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Hints and Tips: Second Year Wrimos!

Do you love NaNoWriMo? Clearly, because you’re reading this!

I Love NaNoWriMo

(Okay so my donor gifts arrived on Friday and I love the halo bracelet a little too much. So, naturally I spent time trying to take a photograph of it on my arm…)

Hello Second Year-ers! So, you’re back for more, eh?


(If you’re a first timer: click here.)

Whatever happened last year, you’ve made the brilliant decision to go for it again. Whether you reached 50K or not last year, you still achieved something great, something special and spectacular. You’ve likely made friends – either online or in person. And why wouldn’t you want to repeat that?

And then you’ve found yourself hooked. (After 10 years, I’m feeling there should be a NaNoWriMo Anonymous.) September rolls round and there’s that nagging feeling inside that you should be doing something. And it’s nothing to do with Christmas. Oh yes, the seeds of NaNo are sowed early.

So, second year hints and tips:

You may find your second year harder. Don’t look at me that way, I’m serious. But if you’ve done it before, why is it harder? It’s harder precisely because you’ve done it before. Suddenly, you have something to be compared too. I’m certainly not suggesting you ever compare yourself to even your own previous word count as you are a winner no matter what, but subconsciously, you’ll still do it. And somehow knowing what you’re getting yourself into is harder than not understand it at all.

Don’t compare yourself to last year. I pretty much covered this with the above point. So, whatever you got last year, was last year. Ignore it. It’s gone. Concentrate on this year. (And I realise the new NaNo site is showing everyone’s novel and word count and stuff from last year. It’s cool. You don’t have to look at it.)

Give advice. I know you’re reading advice, but you have a year’s experience under your belt, now. So, give advice to newbies. They will appreciate it and you’ll get the thrill of passing on your experience to people who have yet to know the excitement of NaNoWriMo.

Take on a mentee. Why not go one step further than advice giving? Go browse the Find a Mentee and Find a Mentor threads over in the Newbies section and give someone one on one advice and encouragement! I’ve been mentoring for the last few years and it’s awesome! And what’s more, you have someone completely new to the process who you can bounce ideas off two.

Learn from last year. I know it’s a cliché “learn from your mistakes”, but I’m serious. Did you skip a few days in the middle of November to “rest” and ended up frantically rushing at the last minute? Did you decide to “pants” it and found yourself flailing? Or, maybe the other way round – did you plan carefully only to discovered that following the plan was a nightmare? Remember what you did / didn’t do, and use that knowledge to help you this year.

Have fun. You had fun last year, make sure you have fun this year!

You’re not newbies anymore, second years! You are now experienced Wrimos. So, get out there, tuck another year comfortably under your belt and give the newbies of 2012 the support you had last year. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

Keep writing, Wrimos!

Hints and Tips: First Time Wrimos!

Let’s begin at the bottom. What is NaNoWriMo exactly? NaNoWriMo is short for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. (Don’t be put off by the name, it’s actually an international event now but InNoWriMo doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.) NaNoWriMo challenges you to write 50,000 words in 30 days and takes place in November every year. The idea is that you write a full novel but there are debates over whether 50,000 words would constitute a novel and a lot of NaNoers find at 50,000 words their novel isn’t finished anyway.

So, we’ll stick with just writing 50,000 words in a month.

These have to be 50,000 brand new words. Technically, you are allowed to continue a piece you’ve already started on (this would make you a NaNoWriMo Rebel!) as long as you write 50,000 previously unwritten words during November. You can write about anything! After all, it’s your novel.

So, you’ve learnt what NaNoWriMo and have decided to “give it a go.” Making this decision is the first step in what will end up being a succession of many, many steps (some of these steps may turn into crawling on hands and knees, especially around week two… but I digress.) But how do you actually write a novel in a month? Great question! Here are my hints and tips for first time NaNoers:

