Jade Young was kind enough to invite me to write a guest post on her blog, The Educated Writer. Hop on over to her site to check it out and read my post on “10 Ways to Meet Your Daily Word Count for NaNoWriMo.”
Please join me in welcoming guest blogger Janell E. Robisch to The Educated Writer! So, you’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. You’ve committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days. If writing every day is new to you, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed.
National Novel Writing Month, known among the in crowd as NaNoWriMo or just NaNo, starts November 1. Does writing a whole book (a.k.a. 50,000 words!) in thirty days sound tempting? Does it intrigue you?
Maybe instead it overwhelms you. You like the idea of completing a book that fast but are not sure how you can get everything else done and write 1667 words a day (1667 × 30 = 50,010 words).
Fortunately, although you need to write each of those fifty thousand words in November to officially win NaNoWriMo, there are plenty of things you can do now to get ready.
1. Sign Up
Go to nanowrimo.org and create your account. Then, create your novel (oh, if it were only that easy!). Fill in your title, synopsis, and genre and add a nice cover. This makes your project real, and you can jump right in on November 1 with actual words!
Your tribe is everything! Accountability is everything!
Fortunately, finding your NaNoWriMo tribe is just a few clicks away.
Ask your writing friends if they are doing NaNoWriMo. You’ll be surprised at how many of them have been doing it under your nose for years! Poll your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Get these authors’ NaNoWriMo usernames and use the search bar on your NaNoWriMo dashboard to find their pages. Then, simply click Add as Buddy. Don’t forget to ask them to add you as well. You might even find local groups to meet with in person for NaNoWriMo write-ins.
The NaNoWriMo website also has community forums—a built-in tribe—and there are also plenty of NaNoWriMo groups you can join on Facebook and thousands of people tweeting about NaNoWriMo. Try searching the hashtags #NaNoWriMo2017, #nanoprep, #preptober, or simply #NaNoWriMo.
3. Write an Outline and/or Pick a Story Structure
Preparation can make or break an author during NaNoWriMo. Sure, you’re high on excitement for the first week with a new book, new characters, and so many possibilities.
Then, week 2 comes, and you’re stuck in the murky, muddy middle. This is when your preparation comes into play and keeps you going.
Your outline can be as basic or as complicated as you want, but if you have a roadmap, signs telling you at each stage where you’re going next, your chances of giving up midmonth because you’ve run out of ideas decrease dramatically!
If you’re not a big outliner, I’ll let you in on a little secret. On October 31 of last year, I decided to do NaNoWriMo for the first time. No time to outline a whole novel, right?
My solution? I picked out a well-known story structure, the hero’s journey. It covered each of the steps I would need to get my hero from her ordinary world, through her journey, and back home again.
Once you’ve got an outline or story structure, open up Scrivener, Word, or your favorite word processor. Then, go ahead and enter your chapter or scene titles.
With the hero’s journey last year, I entered different scenes into Scrivener, such as “Call to Adventure” and “Refusal of the Call.”
Every day, when you sit down to write, your map and landmarks will already be there on the page, waiting to guide you.
As an added bonus, this makes it much easier to write out of order if that is how you roll. Write your ending first? Stuck in Act 2? Got a perfect idea for a foil at the beginning of Act 3? No problem. Skip ahead or go back. The map is still there, so you can fill in the rest later.
5. Build Your Characters
Use your favorite method to create some sheets or profiles for your main and secondary characters. Nail down their backgrounds and, most essentially, their motivations.
What do they want and what are they willing to do to get it? If you know the answer to this question, it will help you every time you get stuck wondering what happens next.
6. Build Your World
Don’t wait to name your characters, establish your settings, and draw your fantasy maps. Do it now, before NaNoWriMo. Again, the bigger the foundation you have in place under the water, the easier it will be to finish the tip of that iceberg.
7. Do Your Research
In the same vein, once you have an outline or structure in place and have ideas for your settings and characters, you’ll know what information you’re missing. So, do your research now and take notes instead of getting stuck down a research rabbit hole and falling behind on your word count in November.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo will make it easier for you to get those words in every day.
Do you prepare for NaNoWriMo or just jump in head first on November 1? If you plan, what are some of your favorite steps? Tell me in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.
In the last couple of months, Scrivener writing software has become an essential tool for me both for writing and business tasks. Literature and Latte, the makers of Scrivener, describe the software as “a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.” I have found it to be very helpful so far.
Some Reasons that I Love Scrivener
It has the most awesome free trial period ever. Scrivener’s 30-day trial period is unique in that the program code only counts a day used when you actually open the software. I knew within a few days of use that I wanted to buy the program. However, because I didn’t open it every day, it was probably two months before I actually bought it. I couldn’t resist taking advantage of this weekend’s Black Friday sale (if you read this right away, you might still have time to catch it!)
I can store all of my writing “stuff” in one place for each project. For my novel, this includes my outline, the actual manuscript, character sheets, photos of my characters (pulled from lookalikes on the Internet), setting sheets (again, including pictures), and other research, whether in the form of notes or full pages from the Web.
It has various ways to organize and look at your project. You can write in full screen. You can write in split screen so that you can look at your notes or character sheets on one side while you type a chapter on the other. Use the cork board view to see summaries of various scenes and even move chapters or scenes around right from this view. You can look at your whole manuscript at once or look at just one scene at a time.
It is set up to help you self-publish. I haven’t decided yet whether I am going to self-publish my novel or go the traditional route, but the tools are here. Scrivener can automatically compile your book into ePub format (and other formats). I already have plans to help clients by using Scrivener to format their books for electronic publication.
I can set targets for my writing. If I want to write a thousand words a day or if I want my novel to be 100,000 words long, I can set project and session targets, and Scrivener will let me know when I have reached my goals.
It is a surprise that although I have used it for my novel and my blog (yes, I am writing in it right now) for a couple of months, I have only scratched the surface of what Scrivener can do. My only real complaint is that sometimes it is a little difficult to find out how to do something without searching the help file or the Web. So, while the interface could be more user-friendly, there is a lot packed into this little program.
I’m sure I will be discovering more about it as I go. If you decide to try Scrivener, you can go on Literature and Latte’s website or YouTube and find lots of free tutorial videos to get you started. I hope that you like it as much as I do!
Update: November 2017
I’m still using Scrivener two years later and still love it. It even sometimes helps me organize developmental edits as well as my own drafts.
I still adore it for drafting and organizing my thoughts and chapters, but if you want to do any revision, especially with track changes (such as while working with your editor), it becomes more difficult. So, I tend to use it in combination with Word and not exclusively.
I also prefer Word hands down for ebook and print formatting, but I haven’t taken a great deal of time to learn how to best do it in Scrivener.
Dictation also works in the program with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and that helps, although dictation is still smoother in Word. As a caveat, like many things, this may still work better in Scrivener for Mac.
And we’re still waiting for Scrivener for Android, although Mattias Alvin at Tall Tech Tales did write a tutorial on ways to work around that and using Scrivener on the go.
So, overall, I still recommend it highly, but with some caveats.
Do you use Scrivener? What things do you love? What things do you hate?
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small percentage of sales through these links but at no extra cost to you. My editing, design and consulting services are paid for by clients, but affiliate links help me to provide free blog content, videos, and writing and self-publishing resources for all of my readers.
“Awesome! This is a great course. Beautifully made and super-clear. If you want to write better and get organized in the process, Scrivener is brilliant. This course is too!”—Will Roffé, Learn Scrivener Fast Student