The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo…From NaNo Newbies!

“The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on.”

I’m really excited about this post! The first reason is because I get to share my experience of preparing for NaNoWriMo as a complete newbie. (NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month – it’s the task of writing 50,000 words on a novel throughout the month of November). The second reason is that I get to share the whole experience with fellow writer and friend, Maria. Maria started her writing journey 15 years ago, developing an incredible writing talent over that time. In her first year and a half of writing, she’d written, edited and published 3 books! She’s definitely an inspiration of mine, especially seeing as I’ve not finished a book yet. My time will come, hopefully after NaNoWriMo! Which brings me nicely onto what we hope to bring to you with this post.

How To Plan For NaNoWriMo

Both Maria and myself are new to NaNoWriMo this year, and we’ve both been hard at work planning the novels we’ll be working on throughout November. We decided to team up and create a beginner’s guide to NaNoWriMo for anyone thinking about taking part. We’ve taken a few topics each and explained how and why these methods of preparation have been so important and crucial to a successful novel plan.

Maria: Reading and researching different books/authors/genres.

I actually hadn’t been so big on reading until I received ‘The Secret Circle, Part One and Two’ for Christmas a few years back. I devoured the first in one sitting, grabbing the second one the next day. As a few people know, I am Danish and live in Denmark, where they didn’t have a printed copy of the last books in the series. I bought them online as e-books, reading through the series in a week and I LOVED it! Thus began my search for more authors like her, and inspirational people.

Every time you start a piece of work, it’s important to research books and authors in the same genre as the ones you want to write. Read some of their work and learn from that. Look into blogs and descriptive writing advice – it can prove to make a huge difference.

Em: Character profiles and their importance.

For the planning stage of my NaNoWriMo novel, I’ve gotten to know my characters inside out. They kind of feel like my own friends now in a way! I’ve created detailed character profiles for each significant character in my novel, not just because it’s fun to do, but because later down the line, it’s going to help me a hell of a lot.

Imagine not knowing how your character feels after some bad news. What’s their sense of humour like? What do they order each time they walk into a restaurant? It may seem strange, but creating basic profiles of your characters can really make them come alive in your mind. It’s perfectly fine to keep things basic if you think that’s okay, making sure you have their physical appearance noted down. However, it can be much more rewarding if you dig a little deeper, giving more information about their history, their relationships with others and how they react to different feelings or emotions.

nanowrimo-for-beginners-laptop

Maria: Mood boards and imagery.

As I started my journey on Instagram, I quickly came by these amazing photos (mood boards) and I slowly started playing with the idea as well. It’s an incredible way of bringing the stories to life, and it is a lot of fun.

I love to challenge myself, so I go on Pinterest (which I love) and search for fantasy and magical pictures. Throughout my writing journey, I challenge myself to choose a photo, and then describe what I see in that picture. I then send that description to a friend and ask what they see – then I send the photo to them and see if everything adds up!

And with the mood boards, you will have a lot of fun and your followers will love it as well. I actually think I’m addicted to making these now! 🙂

Em: Time schedule and NaNo notebooks.

The whole preparation for NaNoWriMo has taken up a lot of my time, (I’m being honest!) and I really don’t think I’d succeed without all the extra work I’ve put in. Creating a time schedule is really handy. I’m not going to lie, I’ve not always stuck to this schedule completely, but it’s given me an idea of aiming for a particular goal, just like I’ll be doing with my word count in November. It’s worth trying out!

I’ve also made a fancy notebook for my planning, including a word count planner, my character information as well as which chapter outlines I’ll be working on each day. I’ve very nearly stuck to this too… 😅 Honestly though, doing this has made me feel so much more organised. I couldn’t have coped without it.

Maria: Organising ideas, plot and chapter outlines.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anybody dreaming of becoming a writer: WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN! Every time you get a line or a thought in your mind, write it down. If it slips, it’s forever lost.

I have currently written three novels and working on my fourth for NaNo month but besides that, I think I might have seven or eight book ideas waiting down the line. It is so important to type or write down anything your mind comes up with.

A good way to organise these ideas is to use Scrivener, a wonderful writing program where you can jump between files in one screen which makes everything so easy. I categorise all my notes, outlining all of the books I’m working on, and I have created a “Cheat Sheet”. Whenever I am missing just the right word for a description, I jump to that, creating a more descriptive part of my story, painting a better picture. I have a lot of advice on this on my blog.

Then, when you have figured out the idea, you plan the book out roughly in your mind. What I do then is create an outline, writing everything down that I want to happen in the book, taking one chapter at a time; writing about what will happen and what plot twists will occur.

