Diary of a NaNoWriMo newbie – Part 1

It’s NaNoWriMo eve, and I feel a strange sense of calm before the storm. I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a red hot go. That is, to pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. A novel in a month. Almost 2,000 words every day in November. Here’s a little window into the process, if you’re thinking of joining:

Signing up

The first step in committing to NaNo is signing up (which you can do here – it’s (almost) not too late!). Then it’s time to navigate the forums. The event is a social one, in a virtual kind of way, yet all the ‘buddy’ making and ‘newbie’ meeting (so much terminology!) spills over IRL, with meet-ups and write-ins to attend, should you feel inclined. I sign up, full of trepidation on whether I can really do this. I discover another NaNo term is ‘winning’, which actually just means completing. Apparently if you reach the 50,000 word goal, you have ‘won’! Although the only pressure to do so is your own.

Finding your tribe

A peruse of the forums offers a fascinating insight into the world of writerly types. There are a lot of self-confessed introverts (no surprises there), participants racked with self-doubt, many gamers and many more with ย ‘fur-babies’. I zero in on the Mainstream board where my story belongs, and so do I it seems, catless and all. In a world of dystopian this and paranormal that, I’m feeling slightly off-trend and commercial with my ‘real life’ fiction idea, but nevertheless find some like-minded souls. The forums serve to help you find your tribe, so you can send each other words of encouragement, tips, advice and also keep each other spurred on. I discover a diverse scattering of people whose story synopses resonate, and enter the encouraging world of NaNo buddies.

How to prepare

After signing up, buddying up and perhaps engaging in a bit of supportive emailing with other WriMos (I’ve found this interaction immensely helpful already!), preparation can be as little or as much as you think you need to feel ready for NaNo. I write out descriptions of settings, characters and plot, a brief overview of the story and a longer, more detailed one. I then try to break down the story idea into chapters, with a rundown of what will happen in each. My idea is something I’ve played around with for a while – a fictional account of, you guessed it, a girl in expat-land in southeast Asia. While I’m using some settings and scenarios based on my real life experiences, it’s going to be fictional rather than a memoir.

Resources

Another part of preparation is seeking tips from writers who have successfully tackled NaNo before. I’ve been trying to soak up as much advice as possible, and there’s a wealth of NaNo related reading out there. If you are doing NaNo or contemplating it, here are a few helpful posts in getting started:

10 NaNoWriMo tips

10 tips to help you make it through NaNoWriMo

5 resources to help you plan your NaNoWriMo novel

How to write a novel

It’s ok to wing it

A NaNo term flying around the forum boards and social media is ‘pantsers’. Pantsers are those who don’t feel inclined to come up with characters, settings and plots beforehand, and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, letting their story organically unfold. I like this concept, but I’m going with a happy medium – a rough outline and chapter breakdown, but much leeway to let my story veer in various ways as NaNo gets underway. Which is tomorrow! Ok, maybe not feeling so calm now…

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Best of luck if you are,and if you’re contemplating joining, why not take the plunge?!ย