It's almost that time again, can you believe it? NaNoWriMo starts November first. And after taking last year off, I've decided I have a goal I want to meet, and NaNo is going to help me do it. I'm just getting started with my prepping (well, sort of), so I thought I'd share my process.
Here's what I personally need in order to have a successful NaNoWriMo experience:
- A Notebook (I like Mead 5-star college ruled, because I'm particular like that.)
- SCRIVENER (They have a 30 day free trial! Perfect for NaNo.)
- Write Or Die (I have the desktop edition, but you can also use it for free online.)
- A set block of writing time each day.
And of course, none of this is even remotely helpful without an idea. Which I have.
So, how do I use these things? I've found that NaNo only works for me when I know exactly what I'm writing. (And by "exactly" I mean, I know what my story is about, the basic plot, and usually the beginning and end - all of which may change once I actually start writing.)
I am not an outliner, but what I do is in the months leading up to NaNo, I fill a notebook with plot ideas, scene ideas, and character info. It's a lot of rambling, but it is SO helpful. And I find that handwriting this, rather than typing it, helps in a couple of ways. One, it feels very free. I'm just playing around. I'm not officially attempting to write a book, which is of course, scary, and difficult. Two, I find that when hand writing, I remember things better, and I tend to sort of ask and answer questions, which helps to flesh out my idea.
Once I've done that, if there's still space in that notebook, I write down a brief description of every scene I know is going to go into the book. If there's not room, I start with a brand new one, because brand new notebooks make me happy. I use this list as my jumping off point for NaNo. I find that if I have a chunk of things that I know I'm going to write, it feels much less scary getting started. Usually these scenes skip over many events I haven't figured out yet and sitting down to write them helps me figure out the rest. (Once I'm on a roll though, I try to save any pre-planned scenes for those days when I feel like I can't possibly write at all.) Also, I find it satisfying to open up that notebook each day and see whch scenes I've already written, and how far I've come. When I get new scene ideas I will also jot them down in the notebook just so that I have them and can cross them off when they're written.
And that means that yes, I'm one of those crazy people that sometimes writes out of order. This is where Scrivener comes in! With Scrivener I can organize as I go. I make each scene I write a separate file in Scrivener which makes dragging them around in index card mode (or just regular binder view) very simple. I also make notes on each scene in the "Documents Notes" section that let me know what information I haven't figured out yet, or what effect this scene has on what I've already written.
So how do I get those scenes written? I like Write Or Die. (Write Or Die is a writing app that you type in. It counts your words and prompts you with flashing colors and awful sounds, and even deleting your text if you're brave enough to use kamikaze, whenever you stop typing and start staring into space.) I usually set it at 40 minutes and 1000 words on "Normal". I find if I have a general idea of the scene I'm writing, I can keep writing all the way through, and often I will go over the 1k, or I will write more than one scene to reach that 1k with time to spare. When I'm less certain about what I'm writing, I'll do 500 words and 20-25 minutes. The prompting from Write Or Die is usually enough to kick me back into writing. I find that I can get more done by not stopping and trying to find the absolute perfect word. And a lot of times I discover that by having to write something, I end up figuring things out I would've spent hours pondering.
And that brings me to my final necessity. Time. I have to set up a specific time each day where I do this writing. I like first thing in the morning. I will sit down at the computer with my coffee, and my ideas fresh from sleep and just type those 1666 words until I'm done. I don't go over what I wrote the day before first, although usually I'll wake up with thoughts on what to do next fresh on my mind. And I find if I address those first, I'm more focused than if I've checked my email, and read blogs, and seen what's going on on twitter. I'm not normally this disciplined, but it's something about the idea that it's just for one month, that allows me to do this.
And that's my approach to NaNoWriMo. How do you NaNo? Do you find it easier to focus during that month than other times of the year?