Welcome to the second post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.
- November 1 – Choosing Your Topic and Starting Your Novel
- November 3 – Taking Advantage of Your Weekends
- November 6 – What if I Need to Take a Break?
- November 8 – NaNoWriMo Has Turned Me Into a Hermit
- November 10 – Telling Your Story
- November 13 – Progress Over Perfection
- November 15 – Halfway Done! Now What?
- November 17 – Continuity Issues in a First Draft
- November 20 – Handling Writer’s Block
- November 22 – What to do About Holidays
- November 24 – I Hate My Story
- November 27 – I’m Not Going to Make It. Have I Failed?
- November 29 – Ending Your Story
- November 30 – You Did It! Now What?
Welcome to your first weekend of NaNoWriMo! I know it’s unexpected, considering the month just started, but that’s the way the calendar falls this year. I don’t make the rules. It’s just science1I mean, it’s kind of science. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and we do make adjustments like leap days to account for variance that occurs due to the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. With that said, calendars are not hard science. There have been a number of proposed reforms to the Gregorian calendar, not to mention some cultures that don’t use it. And don’t get me started on how weekends are actually a cultural creation, not a calendar driven one.. While the weekend is the time that most people kick back and relax after a long work week, weekends are a prime time for writers participating in NaNoWriMo to make some serious headway into their word count.
During my first NaNoWriMo, I was job hunting, so I didn’t utilize weekends all that differently than I did my weeks when it came to writing. That said, when I participated in 2015, I was working a full-time job that averaged 60-70 hours a week. Needless to say, having weekends to write became critical for me to finish on time. Here’s what my 2015 word count progression looked like.
As you can tell, I had quite a few writing bursts throughout the month, nearly all of which came on weekends. I averaged 1,142 words on work days in November of 2015 — which you may recognize as being well below the 1,666 word per day pace you need to hit 50,000. That said, my average weekend day word count was 2,854 words. If it wasn’t for utilizing my weekends effectively, I likely never would have finished my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel.
How exactly then do you use your weekends effectively as a NaNoWriMo noveler? While it certainly does differ a bit person to person, I have a few tips I think will be of benefit to those of you who are trying the project for the first time.
Use Your First Weekend to Plan Your Novel’s Path
As I shared in the first post in this series, I had short stories that I used as the basis for both my 2011 and 2015 NaNoWriMo works. While those stories gave me some basis as to what I wanted to do with those novels, there was so much more that I needed to plan out. What would the main plot of the novel look like? Are there side characters that need to be directly involved with the main character to advance my novel? How much research do I actually need to do in order for my novel to make sense2It’s both more and less than you’d think. Less during the NaNoWriMo period, more in the post-NaNoWriMo editing period.?
In both cases, I took part of my first weekend and spent a few hours plotting out what would happen to my main characters, my main conflict, and how I would get from the beginning of the story to the end. I’ve found that doing this was incredibly helpful for my consistency within the story, even if I wasn’t perfect in that regard. If you’re someone that had no pre-planning time before starting NaNoWriMo, this is a great use of part of your first weekend.
Even if you did pre-plan and pre-write, you can certainly use this time to take stock of how you’re doing in comparison to that planning. How’s your outline shaping up at this point? Are there characters that have come more (or less) integral to the story as you’ve written? Though you may not need to do additional planning, it’s still a nice place to have a checkpoint against your own expectations.
Just Write Without Editing or Researching
In what may well become somewhat of a theme in some of these posts, one of the most important things you can do with the extended free time of a weekend is to just write. Don’t worry about your story being perfect at this point. You need to get words on paper3This is in no way a pep talk to myself about my own work in progress. I have no idea what you’re talking about..
There are a ton of distractions that can keep you from writing. Let’s assume for a moment though that you’re great at avoiding distractions on the internet4Like this blog post. Get back to work after you leave me a comment., from friends and family around you, or even from your pets5Please pet your cat. They deserve it. My cat kept me sane during my first NaNoWriMo adventure.. There’s still a pair of potential major distractions that’ll keep you from writing — editing and researching.
The editing sinkhole is easy to fall into. You reread your last paragraph or two to get back into the flow of your story after using the restroom. You realize that one of your sentences sounds awkward. Suddenly, you’ve rewritten seven pages of your story and you’ve actually cut 800 words from your word count. Editing can come later. Get the story out first, then make it pretty.
While I feel like researching is a necessary step to writing a good quality story, just be careful while you’re looking up things as you write. Hank Green recently did a great video about his process to writing “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” wherein he talked about the importance to adding placeholders in your work when you need to research something. I can speak from experience when I say that adding placeholders I the easiest way to avoid a two-hour long trip down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia or TV Tropes.
Set Different, Larger Goals for Your Weekends
The goal of a consistent, steady 1,666 words per day every day in November sounds great, but is rarely realistic. You’ll have days where you’ll have hours on end to write, along with others where you may only get a couple of hundred words written down. Use your free weekends to set larger word count goals for yourself.
Maybe you want to get 5,000 words done on Saturday because you know you’re going to have a hectic week. Set that goal and try to reach it. I’ve talked to a couple of NaNoWriMo winners who used their weekends as ‘double days’, wherein they set a goal of 3,333 words each day, that way if there’s some reason they couldn’t write at all one weekday, they’d have it covered. However you go about setting that larger goal, using a weekend day to achieve it is an effective use of that non-work week time.
Schedule Writing Sprints…If That’s Your Thing
This last suggestion is going to be completely dependent on how you go about writing. Someone gave me this suggestion during each of my three NaNoWriMo attempts and I found that it did not work well for me. I’ll get into why in a moment. But for others, this is an amazing tip that can be really successful.
Writing sprints are short periods of time — usually 30-90 minutes in length — where you just sit and write as many words as you possibly can. They often done in stream of consciousness style (though not totally, as you’re still telling a story), with the intent of getting as much of your manuscript on paper as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about fixing anything at all at this point, even typos6Unless they’re particularly egregious.. Just write.
As I’ve evolved as a writer, this tactic has worked less and less for me. Because of the amount of effort I’ve put towards story continuity, even within NaNoWriMo, I’ve found that writing sprints stress me out more than they help me, causing me to get less done than I otherwise would have. I find that I do best if I have longer, uninterrupted periods of time where I’m not trying to rush as many words on the page as I can. With that said, if you’re concerned about word count, or if you really want to get your story out of your mind and onto the page, writing sprints are an amazing tool tactic to achieve this.
Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.