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NaNoWriMo Countdown: Three Weeks. Preparation.

ImageRight now, there is only three weeks to go until day one of NaNoWriMo 2013. That’s 21 days. Or, if you prefer 504 hours. If we were 21 days into November, you’d have 35,007 words under your belt.

It’s getting close.

On the plus side, a lot can be done in three weeks. You can write ¾ of a novel. But in this pre-NaNoWriMo state, it’s always good taking some time to take stock of what is approaching, of the challenge you’ve taken on. Take some time to prepare.

So how do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? That depends on what exactly you want to prepare. For many, this preparation may involve extensive planning. For others, stocking up on tea and biscuits.

It helps to know your planning style. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Plotters tend to plan their novel in advance – working out character profiles, storylines, the beginning, middle AND end, and generally have an idea of what will be happening in November. Pantsers are the opposite. The extreme pantsers will plunge into NaNo head first with no clue what lies beneath them. (And that, my friends, never ceases to be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.) If you’re not sure what your planning style is, go for the middle ground. Jot down a few notes to get you going. Come up with a location, a plot idea, and a couple of characters. Get hold of a map of the area you’re setting your story in – or if you’re making up a new town/city/world, draw it out! Even better, invest in a whiteboard so you can easily add and take away from the map as you work it out.

And it’s not only yourself you need to prepare. You should probably warn your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re suddenly going to be sleep deprived, be living more in the world of your novel than the real one, and your social life may take a  dive.  Last night  I sat down to edit my current work in progress. Our desk is in the bedroom and I hook up my netbook to the larger computer screen so I can see the text easier and research on Google with a split screen. Boyfriend came to bed at midnight and I was still working. He asked if I was coming to bed a couple of times, and I was like “not yet”, then I got frustrated because I couldn’t read my own notes and stared at the paper in front of me for five minutes. When he asked if I was okay, I was all “No! I can’t read my own handwriting! This is terrible!” whilst he looked on bemused. (I did eventually translate what I had written.) When I eventually stopped about 12:45am he asked if this was what November was going to be like.

It is.

After 11 years, those nearest and dearest to me are fully aware of what my November is like. They’d be more surprised if I said I wasn’t doing it. But if you’re new to NaNo, it may come as a surprise to them if you’re suddenly locked away (more than usual –  let’s admit, a lot of us writers are proudly hermit-ish in nature) every day. Be aware though, by telling people, you will be hit with “Can I read it?”, “What’s it about?” “What do you win?” and “When will it be published?” questions. Prepare your answers. It will help. Maybe invest in a big sign on your door answering them to ward off intruders.

Finally you come to non-NaNo essentials for November. The week before it’s wise to clear out your laundry basket, stock up on your drink of choice, invest in your preferred snacks and easy microwave meals for the days you haven’t got the time/energy/significant other to cook. Tidy your writing area and have notepads, pens, mascots in the immediate vicinity.

To sum up, come November 1st, you want to be as ready as you need to be.

Bring on NaNoWriMo 2014!

When Life Takes Over

Life gives you lemons

I had one of those days yesterday which was full of ups and downs. I walked into work to find an email from a parent thanking the company, but me personally, for her daughter’s summer experience, then got some bad news at lunch, then spoke to a friend on the phone in the afternoon who I haven’t spoken to in months, then my Friday night plans turned out to be a little disappointing and I got soaked on the way home. Then I had pizza and chocolate chip cookies for tea, which fixes everything.

On the days when life just decides that you need a bit of a rollercoaster ride (and I actually love rollercoasters, but they tend to make me sick), it can be hard to focus on what you want to be doing. After the bad news at lunch, I spent a couple of hours attempting work but kept getting completely side-tracked and then irritated that it took me five minutes to do a 30 second task. Luckily a friend appeared on Facebook chat and kept me company for the rest of the afternoon.

As we get closer to November (and therefore NaNoWriMo), I feel it’s important to brace yourself for Life. No matter how much you plan your writing schedule, something is going to come up and stand in your way. It could be something as small as walking home in the rain and getting in not wanting to do anything but curl up under a quilt with your favourite movie, or something huge that just blocks your mind of all other thought. But it will happen. Of course, something amazingly happy could happen which involves your schedule going completely out of whack as well! Last year, my boyfriend and I got together smack bang in the middle of November. There are few things more distracting than a new relationship. (This year he gets the delight of living with me during November.)

