don’t have time for this!” If this becomes a reality for you, just take a couple days off from writing altogether. Another thing you can do is strive to write just a paragraph a day until things readjust themselves.

To celebrate 10K, treat yourself to a couple of episodes of a TV series you missed to enter this challenge. I say a couple because, seriously, who can watch only one? Check in with your family making sure they are still alive and have food to sustain them. You might want to consider a shower if you haven’t done so yet this week.

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♫ 25K, I’m Halfway! ♫

You’re probably sitting there saying, “Wait, what happened to 15K and 20K?” That’s entirely up to you as you can do more of the same for the 10K and know that you’ve arrived at each milestone. I’m moving up to 25K as that is the halfway mark for this writing challenge.

25,000 words is quite an accomplishment! In my first NaNo, 25K was my intended goal for the 30 Days since I was new to the challenge. There is no shame in having this as your final goal especially if you find 50K to be daunting. Sure you “won’t win”, but you can see it as a personal victory and a self-satisfying achievement.

Day 15 is the halfway mark of the month and it’s just at the edge of the pending holiday season. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving falls on the 24th (2016) this year and that’s only 9 days away. Make plans to write accordingly so you don’t fall behind.

To reward yourself for the halfway mark, why not try a new restaurant that you heard about or actually take the time to cook a meal for the family rather than rely on those pre-made frozen dinners you created at the end of last month. Catch up with the family, make updates on your social media pages so people know you’re still alive, and overall, revel in the fact that you made it this far!

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Picture courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org website

35K-45K

For those of us who make it this far, we can actually see the finish line and it looks promising! At 35K you’re only 15,000 words away from completion; while at 45K, it’s only 5,000 words to the end. This is the time to rejuvenate your body for the final leg of the challenge.

Depending on how you’ve arranged things earlier in the month, you may be at this point before Thanksgiving or just after the day. If before, take the day off and celebrate with family knowing that in just a few more days you’ll have completed the challenge and can enjoy the remainder of the year. Help yourself to an extra piece of pie then get out and walk the neighborhood for a while. Take in the colors and smells of the season and primarily clear your head.

As the day comes to a close, jump back on the computer and write a couple more pages before bedtime. You can set up your story for the final push and utilize the whole next day to get there. Of course, if you have family staying with you, get up early and write as much as you can while the rest of the house is sleeping, and then plan to write more throughout the course of the day. Steal away to a local coffee shop and an hour or two, if you can, and keep writing. Just be wary of Mad Holiday Shoppers. That’s right, it’s Black Friday!

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The Finish Line—50,000 Words!!

Here we are at the finish line! You did it, you actually wrote a book and you can sit back and enjoy the feeling of stress melting away knowing that you completed the challenge. To reward yourself, take your family out to a fancy restaurant or a show you’ve been dying to see. Make an evening out of it and spend time with your family.

Apologize to everyone you may have offended during the month as you strive to reach the completion of this challenge. You may know it at the time but there are those who don’t understand why you’d subject yourself to such insanity. Don’t bother explaining it to them as they most likely will still not understand. However, you might invite them to the next challenge next year or if you do Camp NaNoWriMo, you can bring them along.

**Important Note** The Novel Validation (word counter) usually opens up on the 28th of November. Make sure if you use all 30 days that you give yourself enough time to get your novel officially validated so you can receive your certificate of achievement and earn that purple bar on your profile. It will close at Midnight and won’t be available to validate later on.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve completed the writing challenge, you can spend most of next month sleeping. Remember, this is only a rough draft and not a completed manuscript. If you took my advice about padding your story, you will want to remove those items. As we’ve stated in a previous article the reason so many people are against NaNoWriMo is that they assume that come December 1st people will be publishing their book…as is.

If you’ve shut off your “Inner Editor” during the month, I’m sure you’ve have tons on mistakes. This can be fixed during December, but personally I’d wait until January.

What do you do to reward yourself with each milestone completed? Share your comments below!

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo

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Picture courtesy of the NaNoWriMo.org website.

Introduction

Everyone has a writer within them whether they admit it or not. Some will cause it to grow and become a full-fledged author. Others will ignore this notion until they get into the twilight of their life and make a statement like: “You know I’ve always wanted to write a book. One day I just might do that.”  My question to them is why wait for “one day” when you can have a whole month?

The November Challenge

Back in 2005 I was introduced to the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). It’s a website where people gather together as a community and for the entire month of November, they strive to write 50,000 words. For most that seems an incredibly large amount of words. To others, it’s a casual walk in the park. Either way, it’s a challenge that has been going on since ’99.

Founder Chris Baty and his friends in San Francisco had got together and decided to each write a book in the space of thirty days. He randomly chose a book off his shelf and did a word count and obtained the goal of 50K words. As the years progressed the number of writers increased as did the location of these people. Now heading into its 18th year (2016) they are hosting thousands of writers worldwide!

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How to Prepare

The goal of course is to write your story starting at Midnight November 1st and ending at Midnight on November 30th. Of course you want some time to be able to submit your work into their validation counter and be officially listed as a winner.

So how does one prepare? The goal is to do all of your writing in the space of 30 days but that leaves the rest of the time to prepare. The website itself usually relaunches at the end of September or beginning of October to give people opportunity to check in, introduces themselves, upload information about their current WIP (Work in Progress), and generally wander around the site meeting new people and playing the games that are there.

