Five NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks from an 11-Year Seat-of-the-Pantser
A fun way to permit yourself to write with friends and get a shirt at the end!
I love the NaNo process. Thirty days to have an excuse to hide and write. It makes November cuddly and fun (I live in California, so we don’t always get cuddly weather). NaNo says I’ve written over 302K words since 2011. Damn!!
After my life changed significantly in 2018 when Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer, East Area Rapist, and Visalia Ransacker, my dad and stepmom’s killer, was caught, NaNo feels like a familiar respite. This year I’ll try to write my book about what happened (learn more about my podcast).
But this, NaNoWriMo, is fun. Pure fun. Here are my top tips:
1. Don’t panic; you know your style. Are you a planner or not? If you plan, at least outline your story and maybe profile your characters. If not, start looking at other people’s ideas. Either way, you’ll be fine. I typically start with a core outline, and then, if I get an idea, I work it into the outline. Lack of a plan is not a barrier to entry.
2. Keep word counts by day in your manuscript. My goal is to write every day. When I do, I grab the word count at the end (to see if I met my minimum for that day) and add it to my manuscript, for example, Nov 4 (3478 words). I can strip them out later, but it always helps me to see how much progress I make daily. It’s incredibly satisfying to see yourself pushing along, and the minimum you need per day is just 1670 words. (Fun fact: it takes just over five minutes to read that many words.)
3. Write yourself a welcome note. Often the story is in your head, but you’re tired or interrupted or whatever. I know what needs to happen next, and I didn’t want to lose that momentum, so I’d write myself a note. I’d add the words written (#2 above) and then write myself some directions about what I would do before closing the document. I can’t tell you how much that helped me get back in the groove the next day. It’s been a lifesaver.
4. Back up your work. All the damn time. I don’t trust Google Docs because, sometimes, things can disappear. However, I will use Google Docs to write if I’m in the car or somewhere weird and then paste what I’ve done into my master. Now, I use…