  • Don’t look back. Seriously, don’t. Once you’ve written something, it’s written, it counts towards your 50,000 words. So, don’t look back, don’t think about what you’ve already written and don’t edit. (Imagine that sentence spoken by the 10th Doctor in the way he talks on the video in the episode ‘Blink’. It’s that serious.) Editing is for December.
  • Don’t delete. You really hate that 500 word paragraph? Too bad. Strike it through and ignore it. You can delete it after November. On November 30th, you’ll want those words.
  • Use the forums. The forums are gold dust. They are full of brilliant, amazing, insane WriMos who are all there for help and support as they too battle through their own novel. These are the people who will pick you up when you’re down, help you through the bad times and give you radical ideas for character names, subplots and death scenes.
  • Word wars are your friend. What’s a word war? A word war is racing against one or more people in a set amount of time to see who can write the most number of words. Popular word wars last for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and an hour. Sometimes they’re called sprints and you’ll find threads for all of those times and more on the ‘Word Wars, Prompts and Sprints’ section of the forums. There is also an official NaNoWriMo Sprints Twitter account which runs sprints every day of the month. There’s an unofficial NaNoWriMo Facebook page which is also awesome for sprints.
  • Character names are overrated. So, you’ve hit your stride, everything’s going well and suddenly a new character appears but you don’t know what to call them! You don’t want to lose pace by thinking of a suitable name. Don’t worry. NONAME is a perfectly acceptable character name. Especially in November.
  • 1,667. You’ll dream of this number. This is the minimum number of words you need to write a day to stay on track. It’s on average 4 pages on Microsoft Word, single spaced, using Times New Roman size 12.
  • Write. This is the obvious one. Right? Wrong. It’s very tempting to have a “day off” or to nap in the afternoon during the only free hour of the day you have. It’s scarily easy to slip off the rails and before you know it, four days have passed and you’re 6,668 words behind. Write whenever you have the chance. Read more on my blog here for hints on writing everywhere. 100 words before you go to sleep is better than no words at all.
  • Back it up! Dropbox, Google Documents, email. Back up your novel, online, daily. There is nothing scarier that losing several thousand of your hard earned words to a computer crash or random flash drive formatting. The Internet is safe and you can access your file from anywhere.
  • Have fun. NaNoWriMo is a frantic month and believe me you’ll get stressed, laundry will pile up and Starbucks will be your friend. But remember that it supposed to be a lot of fun as well. Don’t let the stresses get to you. I mean, where else can you walk onto a forum, have a perfectly serious conversation about how much jelly/jello it would take to fill in the Grand Canyon, watch two fictional characters that you’ve created do things you would never have imagined and welcome The Travelling Shovel of Death into your life?

In short, keep writing, don’t edit, and enjoy yourself. You’re not just sat in front of a computer with no one but yourself and a lonely piece of chocolate to motivate you, you’re suddenly immersed in a whole community with 100,000 people motivating you and running the race alongside you. (And you have a cool word count graph on your NaNoWriMo profile!)

Welcome to NaNoWriMo.

Finding the Time to Write

Last Thursday I went home for the weekend. Home, for me, is a little over two hours on a train. I watch a lot of people on the train stare at their phones, gawp out of the window at the passing sheep and eat obscenely priced, sad looking food purchased from the on board shop for their low price of their soul.

But two hours on a train is a godsend if you’re busy and need time to edit or write, especially if you’re a busy person. You are stuck in that seat whether you like it or not. If you book your ticket in advance, you could even request a seat at a table and avoid curling around the little fold down flap from the seat in front. This is especially useful if you have some sort of portable writing device which won’t balance on this little fold down rests.

I edited two short stories (one of which I entered in the competition I talked about here!) and had time for a nap on the journey home. When I make that trip during November, I will scrap the nap (rhyme intended) and write for two hours. Last November I used to reward myself after I’d written so many words by reading a book or just relaxing and listening to music for ten minutes.

Trains aren’t the only form of public transport good for writing. Any time you are stuck waiting or travelling, is writing time. This is particularly useful in November when you’ll be pushing to reach 1,667 words a day and suddenly find you haven’t got the time for such a word count.

If you have a smartphone, get a writing app. I personally use Writer (geniusly named but it does exactly what it says on the tin) which was free. It’s a very simple app which lets you create new documents and saves them automatically as you write. You can even bold and italicise your writing, make lists and insert quotes! It kinda looks like Notepad on your phone, but it does more things.

‘Writer’ on Google Play.

I apologise for not linking for iPhone but I couldn’t find an easy way to search apps on the store online and I refuse to own anything Apple related to search that way. If anyone finds a link, let me know and I’ll update.

