With less than two days to the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2010, it’s time to get serious with the preparations. (Seriously. No, really – seriously.)
Here are my top four Serious Tips to improve your chances of success. I used them when writing my 60,000 historical biography Petticoat Rebellion: The Anna Parnell Story, and they really work:
Like Olympic athletes about to run a 26-mile marathon, writers must be in top emotional health. Now is not the time for ‘What if I get a pebble in my shoe?’, or ‘If I over-hydrate will I have to go to the bathroom?’ No, athletes are picturing themselves sailing across the finish line, with the crowd cheering and cameras flashing.
Successful athletes see the ending before the beginning. So should you. Picture yourself at your keyboard, clicking the ‘Upload’ button on your last 1,000 words, with the ‘Congratulations! You’ve won!’ message appearing.
How good does that feel?
Remember that feeling when you get to the half-way point and there’s another 13 miles (or 25,000 words to go). You can do it!
Just as athletes know exactly where they are in the race (just look at any racetrack or arena – they’re covered in distance markings), you too should know exactly where you are at any time.
For me, this means setting up the wordcount spreadsheet, with chapter headings, word targets per chapter and pages-per-day calculations. If you write 500 words in Chapter 3, add 500 to that part of your spreadsheet and calculate the balance.
For every 500 words you write, that’s 1% of your book finished. A percentage countdown is really motivating – one day, I wrote 3,000 words of Petticoat Rebellion, which was 5%.
Like the outstanding balance on your credit card, those little numbers quickly add up. It’s easier to finish a project when you know that you’re EXACTLY 35% there. One third down, two thirds to go. You can do it!
Writing all over the place
This means two different, but related things – you can write anywhere, and you can write anything.
Ideas will come to you in all sorts of strange locations – in the bath, on the bus or in a boring meeting at work. Capture those ideas straight away. It doesn’t have to be entire sentences or paragraphs – you can jot ideas on scraps of paper or the Memo app on your phone – anywhere. (Just don’t accidentally add them the the minutes of the office meeting!) Then bring ‘em home and flesh ‘em out in your manuscript. Job done.
Fiction is usually structured with a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order. You don’t have to write them in that order either.
Sometimes you’ll write the story in chronological order, but I find it really helpful to jump around in your story and write different parts at different times.
Think of it like a giant jigsaw – you add one piece at a time in various places that look right, and eventually all the pieces start to make sense and it all comes together. Yes, occasionally something won’t fit, so you take it out and put it to one side, and eventually it will fit pefectly somewhere else.
Doing it Your Way
So, who said writing was all about the creative flow of ideas? Structure, dudes, structure – that’s the key to Getting it Done, and only you know what works best for you.
Plan ahead, picture your goal, don’t over-think it, and just start running at your own pace when you hear the starting whistle on Monday morning 1st November.
See you at the finish line!