Welcome to Hell, boys and girls.
Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo. And if you’re signed up, you’ve got a long, crazy, awesome journey ahead of you.
To kick start you on your way, here’s a few tips that’ll help you have fun and avoid frustration this November.
1. Back Up Your Work
If you take one thing away from this post, make it this. Back up your novel. Do it every day. There is nothing more crushing than seeing three weeks of hard work and creativity go down the drain because you didn’t back it up.
And don’t just keep your backups in a different location on the same computer. If your hard drive fries or your laptop gets stolen, what are you going to do then?
Think that’ll never happen to you? Maybe not. But if something does go wrong, you’ll be kicking yourself that you lost everything when it’s so easy to protect yourself.
Cloud storage options like Dropbox or Google Drive make it super easy to back up your novel to an off-site location. Even emailing the file to yourself will do the trick.
I suggest you keep backups in at least two locations other than your main computer. Keep one set of backups on an external hard drive or on another computer, and keep another set of backups off-site, using something like Dropbox. Even if your house burns down, you’ll still have your NaNo novel. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
And whatever you do, don’t entrust your entire novel to a USB thumb drive. Those things corrupt files at the drop of a hat, and they’re easy to lose as well.
2. Get Ahead Early
Later on in the month, things will get hard. Your enthusiasm will start to wane. Life will distract you. And I’m told those of you in America have to deal with a strange ritual called Thanksgiving.
So do yourself a favour. Get ahead of your word count goals in those early days. Instead of stopping at the daily average of 1667 words, push on to 2000, or 2500. Those extra words will add up. If you miss a day further down the line, you won’t have quite as much to catch up on the next day.
3. Write Every Chance You Get
If you live a pretty busy life, you can’t afford to wait around for a nice big chunk of time where you can do some writing. You have to get out your club and go hunting for that time.
Write while you have your breakfast. Write on your lunch break at work. Write in the bathroom. Write when you should be studying or putting on the laundry. Use writing as procrastination from more important tasks. Carve out a few minutes here and there throughout your day. A hundred words here, two hundred there. It adds up faster than you’d think.
If you don’t have a laptop you can carry around with you, use something else. Write longhand in a notebook and transcribe it later. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you can write on that. Yes, you can. I don’t care if it feels weird writing a book with your thumbs and a touch screen. If you can write a text message or type something into Google, you can write a few more paragraphs on your book.
You really have to fight for this writing time. This may mean you have to neglect friends and family a bit. Tell them what you’re doing, and tell them that this is important to you. If they love you, they’ll understand. Or forgive you, at least.
4. Avoid Procrastination
I’m going to be a big hypocrite here and tell you not to procrastinate. I’m absolutely terrible at this. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, you’re going to have to figure out how to get your butt in that chair and actually write.
Raymond Chandler, that master of hardboiled fiction, was also a procrastinator, and he knew it. So he came up with a method to solve this problem. Every day, he marked out a certain amount of time. For those hours, he locked himself in a room with his typewriter. And he had just two rules.
- You don’t have to write.
- You can’t do anything else.
With nothing else to entertain him, he would eventually start writing out of sheer boredom.
Of course, that’s a bit more difficult these days. For most of us, our primary writing device—our computer—is a source of all manner of procrastination aids. Facebook, emails, news sites, Facebook, YouTube, Facebook, and of course, Facebook. If you’re the sort of person who can easily get trapped in an endless loop of checking emails, checking the news, checking Facebook, checking emails…, then there may be only one cure:
Turning off the Internet.
I know, I know, that sounds like a drastic measure. Like cutting off a leg to cure an ingrown toenail. But if turning off the Internet (or using a browser blocker) for a couple of hours a day is what it takes to get you a finished novel, isn’t that worth it?
5. Keep The Words Flowing
Whatever you do, don’t stop. Don’t go back and edit that last chapter. If its bothering you that much, write a note to yourself about what needs to change, then move on.
Don’t get bogged down trying to come up with the perfect name. Call your love interest Sexypants McMuscles and move on. Later on, you can always do a “Find and Replace” with the real name. Or maybe you’ll realise that Sexypants McMuscles is the best goddamn name ever.
Likewise, don’t spend half an hour on Wikipedia looking up some detail that isn’t crucial to the plot. Just type [XXX research this] or something so you can find it later.
That’s it from me. If you have your own tips, leave me a comment!
Good luck and Godspeed, brave novelists. Get out there and write. And most important of all, have fun.