Advice to My Future NaNo-ing Self

Before you ask: yes, I won! I hit 50,042 words (with the NaNo word validator–Scrivener says 50,073) today at about 5:30 pm. SO much earlier than the 10 and 11 pm sprints I’ve made during 2011 and Camp 2013. I’m up a little late typing up this blog, but… this is fun. Not stressful.

As I was flying towards the finish line, stumbling over pretty pathetic prose, wishing it could be over–I started to think of some advice I would give to myself for next year’s NaNo. I’ll have the same crazy schedule revolving around my drama troop for most of the time, the same stress and work level (perhaps a bit more since I’ll be a junior). Next year will be the first year I’ve attempted NaNo one year right after winning another. I didn’t do much for NaNo 2012 (I may have plotted something and written a few hundred words, but I certainly didn’t get past the first couple of days), so this time I’ll have some fresher memories under my belt. However, I know I’ll need some help along the way. So here’s my advice for next year’s NaNo–and for you, if you’re wondering if anyone has some advice for you. It’s advice for everyone!

1. Write every night, and forfeit your health a little if you need to.

What I mean by this is don’t be afraid to lose a little sleep.

My parents are constantly on my back, saying, “You’ll get sick if you stay up late!” Lo and behold–I had a flare up of what I suspect is un-diagnosed asthma during November, and they blamed it on my late nights. However, had I just drank a little more water and done other healthier things, I would have been just fine (also… I don’t think asthma has to do with sleep. So there’s that.) Had I stayed up and smashed out just another 1,000 words each night, I would have won much earlier and with much less stress. Writing 2k a night became normal in the last week of November–next year, make that the norm starting from day 1.

2. Write or Die. Enough said.

In the middle of November, the NaNoWordSprints twitter account finally stopped working for me. I wasn’t a “write 5 minutes at a time” sort of person, but I couldn’t make myself sit down for a full 30 minutes to write. My eventual solution? Write or Die. I’d set my goal to 1000 words, my timer to 30, and crank it out. If I paused for so much as 20 seconds, loud blaring alarms, crying babies, or untuned, squeaky violins assaulted my ears. I was forced to continue, no matter how messy the prose.

Had I discovered this earlier, I would have won much earlier. It actually stressed me out a little–I’d think to myself, “Oh no, I need to write 1000 more words. No, don’t make me use Write or Die!” But it worked. And I won because of that amazing program of motivation. Thank God for http://www.writeordie.com.

3. Plan ahead of time, please.

I’d thought I’d outlined my story pretty well. Nope.

I’m still working on the beginning, and I don’t feel like my characters are well-developed. When I come back to plot and re-write good chunks of my story, I need to be a lot more organized. Next-year NaNo-er, please don’t make this mistake. Start planning as early as possible–January, maybe. Okay. Maybe use Camp NaNo as an excuse to outline. Start early, anyways! Know your plot and your characters even better!

4. Write regularly outside of NaNo.

Before NaNo, I never wrote outside of the fanfiction on my DeviantART I hardly updated. I’d have phases of writing every day and then barren months of nothing.

This time, be different. Even if it’s a short story, an English essay, a blog post. It’s about the discipline of getting those words down, not what you write. I mean, of couse you want to refine your craft–but if you can easily sit down and bang out a 3-page essay, think of how much better prepared you’ll be for NaNo. It won’t be, “1,667 words?! How?” It’ll be, “1,667 words?! That’s it?”

5. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Getting into the NaNoSpirit will carry you through the first few days! Use the forums! I know you always get on there, but this is just a reminder! If you plot during Camp NaNo, you’ll have more time to work out kinks on the forums and get into the NaNo-spirit and less time frantically trying to find a story idea. Make NaNo-friends and get pumped early–and don’t let it fade!

That’s all I have for now. Maybe I’ll make other NaNo-related posts in the future–one does not simply stop thinking about NaNo!

Now that I’ve won, I’m exhausted. Burnt out. Done. I just want to chuck my manuscript out a window… sadly, it’s on my laptop, so I can’t do that. I’m not going to touch anything NaNo-related for a few weeks (besides the forums, of course) and I’m even hesitant to start thinking about other story ideas. One that I never got around to writing for last year’s NaNo has been pestering the back of my mind for a day or so while I was trying to finish NaNo. I have to shove it away and give myself some time recover.

In the words of a friend, now I can start to “life” again. 🙂 NaNo was a blast, and I’m so, so proud of myself and everyone else who tried (and possibly won!) this year. We were awesome, guys. We did it. We wrote more words than we would have without NaNo. It’s time for me to go order my winner’s t-shirt, make some tea, and sleep for a long time. And then final exams–but we’re not going to think about that yet.

So long, and thanks for all the fish words!

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