15 Tips for National Novel Writing Month

My first novel publishes in March.
I thank National Novel Writing Month for that. I had my idea, a rough outline, but no guts to write that first page. It was late October 2004 when I learned about NaNoWriMo, and decided to give it a chance. I’m a person who works great under pressure. I have to put a deadline on everything I do, otherwise it will get moved to the bottom of the to-do list. I didn’t want that to happen with my novel.
I signed up and my life changed! I’m currently outlining my second book that publishes in 2011, and plan to participate on NaNoWriMo again. I love it because the experience forces you to push through your doubts and just WRITE. The goal is 50,000 words by the end of November. If you succeed, you receive a happy certificate to hang in your office (and a lifetime’s worth of self esteem).
Joining NaNoWriMo will help you define your writing style, introduce you to new people and exercise your creative muscle! If you have any doubt, I suggest visiting the NaNo message boards to meet other people and ask questions.
If you want to join in the fun, here are some tips:
1. Go to the site and register.
2. Narrow down your book idea down to a simple synopsis. Print this out and post it where you can see it all the time. Whenever you are in doubt, look at the synopsis to stay on track.
3. Define your characters. Give them names, personality quirks, jobs, family background, flaws and strengths. Make sure each one begins with a personal struggle in their life that will ultimately change by the end of your story. Your characters have to grow inside and out in order to be engaging. Nail down a mission statement for each one of where you want them to be by the end of the story.
4. OUTLINE. Create a road map for your story. The biggest mistake I made was I didn’t have a decent outline. Everything flowed nice and juicy until I wrote myself into a corner. I didn’t have time to get out of it, so I plowed through. It was a mess to edit, I had to rework so many details! OUTLINE. It doesn’t mean you will stick to it 100% – as you write, the story will morph, but it helps to have a foundation.
5. Think in three parts. My friend Mary Castillo gave me this advice: Think of your story like a movie, it has to have three acts. You can follow almost any flick to get the idea. Another friend, Anjanette Delgado, suggested to look at your story like a TV series. There are 13 episodes and they all build up to the mind-blowing season finale. In book world each episode would be a chapter. Another thing: Don’t get sidetracked with details. Make sure every word moves your story forward and has a purpose.
6. Warm up. Take some time to write in your blog or journal. Just let it flow. If you already have a large body of work, print off some entries and read them out loud. Try to pick up on your bad habits so you won’t repeat them during your NaNoWriMo experience. It also helps to read! Pick up a book in the same genre that you are writing to get in the mood.
7. Avoid clichés in your writing. Here is a great site called, Cliché Finder, where you can type in a word and all the clichés come up related to it. It is easy to use clichés because they sound perfect. So perfect that they have been used over and over again. Don’t go there! Push yourself to invent new imagery!
9. Write tight. Practice using strong verbs instead of adjectives and adverbs. Read up on this here, here and here.
10. Plan a schedule and stick to it. All my writing takes place at night. Some people work before the family wakes up every morning. Find a time slot and go. NaNoWriMo is only one month – make sacrifices! The world will not come to an end if you miss Top Model for a month.
11. Aim to crank out 1,800-2,000 words a day to reach the 50,000 goal. Think of it like a treadmill for your mind and fingers!
12. Prepare. Stock up on groceries, snacks, water, goodies, batteries, etc. If you are the main cook of the household, have meals ready to be heated. As far as writing – bookmark sites like Dictionary.com. Remove guilty pelasure bookmarks like PerezHilton.com so you won’t be distracted!
13. Have a ‘Come to Jesus’ talk with your family. Let them know you cannot be bothered for four weeks. Ask them to help wit laundry and other chores. Tell them by doing this, they will be helping you reach a goal and achieve a dream. If you explain it to them, they will understand.
14. Be ready for ups and downs. Week One is a wild ride, you click into gear by introducing characters,  the story, setting, laying the groundwork. The fun nosedives for Week Two. It’s a challenge because you have to have your characters take action. From what I hear, most people give up during this time. But not us! It gets better at Week Three. You’ll build up to the rising action and climax, and before you know it – Week Four arrives! That last week glides by because you are wrapping everything up.
15. Do not give up! no matter what, keep going. Even if you have to miss Thanksgiving. FINISH! It is the best feeling in the world!
NOTE: Be aware that what you write for NaNoWriMo will be a draft. After November ends, the real journey starts – editing your manuscript!
Good luck! 🙂

Love & light,


One Response

  1. Kathy,
    I am a ex-co-worker of Monique’s, and a friend too. I admire her so much for her knowledge, humor and creativity. Because of her FB link, I checked out your site. I am so impressed. Funny how I noticed your section on writing. I am writing a novel right now, My husband has written 4 or 5 and has instructed me very much as you suggest but you offer new suggestions as well. You, Monique and my husband (pin name RT-French) inspire me, I am going to finish this novel because of all. Blessings and keep up the Happy!

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Kathy Cano-Murillo

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