My Nanowrimo musings

Nanowrimo 2011 So it's Nanowrimo time of year again... to those uninitiated people, Nano stands for National Novel Writing Month, where crazed writers across the world pledge to write the first draft of a novel during the month of November. The aim is to write 50,000 words, which equates to roughly 1667 words per day. It doesn't divide exactly, which kinda bugs me.

I'm not doing Nano this year, because I'm too busy finishing off my Screenwriting course, but last year I did. And I won!*

Here's my super snazzy graph logging my progress.

National Novel Writing Month

Despite it being a bit mental, I really really enjoyed it. I'm never going to be one of those people that runs marathons or climbs mountains, but this felt like an equivalent 'challenge' that I could do. I even finished a few days early, writing 4000 words on the last day, so excited was I to be on the home stretch.

So here are my top tips for anyone suffering this year:

1) Tell everyone you know This basically ensures public humiliation if you fail, which is a great motivator. If you're on Twitter, tweet about it incessantly to remind everyone what you're up to. It may bore them, but it means public pressure pressure pressure, which is what you need!

2) Cheat The 'rules' state that you must start a new project on 1 November. You're not meant to work on something that already exists. F*** that. Work on whatever you like. I used my Nano time to finish off a novel I'd started a year before but for various reasons had deserted during the tricky middle section. I doubt I would have finished that novel for at least another year if it hadn't been for Nano - but I managed to get to the end, meaning I had a shitty first draft to send to my agent. The point of Nano is to galvanise you to write every day, so I think it's perfectly acceptable to write what you like. (I've never much cared for rules anyway.)

3) Check out of life The unexpected side effect of Nano, I found, was that it was a BRILLIANT excuse to forgo any kind of social life for an entire month, which was kind of bliss. Now, I love my busy and hectic life, and I know it's a high-class problem (as my dad would say) but it can get a bit tiring - I'm often out four nights a week seeing friends and going to press events. Nano was a wonderful excuse to say no to everything. It also meant I had to tell more people what I was up to, which helped with point number 1 above.

4) Don't fall behind You don't have to write 1667 words a day. You can write more, buying you some leeway the next day, or less, meaning you have a deficit to make up. I tried really hard to write at least 1667 words per day. Sometimes I wrote more, but only a few times less. I fell behind on a couple of days, and it was frustrating having to play catch up when I next sat down. It's so much easier to keep on top of it if you don't let yourself fall behind, ever. No excuses. It doesn't matter how tired you are, you can bash out 1667 words. I even used Write or Die a few times, which was very silly but fun.

5) Get a Nano buddy I had a few - my friend Susie, another writer Emily Gale and a screenwriter buddy Abby - and we moaned and supported each other throughout. It really helped. And of course, Twitter is rammed full of Nanoers you can chat to, using the #nanowrimo hashtag.

6) Percy Pigs Or Red Bull. Or Haribo. Or Espresso Martinis. Or whatever it is that keeps you awake when you want nothing more than a nap on your keyboard. My diet was shocking throughout Nano - I stocked up on microwave meals at the beginning of the week and duly munched through one per night. Yes it's unhealthy. But it's only a month. You can go on a diet/exercise regime in December, when you emerge bleary eyed, incoherent yet triumphant from your den of writerly pain.

7) Reward Hmm. I'm a big believer in rewarding myself. I might take this a little too far, if I'm entirely honest - it's not unheard of me to reward myself because I managed to get up on time that day - but I think Nano definitely warrants a big fat treat if you succeed. I'd actually bought myself a ridiculously expensive Mulberry handbag before Nano started, so I vowed to myself, and several of my supporters, that if I didn't finish Nano, I'd sell it on eBay. That was probably one of my major motivators, if I'm honest!

Like I said, I really enjoyed doing Nano and am a bit sad that I'm not participating this year. I think it actually might get a bit addictive - I've got a few writer friends (I'm looking at you Keris Stainton and Luisa Plaja) who I know have done it many years in a row.

It's a brilliant initiative. Good luck to all you crazy writer bees - I look forward to seeing you in 2013!

*NB: you don't win anything. Except for the virtual badge above, and a printable certificate. Much like everything in the publishing industry, material reward is unconnected to effort...