When I started the Metanoia Phases, I outlined everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! I started with the characters, what their names were, what they looked like, what their personality was like and what abilities they had in this fantasy telling. Then, I outlined the world, writing everything significant about it; seasons, landmarks, countries, the works. The list goes on! Play with this and take your time, and you will have an incredible foundation for your book.

nanowrimo-for-beginners-notebook

Getting through the 30 days!

Em: Think of the outcome.

Oh my goodness, knowing that by the end of November I’ll have an almost finished novel on my hands (or my laptop rather) is so overwhelming. I’ll not believe it until I can actually see that word count! If you’re ever thinking you can’t do it, think of the outcome and what you hope to achieve. It’ll help you through!

Even better than that – think further! Think about your finished novel. Think about what your hopes and dreams are for it in the next few years. Think about getting it published! I don’t know about you, but this is all the motivation I need to keep at it and work towards my writing goals every day.

Maria: Daily word counts.

In Nanowrimo, I think it’s important to plan out your time, and remember to keep comfortable with this. If you are new to the writing game, 50,000 words is overwhelming, but if you are a badass, it will be easy if you plan it out well! I have divided the days with the count of 50,000 minus one day in each weekend to have a free day, along with Thanksgiving, and that adds up to 25 days of writing 2000 words per day.

I have worked with daily word counts for over a year now and I try to make regular sprints, testing myself and my ability to write, and write faster! In the beginning of this year, I created a deadline for my third novel. I had to write the entire book in roughly 4 months, give or take, to have the time to edit and publish everything. I was working a full time job as well, so had to plan my time by these daily word counts.

Start it slow by writing 200 words per day; that’s an easy task, even with a full time job. If that seems easy, add it up to 500, 1000 and 1500 if you feel ready for that. I worked like crazy and accomplished the deadline, but it was hard. However, hard work pays off. I enjoy my daily word counts and get an uplifting sensation reaching these counts.

If you make a deadline and you don’t succeed with your daily count, make a goal of the entirety of the words you want to have written by the end of the week, creating weekly word counts. That way, if you don’t reach the goal of the day, you can always try to keep up the next day. Play with it, and test yourself!

Em: Comforts.

The creators of NaNoWriMo didn’t come up with the idea because they wanted you to struggle and get stressed. They created it so we can push ourselves to become the greatest writers we can be! To challenge ourselves with something that’s quite daunting, yet achievable with the right attitude. However, we can’t write, write, write all day. We need some things to make the workload seem a little lighter.

Make sure that while you’re writing that 50k, you stay comfortable, by any means necessary. Surround yourself with all the things you like; photographs of your loved ones, easy access to tea and coffee, (or hot chocolate in my case) keep your dog’s bed close by (I wish) or even fill your space with motivational quotes. Getting through November without a scratch is also as important as writing!

nanowrimo-for-beginners-coffee

Q&A

Why are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year?

Maria: To test my ability to write so much in a month and to accomplish the task of writing almost an entire novel in a month.

Em: To really push myself to the limit and smash a word count I never thought I’d see in a million years. Also, to feel good about achieving something so big!

What is your NaNo novel about?

Maria: It’s about a family moving into a new house. Two brothers discover a hidden room behind a furness. Inside is a hidden box with scary things inside; once they open this box, strange things start to happen, and their lives are forever changed.

Em: My story follows my protagonist as she gets to know someone with a twisted secret. She gets in too deep and has to make a possibly life changing decision. Does she follow her head or her heart?

How are you preparing?

Maria: I’m outlining the story, getting everything ready to type the entire story in the month of NaNo. I’m also researching and planning out.

Em: I’m trying my hardest to work on my chapter plans every day until November 1st. (Easier said than done!) I’ve got some great characters ready to go!

Who is your main character and what’s their story?

Maria: The main character’s name is Corey. He is a well brought up young boy, an older brother and friend. He plans to go to college and marry his high school sweetheart. He has a mysterious past.

Em: My MC is Hattie. Her long term relationship has just ended and she is not coping at all well. She seeks the help from an unlikely character, perhaps trusting a little too much.

What will get you through 30 days of writing?

Maria: Motivational music, buckets of coffee and planning. I have planned my life around attempting NaNoWriMo this year and if I follow my plan, I will succeed.

Em: Absolutely no idea. Probably looking at cacti or knowing I’ve reached my daily chapter plans and word counts.

Do you think you’ll reach 50,000 words?

Maria: Yes, definitely.

Em: Be positive…of course! 🙂

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