This also gives you time to setup everything you need for the upcoming challenge. Things like:  Create a plotline, develop characters, create scenery, and the like. You might also outline your story so you can adhere to what you are working on; how you start and where you will end.

If you’re not into outlining, you can always enter into the month with no ideas and no plot and just start writing and have things develop as you progress. Chris Baty has written a book called: No Plot? No Problem. I’ve read it several times over the years and it really gives you an insight into, not only the NaNo challenge itself, but also how to achieve that magic number.

I’ve never been one for doing outlines; official outlines that is but I usually will write down a list of scenarios and the characters involved so I can keep things in a (somewhat) orderly fashion. There’s no right or wrong to preparation but if this is your first time, I would suggest putting together a group of characters and a couple of plot ideas.

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Picture courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org website

The Magic Number

As you begin your trek towards 50K words you have to keep one number in mind. 1,667. That’s the magic number because that is the average number of words you need to write every day in order to stay on track and reach those 50,000 words in 30 days. If that’s too complex a number to remember try this…Every three days you need to write 5,000 words. Technically it’s 5001 words but let’s not argue over exact amount. 5K every 3 Days is a good mantra to use as you are writing.

 

What do you win?

In a word, nothing. There is no prize to win, no honors to achieve. However, you will receive a nice certificate of completion worthy of hanging on your wall to show your accomplishment. But you will also have the satisfaction of writing a foundation for a book and you’ll get to meet a lot of fellow writers from all over the word. These people usually end up becoming friends, supporters, and even contacts in the literary world. You’ll enjoy their company in the remaining 11 months of the year until the next November Challenge comes along.

To some people 50,000 words is only a novella and so they won’t even go into the challenge because they want to write more. There’s nothing wrong with writing more. I do know of a challenge called, A Million words in a weekend. That might be more your speed.

I’ve been using NaNo as a way to discipline myself to write the story and most times my story will exceed the 50K after I’ve completed my challenge. Doing NaNo for me is just a way connecting with other writers who are online at the same time. It’s like going back to Summer Camp every year but without the mosquitos and the sadistic camp counselors.

The bottom line is: What you put into the challenge is what you will get out of it.

 

Getting to 50K words

Sometimes this can be the tricky part especially if you’re not very good at writing. What I mean by that is coming up with ideas and dialog naturally without thinking about it. If the words can flow from your mind to the keyboard you will have no problem. If not, here are some suggestions to help you out:

  • Word count is the key. Do whatever you have to do to get to the desired number of 1,667 a day or 50K in a month. I’ll have more to say in another article called, The Cheater’s Guide to NaNoWriMo. Remember the mantra: 5K every 3 Days
  • Shut off your inner editor. One of the main problems people have is dwelling on mistakes like misspellings, grammar usage, and describing the same character two different ways. Always remember, this is only a first draft and most of it might be discarded in the long run. You’re not writing useless stuff, you are creating a foundation from which to build a story on. Here’s another way to look at it, if you want your garden to grow, you need to shovel a lot of manure.
  • Find time to write. All too often I hear people tell me, “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to write.” Those who do have time usually find other things to do instead of writing. People get that sudden urge to clean or make that special supper, or set that new movie that’s just come out. Anything to avoid the actual writing part.

Instead of saying you don’t have time, you need to FIND the time. To help you find time to write: a) list the things you do every day b) Write down when you do them c) Go back and eliminate the excess stuff. For example, if you check your e-mail four or five times a day, cut it down to twice a day; once in the morning and once at evening. Another idea is to get up thirty minutes earlier or stay up thirty minutes later and use that time to write.

You can always record your favorite TV shows and binge watch them in December or, if that’s too long a time, treat yourself to two episodes every week. Reward your accomplishments of writing will also help you find the time to write.

  • Notify Family and Friends. More often than not, the people who are a daily part of your life may not understand what you are doing or why you are doing it. Explain to them your goal and ask for their moral support and encouragement. Even if they still don’t understand just tell them it’s something you have to do. Make sure they help you find time to sit down and write. And above all, when you are in the process of writing make sure no one disturbs you during that time. Yes, Thanksgiving is in November and I’m sure you’ll be expected to attend. Use that date as your goal to finish your 50K words so you can sit back at the table and brag to all of your family of your story.
  • Lastly remember that Life Happens. No matter what has happened last month or in previous Novembers, every month is different and comes with a new set of problems. In other words don’t neglect Junior if he’s broken his leg or ignore the electric company who’s threatening to shut off the power. Take care of these important things because they will not wait. Keep an eye on your word count and always try to stay ahead. I always try to get 3K-5K within the first day to make sure I’m always ahead for just such emergencies.

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Final Advice

Remember this is only a rough draft. You can’t expect perfection in thirty days nor should you try for it. Just get all of your thoughts and ideas on the page then go back later and edit. Too many people, who are against the book in a month idea, think that it will be immediately published. Even if you do write a story perfectly in the first draft, it would be better to read it over and share with others before you put it out for sale. You might find where certain ideas that worked at the beginning of the story no longer apply because of what happens later on.

Should you decide to enter The November Challenge or try it during any other month, make sure you at least try to reach 50K words. It’s better to try and fail in thirty days than to not even bother to start and spend the next eleven months wondering if you could have succeeded. During my first attempt I only achieved 25K words but that was my personal goal and I was happy that I tried. You may not win every year but if you at least try, it will be worth it in the long run.

So what about you? Think you have what it takes to write a story in thirty days? If you’re a former WriMo, share your previous experiences below.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris