Are you embarking on a one-month quest to write the first draft of that novel you’ve been dreaming of? Or perhaps you just want to feed off the energy of the 400,000 people who are. Here are our top tips for aspiring novelists.
Schedule Your Writing Time
Time management is the first step in completing any major work of writing. Sitting down to write is just as intimidating as heading to the gym or opening up your tax program every April.
Whether you’re on a NaNo schedule or not, you have to figure out when, where, and how you’re going to write, and then stick to that plan.
If you dream of becoming a writer, you have to eventually sit down and write. Whether you’re doing National Novel Writing Month in November, or you dream of being a writer “someday”, the first inescapable step is making the time to do it. Here’s a 15-minute exercise toward that end that you can do today.
Choose Your Weapon
Do you prefer to write longhand, in a trusty notebook? Open up Word on your computer? Or perhaps you’d like to hear about our favourite apps for fiction writing. Just make sure to give them a test run first.
So you have a new writing app you're dying to try, eh? Well, before you sit down to take on that big writing project, consider giving that app a solid test run so you can learn all the ins and outs first.
Write With Friends
Writing is hard, and misery loves company. But writing can also be fun, so why not ignore your best friends and/or new acquaintances in favour of your laptop? Grab some snacks and extension cords and host your own write-in.
National Novel Writing Month is all about putting your head down and cranking out as many words as you can, but it can still be fun to make it a social experience, too. A write-in is just what you need to keep you and your fellow scribblers motivated. Here's how to set one up.
Put Anything on the Page
It’s ok to write badly at first. A crappy first draft paves the way for your real genius idea to come through. Consider starting each day with three pages of garbage.
Every morning — just about — I write three pages, stream-of-consciousness, longhand in a notebook. I sit down, I write for three pages, I stop. And I wholeheartedly believe it's one of the best things I do for myself and my mental wellbeing.
Need some inspiration for what to write? Visit these NaNoWriMo forums for “adoptable” ideas you can add to your story.
This one is for the hardcore NaNoers. If you need to make word count, as a matter of pride or stubbornness, throw quality out the window and use these dirty tricks to finish your novel on time.
Learn to Write
The following is optional for NaNo, but you may prefer writing a good novel draft to writing any old dreck. Perhaps you could take one of these online creative writing courses. Or you could read novelist Julian Gough’s advice on turning your initial word-barf into something readable.
While you’re taking advice, read what 20 journalists have to say about writing well. Take Pulitzer winner Jennifer Egan’s advice, too. And consider switching on this episode of our podcast, The Upgrade, where novelist Mira Jacob tells you how to write a novel, and then some of us at Lifehacker chime in with our own tips.
To write gripping scenes, consider borrowing from former FBI director James Comey’s memo-writing techniques. Yes, really! Quit using the word “very” so much; here’s a cheat sheet of words to use instead. Try structuring your sentences with the best part at the very end.