Ask Dayton 83 – NaNoWriMo again? Didn’t we do that last year?
NaNoWriMo is coming in November and, I am planning to take on the challenge once again and I’m trying to be much more organized about it. I’ve started writing my outline. Are there any other resources I should have available? How do you prepare to write a book? Can you provide any useful advice to help us get ready to take on this challenge?
My first thought upon receiving this week’s question was, “Hey! Didn’t we do this last year?” A little digging turned up this nugget of alleged advice: Ask Dayton #50: “NaNoWriMo and me wanna go home,” which we did in fact do just about a year ago.
However, it was pointed out to me that my response to the previous question dealt more with how to keep going all through the month of November, once the “competition” already was underway, rather than asking for any advice I might have about gearing up for NaNoWriMo before it even gets here. Fair enough.
For those of you who still don’t know what the fuss is all about, the simple story is that the “National Novel Writing Month” craze, or “NaNoWriMo” as the cool kids call it, is a writing challenge in which hardy souls attempt to spend the month of November writing 50,000 words, which is in the ball park for a short novel, or a decent chunk of a longer work.
Now, before we get started, I should point out that my stance on NaNoWriMo hasn’t changed, particularly with respect to the notion that November is the most awesome month ever for this sort of self-indulgent horseshit. Quoting myself from last year’s dig on this topic:
“Why November? Good question. It’s right in the middle of gearing up for holiday season, with kids getting ready to be out of school for Thanksgiving and families and friends criss-crossing the country to sleep on shitty fold-out couches or inflatable mattresses. Meanwhile, someone with no life or job or other responsibilities decided November was the perfect month for everyone to forsake everything in the whole damned world, in order to take a stab at writing at least a significant portion of the Next Great American Novel. What. The fuck. Ever.”
So, as you can probably guess, this episode of “Ask Dayton” is most definitely not brought to you by the good people at National Novel Writing Month.
Also, while this isn’t my sort of thing, I begrudge no one who wants to try this for themselves. Maybe you’re a salty vet, and have been laughing in NaNoWriMo’s face every year as you cruise along, slinging words at warp speed. Or, perhaps you’re a first-timer, wading into the fray to see if you can meet the challenge. Whatever your story, more power and best of luck to you.
With respect to whatever preparatory steps you should be taking as we careen headlong toward the 1st of November, I suppose a big one is: Do you know what you’re going to be writing? I don’t mean this in the “Holy Fuck! I need a novel idea!” sense, though I suppose there could be those among us who are contemplating that very thought. Some people might see that as a challenge in and of itself: Going in hot on the first day, and just seeing what sort of creative juices get to flowing as they pound keys or scribble furiously.
The more likely scenario is that most NaNoWriMo participants have some notion of what it is they’ll be writing. Maybe they’ve got an outline or synopsis, or some bullet points they scratched out on a napkin or tapped into that Notes app on their phone. Regardless of their chosen method, they’ve got something resembling a plan of attack. Personally, I’m a big fan of outlines; not necessarily the long, complicated ones, but at least some kind of road map that gives me a broad strokes view of what it is I’ll be writing. Shit may change midstream because I decide something sucks or something else works better, but at least I know the general route from beginning to end. Your mileage may vary.
The other big thing you need to worry about is your schedule for the month. All that shit I was saying about holidays and kids out of school and sleeping on shitty couches and guest beds, blah blah blah? It all has the potential to take a big ol’ wet bite out of your writing calendar’s ass, so be prepared. Plan and take into account potential interruptions to your writing time. All that stuff I said last year about word counts, consistency, and keeping simple and steady to win the race, etc.? It all still applies.
Also, think about some way to hold yourself accountable. I don’t mean punishing yourself if you miss a day’s writing quota or—worse yet—blowing the whole damned thing. If you’re a blogger, announce to your readers that you’re setting off on this crazy quest, and set up a counter with your in-progress word count and provide regular blog updates to your readers on how you’re doing. Or use your Twitter or Facebook status updates to offer up the same kind of info. For G&T Show listeners, maybe a NaNoWriMo message topic could be started on the forums, and people can update the gang there. Friends and followers can offer encouragement and support.
Now, if you want to hold yourself to the fire and exact self-inflicted punishments when you’re falling short of your personal goals, feel free to penalize yourself by sending $20 for each day’s shortfall to my PayPal account.
And with that? Good luck, NaNoWriMo-ers! I look forward to hearing how folks did.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.