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Writing, Among Other Things

Easy Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

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“At midnight on November 1, armed only with their wits, the vague outline of a story, and a ridiculous deadline, more than 250,000 people around the world will set out to become novelists.”

These are the opening lines from the official press release for NaNoWrimo 2011. For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is, it should suffice to say that NaNowrimo is about writing a 50,000 words novella in the 30 days of November. Every year since 1999, an increasing number of people have attempted this task, and many have failed. Let’s have a look at the numbers:

Year of event Participants Rate of Growth (%) Winners Rate of Growth (%) Success Rate (%)
1999 21  — 6  — 28.57
2000 140 566.67 29 383.33 20.71
2001 5000 3471.43 700 2313.79 14.00
2002 13500 170.00 2100 200.00 15.56
2003 25500 88.89 3500 66.67 13.73
2004 42000 64.71 6000 71.43 14.29
2005 59000 40.48 9769 62.82 16.56
2006 79813 35.28 12948 32.54 16.22
2007 101510 27.18 15333 18.42 15.10
2008 119301 17.53 21683 41.41 18.18
2009 167150 40.11 32178 48.40 19.25
2010 200150 19.74 37500 16.54 18.74

From the above table, it is clear that though the number of participants and the number of winners (those who are able to successfully write 50,000 words) has  increased continuously over the years, the success rate has remained low, hovering only around 20 %.

Everyone who participates in the event does so with the hope that he, or she, will come out as a winner. Yet,  most fail.

Here are a few things that I have observed during my participation in NaNoWriMo over the years that I am sure would be useful for anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year:

1.  Have a plan. Like all things in life, it is always a good  idea to have a plan before you start NaNoWriMo. You are allowed to work up a storyline for your novella before the months tarts. Make sure you use this opportunity. If you have a rough outline of the novella in your mind, it will be mush easier to type it out later. If you decide to “just go with the flow”  you can get stuck at a point where you have no idea  where you are headed to. Once you get stuck, the likelihood of your dropping out increases dramatically.

2. Friends and  Competition. These are two things in life that you just can’t escape, and it is good that you can’t. If you set out on a journey alone, you are likely to get bored. NaNoWriMo is no different. It is, in fact, one of those things where doing the itself is the reward of doing it. Sometimes that is just not enough.

If, however, you have a few buddies that are writing along with you, the journey will not get boring and the competition among you will spur you to go on, and come out as a winner.

3.  Write Everyday. Just like a bird makes a nest by collecting one twig at a time, you should write everyday to write your novella. You may fall behind some day and you may race ahead on others, but as long as you are writing every day, there is a great chance that you will be there at  the finish line.

Writing every day has two advantages. First, you don’t lose touch with your story, and your characters. As long as you are interested in them, the words will come. Secondly, the task of writing 50,000 words boils down to writing 1,667 words if you write everyday. While writing 50,000 words may look like a daunting task, 1,667 words shouldn’t be that hard, don’t you think?

4. Track your progress. As I argued in an earlier post, you can’t improve what you can’t measure, I would recommend tracking your progress with NaNoWriMo meticulously. Knowing how much you have achieved, and how  far you have to go can be a great aid in finishing a task. There are various tools available online (including the word count meters on the NaNoWriMo site itself) that you can use to track your progress. I have also  made a simple spreadsheet that you could download and use to track your progress.

5. Don’t Worry about how good or how bad your writing is turning out to be. Most novels are not written in a month. Some are even written over a period spanning several years. So, don’t try to churn a masterpiece in 30 days( If you can actually do it, don’t stop me from letting you do it), just write those 50,000 words. You will have ample time to correct your manuscript later.

6. Have Fun. If in the midst of all this, you stop having fun then you have failed already. There is no point in typing out a 50,000 novella in 30 days and not enjoying it. The point of NaNoWriMo is to boost your creativity, enhance your writing skills, and have fun – all at the same time. If any of  the three is missing, it is better to give up.

You don’t have to do all of the above things to win the NaNoWriMo, but you definitely have to do some of them to win it.

Have you done the NaNoWriMo  before? Are you doing it this year? Do you have any tips for NaNoWriMo that you would care to share?

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8 Comments

  1. Great advice. Good luck!

  2. Im in (hope so). see you there 😀 thank for the tips 😀

  3. @ganymeder Thanks. All the very best to you too. 🙂

    @David You are very welcome, and best of luck for NaNoWriMo.

  4. Nice,.. nice.. this tym dey vl have me.. in it 🙂

  5. very cool tips …these are ….interesting one…

  6. @Shivee Welcome to #NaNoWriMo, and best of luck!

    @Windsor I am glad you liked them!

  7. I’ve done NaNo every year for the past ten (I think–it may be nine) years. As a pantser, I agree with everything here except for point 1. If you get stuck, just keep writing. It doesn’t matter if its drivel–this is your first draft. Most people get stuck (outline or not) because they slow down and let their inner editor take over.

    2000 words per day, 6 days per week will get you to your goal.

  8. @Lauren Best of luck for NaNoWriMo 2012! 🙂

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