I’m sure there are plenty of other apps out there as well. Find one which suits you and your needs. I have a Dropbox account and I upload each file from Writer to Dropbox via the Dropbox app when I’m done with my travelling for back up and for ease of copying it to my main file on my computer.

If you don’t have a smartphone, invest in a notebook. Sometimes the old way is the best way!

With your notebook/smartphone you are ready to write whenever you find a spare minute. Bus stuck in traffic? Perfect. London Underground delayed? Awesome! Your friend’s running late? Brilliant! These are your writing times. Use them wisely. (You could even write standing up, if your balance is good.)

You’d be amazed at how much you can get written by snatching a few minutes here and there. It’s not as productive as sitting down for a good solid writing session but if your day is busy and you’re not sure if you’ll find the time for that good solid writing session, then snatching ten minutes where you can will stop you from losing your mind when it comes to watching your word count levels. And you’ll be amazed what you can come up with whilst squashed on the subway next to that one person who still hasn’t discovered deodorant for fifteen painful minutes.

And, if nothing else, writing will help you block out the horror of the rush hour commute.

Campfires, fireflies, novels, oh my!

When Camp NaNoWriMo first began (2011) I was having the time of my life working at an actual summer camp in the USA. This may not be all that impressive for any Americans reading this but as someone from the wet rock that is the UK, it was a whole new world of excitement that we just don’t have the chance to experience here! We have nothing which matches summer camps in the States. And it’s sad, really, ‘cause they’re amazing.

I remember being disappointed that I couldn’t take part in Camp NaNoWriMo the first time it opened. I briefly toyed with the idea of writing a novel whilst at camp but I very quickly learnt that wasn’t going to happen (16 hour working days most days a week with limited access to a computer, there was no way I was writing a novel!) But camp itself made up for it. And I was excited to be part of Camp NaNoWriMo this year because I couldn’t go back to regular camp and figured it would be the next best thing.

With this in mind, I armed myself with rebelling and writing some short stories for June Camp. And I bailed at just over 12K.

What I learnt very quickly, and this was backed up by other veterans who tried camp this year, is that I have subconsciously trained my brain to only write novels in November. I have in fact completely trained it to do certain things with regards to a novel from around June onwards. In June/July I come up with an idea, then spend the summer letting is simmer and around August/September I’ll get a main character’s name and a title. As an experienced pantser, this is my “planning” for November and then I’ll hammer out a novel from November 1st. And because of this training, writing anything of length and at speed in June just didn’t happen. I really and truly struggled for the first time in 10 years. It was a strange experience but I enjoyed trying. Unfortunately, I have no ideas for August and so will not be trying camp again this year. I have some other projects to work on.

In the short time I did Camp NaNoWriMo, I did pick up some things though:
–           If you are a veteran NaNo-er, camp will probably be very hard (see above).
–           Camp is different to NaNo in that the number of participants is considerably lower. Just be aware of that, if you’re used to the bigger event in November.
–           Make friends with your cabin. Check in daily just to update your word count or just to encourage your cabinmates! They are your camp family and your immediate support circle.
–           Use the Camp NaNoWriMo section of the forum for support outside of your cabin. It’s just like the NaNoWriMo forums! Only a smaller and cosier section.
–           Set up virtual write-ins with your cabinmates if you can. Unless you’re lucky, it’s unlikely you’ll find official NaNo write-ins for camp and if you find it difficult keeping up momentum without regular meetings, virtual write-ins are the way to go.
–           Camp word count bar is an archery target! This means the bow edges nearer to the centre with every word count update. As someone who failed to get a real bow anywhere near a real target at real camp last year, I can tell you that watching the virtual arrow move is quite exciting! But to get it to move, you need to be writing.

If you have never tried NaNoWriMo before and this is your first time:
–           Write.
–           Keep writing.
–           Don’t look back. (i.e. Don’t edit. At all. Editing is banned for August.)
–           See the above hints.
–           Above all, enjoy yourself. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun.

And finally:
–           Camp NaNoWriMo is just a mini version of NaNoWriMo. This means there are NO losers. Whatever you achieve this month is exactly that; an achievement. And it’s something you should be proud of.

Now, who wants s’mores?

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