Ah, November. It’s that month where all your writing friends disappear in a puff of smoke and don’t resurface until 30 days have passed. Every year I warn my family that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and every year they ask if that means they won’t be seeing me. My answer is, “Of course you’ll see me. I’ll just be over there writing.” After all, it’s necessary if I want to write a romance novel in 30 days.
According to the NaNoWriMo rules and website, you’re a winner if you verify a document containing at least 50,000 words by the last day of November. (That’s 50,000 new words, by the way, and not all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy over and over.)
You can do this thing!
That word count breaks down to 1,667 words per day. It’s not that hard, really. Hopefully these tips will make November work for you (instead of the other way around).
Don’t Leave all the Planning Until November 1
This step is critical, says the writer who’s changed direction at the last moment more than once. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, you still need to have an idea of the story you want to tell before November rolls around.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery
It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to write a 50,000-word romance novel. Ready, set, GO.” As creators, we have to have the following basics in mind before we start a staring showdown with our empty page:
- The characters. At the very least you need an idea of your MMC and MFC (main male character, main female character), as well as their goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC).
- The plot. Even as an avowed pantser who swears up and down how much she hates plotting, I sit down on November 1 having visualized both opening and final scenes. These are allowed to change as the novel progresses, but if I don’t go into the month with a firm start and end point, I’ll flail endlessly.
- A set of tools to keep you on track. Some writers use beat sheets. Others rely solely on the word count graphs on the NaNo author dashboard. Whatever motivates you to keep going, make sure to have it at hand and know how to use it.
Pro tip: For those of you who like mathematics, GMC (or goal, motivation, conflict) can be reduced to a simple equation of time where G=future, M=past, and C=present. You’re welcome.
Set Aside Dedicated Time for Your Writing
The only way I’ve ever been able to get my word count done on a daily basis is to treat NaNoWriMo like a job. For me, that means setting the alarm, getting ready for work, and spending the allotted amount of time on writing. If I meet my word count early, great! I can either applaud myself or keep going. Most often, I opt to keep going if it’s one of those days where the words are flowing. Otherwise, I’ll call it good.
This means uninterrupted writing time. I turn off the ringer on my phone, keep my browser and social media sites closed. Don’t check email, don’t lie and tell myself I’ll be done checking Twitter in three minutes. The biggest thing that keeps me from word count is the wealth of distraction available online. So I simply don’t go there.
DO account for the Thanksgiving holiday, if you’re prone to celebration. Personally, I get up earlier that day and write. Other people skip writing that day entirely. Only you’ll know what’s right for your situation.
Make use of time, let not advantage slip. ~ William Shakespeare
If you want to write a romance novel this November and survive NaNoWriMo, then allotting time is essential.
Don’t Go Back and Edit
I repeat: do not go back and edit. The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, I thought this was the most ridiculous advice I could have been given. Why not edit? It helps, right? Yes and no. What I’ve found over the years is that going back and editing during this 30-day period is the most insidious form of procrastination in existence. It’s bad because it masquerades as something valid and necessary. Who wouldn’t want to refine their words? I’m a compulsive editor. It makes the writing better.
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. ~ John Quincy Adams
December is for editing. November is for banging out (not just banging, although we are talking writing romance novels here) 50,000+ words. If we keep going back and fiddling with what we’ve already written, forward progress will slow significantly. On the other hand, if we forge bravely ahead, no holds barred and damn the torpedoes, we’ll have 50,000 words to work with when the month is over. Don’t succumb to temptation. Don’t go over to the dark side. Leave the editing for later.
Set Achievable Wellness Goals
This one is important. Writing 1,667 words a day doesn’t always equate to twelve hours locked in a cell with nothing but the glowing light from a keyboard and some Cheez-Its. Some people write quickly, others write slowly. Some (like me) write quickly some days and slowly other days.
Remember to be kind to your mind and body both. Drink plenty of water. Get up and stretch. Go for a walk. Head to your favorite coffee place and treat yourself.
To keep the body in good health is a duty … otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ~ Buddha
You’re working hard—don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your back, butt, hips, and sacrum will thank you for not sitting uncomfortably for hours at a stretch.
Line up Buddies to Help You Celebrate
In addition to powering through 50,000 words in a month, NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to make friends. You can use the buddies feature on the NaNoWriMo website, or surround yourself with critique partners or beta readers.
Sharing and experiencing another person’s joy is what true friendship is all about. ~ Amy E. Dean
In any event, you’ll probably benefit from having a reliable cheerleading squad, a set of shoulders to cry on, and someone to help you celebrate every day’s victory.
Get Ready to Write a Romance Novel
There are many articles out there on how to write a romance novel, and many more on how to get through NaNoWriMo with your dignity intact and a story draft in hand. Googling “surviving nanowrimo” turned up 389,000 results for me. The truth is that everyone’s NaNoWriMo experience will be different. The best way to know what works for you is to go through the process. Pay no competitive attention to the NaNo overachievers (the ones who set and reach goals of two, three or four times the minimum word count). Find your pace, find your groove.
If all else fails and you’re staring down a blank page on November 1, just close your eyes, visualize your characters, and start writing as they start talking. Do that every day, and you’ll have a first draft by the end of the month.
Feature image by Lum3n.com from Pexels.