National Novel Writing Month is coming up fast! This annual event, held throughout November and sponsored by California-based nonprofit The Office of Letters and Light, challenges writers of all ages to complete a 50,000 word novel – or 50,000 words of a novel – in 30 days or less.
I know what you’re thinking – you don’t have time to write a novel, even though you always said you would, or maybe you’ve tried before and never managed to do 50,000 words. Yet that’s not necessarily true. It’s entirely possible to find both the time and motivation to complete a novel for NaNoWriMo – but you may need a PNP: Pre-NaNo Plan.
Examining your schedule
The first step of building your PNP will require you to take a look at your schedule and start sorting things out. When do you have time each day to sit down and write?
This might be the hardest part of the PNP, especially for students. There’s that big exam on December 2 that you need to study for the entire week beforehand. And of course there’s the 8-hour (one-way) drive home for Thanksgiving. And the on-campus club activity meetings every week. And you work 30 hours each week.
Maybe, with all those things on your plate, you need to start to rearrange your schedule.
First, think about how long it takes you to type a single page in manuscript format – standard-sized printer paper, one-inch margins, double-spaced – which amounts to approximately 250 words each. During NaNo, your goal of words per day will need to be at least 1,667.
What does this mean for you? For starters, it means that, if you’re counting each double-spaced page as 250 words, you need to write at least six and a half manuscript pages per day to accommodate your NaNo goal of 50,000 words.
From there, you can plan accordingly. Here’s an example: I know that if I’m really on a roll, it takes me about 10 minutes to write a single manuscript page, but more often it takes me 15 to 30 minutes to write that much, or about 22 minutes on average. Therefore, I need to dedicate about one hour and 15 minutes per day in November to working on my manuscript – bare minimum – in order to reach my goal.
For a college student, dedicating an hour and 15 minutes every day can seem pretty steep, and I know I’m a bit of a fast writer based on my typing speed and pre-planning. However, there are ways to get around this. If you know there’s one day per week you really can’t work on a manuscript, take that day off – just add that hour and 15 minutes to another writing day.
You may also be interested in participating in regional NaNo writing events, which take place over the course of several hours and gives participants plenty of time to write and have fun together – which brings us to our next point in building a PNP.
Finding enemies allies
When building your PNP, you want to include time to build and meet with a writing group. Finding a writing partner or joining a group is a great way to keep you motivated – especially if you keep it competitive.
Get a friend to be your NaNo partner and compete for first finish. Your partner needs to be as dedicated as you are! In the end, you may want to have a reward of sorts for the winner: for example, the loser has to buy a grilled feta sandwich for the winner.
You can also utilize the NaNo website to find your allies. Check out the forum section of the NaNo site – and make sure you mark your region in your information! Joining a region allows you to check out your regional forum, where you can meet up with new people in your area.
NaNo’s regional forums can really help you out when it comes to allies – several Municipal Liasons, also called MLs, organize write-ins, meetups, and other NaNo events at local bookstores and coffee shops. You can also use the forums to suggest your own meetups or write-ins as well.
Part One of your PNP should focus on actually finding time and motivation to complete those 50,000 words in November. Once you’ve figured out whether or not you have time to do it – and/or rearranged your schedule accordingly – you’ll be able to work on the PNP Part Two: Brainstorming Your NaNo. Check back later for Part Two, coming soon!
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