A couple years back somebody over on NaNo’ asked me how I manage to meet my word goal of 50,000 every November without falling behind in school. At the time I felt almost sorry to tell them that I was home schooled and living on the side of a mountain in a remote town of South Asia. No one was around to bother me and I wasn’t going to school (granted, Woodstock was next door but as someone from a family of prols we couldn’t afford to attend) so the answer was simple. I was able to meet my word goal every year because I had literally nothing else to do. I would go well past my goal each year, spending every waking moment channeling Alexander Hamilton’s fiery will to write.
I moved back to America soon afterward and am now in my second year of public high school. I think I’m finally ready to give a helpful answer to that question.
MAKING WINNING EASY (the do’s)
- I’m going to say this and you’re going to hate it, but do your schoolwork first. Homework, projects and studying should not be put off until the last moment. Not only will it stress you out to have lowering grades and work constantly hovering over your head, but it’s just better for you all around if you get that pesky school stuff out of the way first. Responsibility sucks and so does school 95% of the time, but it’ll keep you, your teachers and your parents happy. Even more so if your parents are the type that like to take your electronics (AKA: your NaNo’) when your grades drop.
- Write whenever you have the time. Twenty spare minutes until you need to go to school? Write. Sitting around the house for forty minutes until you promised someone you’d hang out? Write. Need to take a shower but someone else is in there? Write.
- Keep a little notebook that you can jot ideas in whenever you’re unable to write. You’d be amazed at how many of those ideas will be forgotten as soon as you get time to write.
- Write wherever. Those 50,000 words don’t care where you are, they still need you. I’ve written in the car, on the train, in school, at my dad’s college, in cafes, at my grandma’s house, on a four-day-long slumber party and the list goes on. Laptops are portable computers for a reason. Can’t bring your laptop to school, or only have an ancient desktop computer that sits in your dad’s office? There are school computers. Make sure your book is backed up somewhere like Google Drive so you can write from wherever by simply signing in to your Google. (Also, make sure to sign back out when you’re done! The world is full of snoops.) I had a graphic design class last year that gave me a lot of free time, so I would start writing once I was done with my current project.
- Stay caffeinated. Don’t mix Redbull with coffee or anything crazy like that, but if you seriously don’t have time to write until late at night, try to keep yourself awake enough to write coherent sentences. I can always go back through my writing and tell when I wrote it. 2:00 PM: “The dog shook its fur free, slinging water all over the kitchen.” 2:00 AM: “Teh ogd slkunged water from its fur all over theh kitchen getting everyhtgin wet. Bad dog.”
- Word sprints. They’re the cheer leaders to your novel, motivating you to keep going. On the NaNo’ website hover over ‘My NaNoWriMo’ and click ‘My Word Sprints’ from the drop down menu. From there you can set a timer and try to write as much as you can before it goes off. There’s even a ‘Dare Me’ button beneath the timer that will throw random ideas at you.
- Attend a local Write In. (Regions < Come Write In) If you can’t attend a Write In, read the pep talks NaNo’ sends you. There’s also public chat rooms on NaNo’ where you can talk with other writers from your region. If you aren’t up to that or can’t find one, the forums are your best friend. The forums have everything from prompts to character games to how exactly a character can be killed off with a bread tie. Every question you will ever have can be answered by someone in the forums, so don’t be afraid to post there! The NaNo’ website is a great source of inspiration. Even if you’re the most introverted hermit in the world, talking with other authors about writing can do you a world of good.
WHERE WINNING GETS HARD (the don’ts)
- NaNoWriMo is basically a 30-day case of verbal diarrhea. Words are spewed out in gross amounts until your story is lost somewhere in between. While descriptions are great, try to keep them to an amount that won’t make readers skip a few lines. For instance, if a character walks into a beautiful meadow, don’t describe the meadow in intense detail unless it is vital to the plot in some way. If a character picks up a sword that’s significant to them (it was passed down to them by their ancestors, they activated its magical energy, they pulled it out of a stone, etc) then take the time to describe it. This sword is important to the character or the plot somehow so the readers should have a solid image in their heads. But if it’s just some random weapon the character picks up to defend themselves, it isn’t necessary to write a sonnet about it. Yes, chucking an entire dictionary at your characters will help you meet your word goal. But it will also give them a concussion and turn your story into the modern rendition of Les Misérables. Don’t abuse the power of word sprints. Please, your readers are begging you.
- Remember how I said that caffeine is great for late night noveling? Well, that’s true. However caffeine can quickly be used against you if you have school or work the next morning. Don’t overdo it. Coffee, tea and whatever else is awesome as long as you’re still getting a healthy amount of sleep so you can actually focus in school and don’t end up exhausted with a headache by 12:00 PM. The more efficiently you get your work done the more efficiently you can write. It’s a vicious circle of: “Who’s more bitter? Me or coffee?”
- Writing whenever and wherever is great, but remember that other people exist and have feelings. It’s true that I had to write 1,667 words everyday during a four-day sleepover with my friend. However, I wasn’t ignoring her. She understood how much NaNo’ meant to me so we scheduled times to do this. While she straightened her hair and listened to music, I wrote. While she took a shower, I wrote. While she worked on schoolwork and studied, I wrote. I never wrote while we were talking or watching movies together. My characters are very important to me but my friends are even more important, because friends are real people who notice if they’re being neglected. Basically don’t be a butt hole hipster by pulling out your laptop and writing at inappropriate times.
- Keeping a little idea notebook is awesome, but don’t leave it on a train. I left mine on a train two years ago and sometimes when I’m laying in bed trying to fall asleep I still wonder if anyone read it. My opening page said “Kill the cute one” in red ink so I’m honestly hoping no one got the wrong idea. Just a tip for you.
That’s all for now! I may update this later, but until then I hope this comes in handy to all of the students out there participating in NaNo’!