I’m so glad you ask.
The official answer:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
The unofficial, albeit accurate answer:
That event where a bunch of sunlight deprived, psychopathic authors running on caffeine fumes and unhealthy snacks, sign their lives and/or souls away, and band together to write 50 000 words . Also referred to as “Hell On Earth.”
Is it worth it?
Hell yeah! Besides that warm and fuzzy feeling that accompanies the act of penning 50 000 words, there are sponsored freebies up for grabs, too.
Plotters and Pantsers:
There exist two groups of people in the NaNoWriMo community: Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters, well, they plot. Extensively. Their entire outline is probably 50 000 words on its own. If not more.
Pantsers, on the other end of the spectrum, write by the seat of their pants. No plots, no outlines, no detailed character interviews. Nada. They basically wait until November 1st, sit down in front of their word processors or books, and just start writing about whatever they can think of.
Now, I am by no means a NaNo Expert. Even though I took part in this madness every year since 2009, my first victory was only in 2015. For the period of 2009 to 2014, I tried pantsing it. Last year, I had a more definite idea; not a complete outline per se, but a plan of what I was going to write, how many words to allocate to each section, and so forth.
And I won! This year, I wanted to give pantsing another try. And by the 3rd day I fell behind. It would appear I fall somewhere in between, leaning more towards, but not full blown, plotting. Plotsing?
I have managed to almost catch up again – thank you for asking – only because I sat myself down, had a long hard talk, and started planning. I find the best tool for this job to be Evernote. And I’m in good company, Neil Gaiman relies on it too.
If you’ve fallen behind too, do not despair! There is still hope! You can do this.
Ready for some quick and dirty tips? Actually, I only have two points. It really is that simple.
My current project relies heavily on research. Heaps and mountains of research. From checking flight times and flight duration, to getting the lay of lands I’ve never traveled to before, (thanks, Google Earth) to researching site specific customs and attractions. I clip it all to a designated research folder with the nifty Web Clipper.
When I’m browsing from my phone, I copy the URL links into an email, and mail it straight into Evernote. (You can also get the Evernote Mobile App for easier synchronization, of course.)
Further to that, I created a separate Evernote folder to keep track of my characters. Those extensive character interview? Save them there. Short biographies? Add them. You can even add photos to your notes, so you won’t forget what a character looks like. (It happens, trust me.)
Same with locations – create a separate note with the relevant info for each city, continent, world or space colony you’re writing about.
Once you have your outline and research in place, you can pretty much start writing any way you wish. I began with one continuous note, but have recently changed lanes and divided it up into smaller, more manageable Chapters.
Your Evernote account syncs over various devices, so you can log in from anywhere, really. No more excuses.
Lastly, let me leave you with a few motivational words, wiser than my own:
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ― Terry Pratchett
“I’m not a writer. Ernest Hemingway was a writer. I just have a vivid imagination and type 90 WPM.” – Tiffany Madison
“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
Ps. For NaNoWriMo, it helps being a Swooper… December is for painstakingly fixing everything.
“I cannot even tell you how many plans I have “violently executed” by the seat of my pants, rather than waiting for things to be perfect. In fact, I have written every single one of my books that way — in stolen moments, as efficiently as I can, and constantly letting things slide that are not ideal.” – George Patton
And the one quote that motivated me to just write. Get it written first, no matter how bad it is. You can always fix it later:
“The best lesson my pragmatic mother ever taught me, and the opposite of perfectionism: Done is better than good. What she meant was: Just get it done. It doesn’t have to be immaculate; it just has to get done. The thing you came here to do. Get it done.” – Elizabeth Gilbert