The big obvious distractions in November are the upcoming Christmas and Thanksgiving (for the American Wrimos). I learnt earlier this week that Thanksgiving is November 28th this year. I do not envy you, my fellow American Wrimos. I’m sure Thanksgiving is a wonderful time, and I would love to experience it, should I one day make it to the Night of Writing Dangerously one year, but at the same time I would not like to loose precious writing time that close to the end of November. And of course with Christmas comes the pre-Christmas parties, which for some reason aren’t always held in December.

My biggest Life distraction in November I can foresee, and plan accordingly. My birthday lands on November 27th. That night is already out, as we have gig tickets. The weekend before is also out as I’m going home to visit my family for four days. That’s basically five days right there that I either won’t write at all, or won’t write as much as I should do. Then November 29th is payday, and therefore will be my birthday celebration with friends from work. Essentially, if I’m not at the very least on target by November 21st, I’m going to have a frantic November 30th.

But not everyone has the luxury of seeing the big events coming up. I’ll re-emphasise this nearer the time, but plan for the days that you can’t see coming but will inevitably come. The days when you’re ill, the days when work or school dumps a major new project on your head, the days when friends or family need you more than your writing does. Therefore, write more than you need to when you can. That buffer of extra words will be needed. Trust me.

And just generally, when life smacks you around the head without warning, find the little things to keep going. The little things will help you get back on track.

NaNoWriMo 2012: Are You Ready?

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

The pause before you drop down the big, almost vertical ramp on the roller coaster, the second before an examiner turns away from the oversized clock on the wall and tells you to open your papers, the quiet just before you open your mouth to give a presentation.

Staring at the blank page at 11:59pm on October 31st.

As this post goes live, there is just over a week to go until NaNoWriMo 2012 is officially on. And you may already be feeling the pressure. Last time you checked, there were three months to go. And now, seven days? What happened? I imagine those of you who are seasoned plotters feel the strain of The Week Before more than I do. I know I have no plot. I never have a plot. I have a vague idea and a couple of characters and I run with it. And yet, I feel it lurking on the horizon. I know that in just over a week, my vague plot and two unnamed characters are going to have to develop into something huge.

And that never ceases to feel scary.

Even though my work load is making me lose track of what day of the week it is, I can feel it in my bones that NaNo is coming. It’s strange but my internal calendar is keeping me aware. I struggle at the moment to know what date it is. I wake up working out what day of the week we’re on and whether I have anything on that night. I’ve been reminding myself all day that tomorrow is London’s first Kick Off party because I’m worried I’ll forget tomorrow when I wake up because I’ll think it’s Wednesday again. I have a diary next to my bed that I half want to carry in my bag and half want to leave there. I just need something I can view at all times so I don’t lose track of what I’m doing. (Clearly I need multiple diaries.) I regularly put the wrong date on the comments I make on files in our system without realising I’m doing anything wrong.

But even though all the confusion, I know in my soul that NaNoWriMo is coming.

It’s like a drug. I’m a junkie aware that my next fix is coming.

Part of me is seriously panicked. I can’t remember the last time I was panicked about NaNo. I’m mentally listing everything I have to do in November and my brain is growing big cartoon eyes that are getting wider and wider with distress. I have *never* had a November as full as this one. Do you guys ever see months as colours? My November is appeared a deep, dark, almost black purple. It looks like a very heavy, melodramatic storm cloud that isn’t going to break until December 1st. November is usually a sort of medium level dusty blue. The change unnerves me a bit.

But, d’y’know what? Yes, I am worried. But, I also know that everything will be nowhere near as bad as I imagine. I’m worried I’ll forgot about tomorrow’s Kick Off party, but I’m not going to. I’m worried I won’t have time to write, but I know I will make time. And I know that within a week of November, that storm cloud is going to lighten and shift because it’s not as bad as it looks from a week ahead. Once I start writing, everything will be fine.

However, right now, we’re in The Week Before. And it’s okay to be freaked out in The Week Before. That’s what it’s there for. Because all that pent up nervousness will explode in the first few days of NaNo, giving you a great head-start for the month.

So, how are you all feeling? Nervous? Scared? Kinda alright? Calm and relaxed? Eyeing up those distant hills and seriously considering running towards them, your arms flailing madly?

Are you ready to write?

07 : 02 : 53 : 45

07 days, 02 hours, 53 minutes and 45 seconds until the world ends NaNoWriMo 2012 starts.

Can you feel the clock ticking?

(P.S. Sorry about the gap in posts! It’s a combined excuse of a dodgy Internet connection and a trip home, which never involves large amounts of time online.)

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