October is finally here! For many readers of my blog, it means fall and that Halloween is around the corner. For me and others in my country, it’s time to fill up on a year’s worth of sweets during Navaratri (translation: nine nights) and buy a ton of new stuff (thanks to Amazon, Flipkart and what not). But for several writers across the world, it means that the madness of NaNoWriMo is that much closer.
I’ve done NaNo twice before, but succeeded only once. I also don’t have any published work in my writing résumé, so if you’re thinking that I’ve no business giving out advice, you’re probably right. I’m also not doing this because that’s what most writing blogs are doing right now. This series of posts is as much for me as it is for my readers. I want it to chronicle my preparation and if others do benefit from this, nothing would give me more joy.
I’m going to go ahead assuming you know what NaNoWriMo is about and have already signed up for it. If it’s your first time, there’s probably a lot of excitement mixed with a little trepidation. I remember feeling the same way when I was a newbie. NaNoWriMo is one of those experiences that change you as a writer, if it hasn’t already. It is fun, liberating and – best of all – you have a lot of company. This time around, there are a few changes. The badges are different, you can choose to add 50k to your WIP and call yourself a ‘Rebel’, and so forth. Today I’ll be focusing on the one thing you absolutely need to remember during the entire NaNoWriMo journey, which is –
Yep, I know it sounds easy, perhaps even stupid at first glance. But I’m sure the veterans will agree with me. NaNoWriMo pushes you to the very limit of your energy, especially if you’re juggling a day job/studies with your writing. October brings with it a slew of all-important questions like how much outlining do I need to do, what is the average amount of caffeine consumed by successful Wrimos, where can I find the perfect spot to lure my muse in, how am I ever going to make time to finish a book in a month – you get it, right? As November progresses, you may find yourself falling behind the word count, losing interest in your story or just feeling lazy. You’re human, after all, and these things are bound to happen.
The good news is that it’s all fixable, even when things look really hopeless. C’mon, you’ve probably read tons of books where that happened, so just believe your favourite authors for once. The first step in finding the solution to all these problems/questions is not to panic. 50k in 30 days is totally possible, and it’s been proven time and again by countless people just like you. So, if you ever find yourself losing heart at any stage of the way, remember the Golden Rule – Don’t Panic.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to give you a small assignment for the weekend (which I’ll be doing too). It’s easy to talk about a lot of things you should/shouldn’t or can/cannot do in NaNoWriMo, but you probably want some concrete, doable things in your prep for November. The actual first step, according to me at least, would be to make time in order to fit NaNoWriMo into your busy schedule. I’ve not done this before, so I know exactly how helpful it will be. I’ve lost out before because I didn’t have a plan in place. I was reading No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo) yesterday and found similar advice, so I’m going to take that as a sign that I’m right and begin.
For this assignment you will need a calendar/planner, a pen and notebook or just your phone/laptop, if that’s what you prefer. First, think about all the super-important commitments you have in November and fill them in the appropriate dates within the right time slots or just write them down in your notebook/planner. Next, figure out approximately how much time it takes you to write/type 1667 words. If you’ve kept in touch with your writing, you probably know it already. Otherwise, pick a prompt, starting writing, time yourself and get the data. Done?
Now, add half an hour to that figure (mine is an hour and a half, so my total is two hours) – that’s the worst-case scenario of the time you’ll need every day to win NaNoWriMo. The half hour buffer is the time that will inevitably get wasted either because your writing is interrupted or that which is spent staring at a blank screen or wall. What comes next is the hardest to do. Figure out how to reserve that much time for your writing on an average day. I’d advise you to break it down week-wise. For example, I’ll need 14 hours a week at most, so I’ll probably do one hour on all weekdays and the rest of the nine hours on weekends.
I’ll warn you in advance that carving out so much time will inevitably mean you need to cut down on certain things – maybe it’s the time you spend lounging on your sofa watching TV or a part of your daily recreational reading – but you can always get back to those in December, so choose wisely (and don’t complain – you signed up for this). I’m planning to steal those hours from my reading time, a part of my sleeping-like-a-log-after-college-because-I-paid-attention-in-class-for-six-hours time and social media time. Phew! That was some good work. Pat yourself on the back after successfully completing this and do one thing that makes you happy – go ahead, it’s still October!
I know, I know. You’re probably not going to stick to that timetable. So, put that up somewhere you can see it every day in October and November (alternately, use reminders on your phone or laptop). That way at least you’ll feel guilty if you don’t follow it. Writers are notorious for suffering from that emotion, so I assure you, you’ll definitely try your best to keep to the schedule.
That’s it for the week. I hope this helped in answering at least one of your questions (or, for veterans, approach NaNo ’16 better prepared). I definitely did benefit from this exercise, and since I’ve made it up and written about it on my blog, that’s enough motivation for me to follow it. If this is your first time and you have a billion other questions, let me know through the comments section. I promise to answer them all through replies or subsequent posts. Also, if your buddy list is looking a bit thin, you can add me to it if you’d like (Link here). Yeah, okay, my pen name isn’t awesome, but back then I was young and foolish.
Have you done NaNoWriMo before? What are your thoughts on this exercise? Do you have advice of your own that adds this post? Again, the comments section is open for all your thoughts. I hope you all enjoy your weekend! 🙂