It’s NaNoWriMo Time! How to Succeed for Beginners


It’s that time of the year again: National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo (or NoNoMoreRymo if you’re dyslexic). The annual sprint to writing oblivion. The big prose cheese fest. The head honcho of writing achievement. The time when:

  • Authors and wannabes across our glorious planet suddenly decide they should write a whole novel in a month.
  • People all over the world randomly discover they are writers and that their lives, up to now, have been some mysterious prelude to a marvellous literary talent that hitherto has remained hidden.

It’s time to let the scribble hounds loose. Time to brush off that keyboard, power up the internet, put on dark glasses and pour a glass of wine as you reach out into the word ether and begin frantically pulling in ideas and pithy prose that will set the world alight.

Indie writers dream of getting published, changing the status quo with their dry, ironic wit, of becoming famous, giving up the day job, marrying their laptop, eschewing all human contact for ever and ever (delete where applicable).

New writers suddenly and happily decide to spend the rest of their miserable lives as angst-ridden, bleary eyed, introspective scribes who drink too much wine, think too much, spend too much time staring at walls and other inanimate objects, worthlessly spilling their recently discovered but long fermenting mental health issues onto clean, white pages that deserve better.

All this, and so much more, can be yours by the 31st November. If you’re not put off by the fact that what you are doing is essentially futile then simply follow The Feckless Guide for #NaNoWriMo success below:

Think Before you Begin

Are your fingers in shape? Is your brain in gear? Have you really, really thought this through? Writing a whole novel is a big undertaking. Before you start, meditate deeply on whether you want to start in the first place. Are you really going to finish? Is that what you really, really want? Careful consideration at this point could save you from wasting a whole month when you could be playing Assassin’s Creed every night or baking cupcakes for your nearest and dearest.

Name Your Lead

What’s your main character going to be called? Talula Poopdecker? George Facklebackle? Tristan Pissfoddle? Bohemian Bob? Barbara Bombstomper? Perhaps if you’re writing a PI style thriller it’s going to be something dynamic like Jake Trent, Cal Hooper or Fanny Fitzroy. Maybe you want something short and whimsical like Sophia, Perry or Lola. Choosing the right name for your lead characters is an important start if you want to be able to imagine them more deeply.

Map Out Your Story

Whether you are a pantser or a plotter, you’ll have far more chance of success with NaNoWriMo if you map everything out for the month. There are 30 days in November so that’s a pretty neat timeline over which to spread the creation of your novel, bite size pieces that all lead to a safe finish at the end of the month. You don’t want the plot piling up ahead of you, creating panic, when you only have a few days left. This is about discipline and getting all the way to end. As the saying goes: It’s best to have a plan, Stan.

Never Rewrite While You’re Writing

Stopping to rewrite is the surest way to put the kibosh on your NaNoWriMo efforts. Your aim is to finish the book in one fell swoop, the rewrites can come later. Yes, it’s tempting, but it will almost certainly meant that you fail to reach your target. Stopping to rewrite is a sinister form of procrastination. If you feel tempted, whack yourself on the head with a stick. Mumble ‘keep going, keep going’ every time you feel the need to look back. At the very least, it will scare the hell out of other members of the household.

Don’t Stop Your NaNoWriMo Half-Way Through

The biggest problem that NaNoWriMo’ers have is that they will suddenly stop, take a breath, get distracted by a shiny light across the way. Stopping is a bad thing. You have to keep going. The universe is full of half-written attempts to complete a novel in a month. There will be times when it is hard to sit down and write. Your brain is just not equipped to start that Friday evening, two weeks into the project. Force yourself to start again, scream at the writing gods if you have to, but begin, begin, begin…

It’s a First Draft Stupid

Don’t be too hard on yourself. What you are essentially writing here is a first draft. You are not going to produce the complete works of Tolstoy in one sitting. Your job is simply to get that story out onto digital paper and not worry about whether it works or not. NaNoWriMo success is not about being good, it’s about getting from beginning to end in 30 days or less. It’s about getting that stuff down.

Leave to Brew, Go Back to the Day Job

Your fingers bleeding, your brain a mix of alcoholic induced fog and paranoia, your family having left some days ago to begin a new life away from ‘that freak in the back room’, you reach the last day and finally type THE END. You’ve finished. You’ve completed your NaNoWriMo challenge.

For the moment.

Turn off your computer. Step away from the laptop. STEP AWAY FROM THE LAPTOP!

Go back to the day job. Re-engage with friends and family you may have lost contact with. Take a shower for Chrissakes! It’s time to leave your novel to sit and brew for a while. Don’t think about opening it up again before the end of January. In fact, forget you ever wrote it. Your first draft is finished and you need time to breath, reinvigorate yourself and return to normal society.

How to Feel Unjustifiably Proud of Yourself

Rejoice, for you have successfully completed your mission. You set a goal and you achieved it. You’re the big writing cheese. The towering new Hemingway of your street. You can call yourself a writer for you have completed the first draft of your novel. This is usually the time when depression sinks in. You wonder the streets at night whimpering like a half starved dog, gazing up at the dark sky and contemplating the futility of it all. Was it worth it?

Do not worry. This moment will pass. It’s part of the writing process.

The urge to scribble once more will return, stronger next time. It will build and build and scream in your ears and sear your bones until…around about November next year…when you thought it was safe to return to the laptop…you will suddenly decide that a sequel is on the cards.

Can you write it in just a month…sure you can. You’re a NaNoWriMo veteran. You know what to do.

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