NaNoWriMo is less than a week away...is anyone else starting to freak out? Because I am. I've been spending every spare minute prepping to start writing on the first of November. 1,667 words a day. That's not so many words, when you think about it, right?
The problem is, I'm already feeling the crunch of a deadline, what with work, editing, life in general, and Inktober (why did Inktober and NaNoWriMo have to be back to back anyway?) So next month is even going to get busier. But the hard part isn't the writing. The hard part is making the time to write and staying focused and motivated and excited about your project.
So this blog post will be about finding that inspiration. Gathering dreams and ideas and magic and characters and using that to fuel your drive to do this crazy month-long challenge.
Gather Your Weapons of Choice
"Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory."
- Jack London
This will be the first year that I attempt to complete 50,000 words (I did a portion of it in 2017 for my first novel: a novel that no one will ever, ever read) and I am both super excited and super nervous for my second go-around.
So to prep, I decided to start with the basics.
Notebooks. Pens. Inkwells. A quill. Colored index cards and dozens of sticky notes. Eraser mascots and rubber ducks.
I'm one of those people who loves loves loves writing supplies. Almost more than I love writing. I once heard someone describe it as the "illusion of productivity." Buying a pen might not be as productive in the long run as writing 1,000 words of my novel draft, but it is just as satisfying.
And even though most of my work will be done on a computer, there's nothing like having a plethora of writing instruments and notebooks at your fingertips when you feel stuck.
So, before November hits, get to an office supply store and buy the tools of your trade.
Prep Your Writing Workshop
"I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles."
The first step to building anything is to have a space to work in.
My desk is always pretty clean, because I am a bit of a neat freak, but I went all out and organized everything down to the order of sticky notes in my drawer.
A checklist for workshop prep:
Clean and organize your desk. This includes having your new writing weapons on hand and ready to wield (see above: my neat stack of index cards).
Organize your files and documents on your computer. Have your writing program of choice ready to go. Have a jump-drive or hard-drive ready to backup your work periodically.
Gather your story notes including plot, character, theme, magic, world building, setting, and put them somewhere easy to find and refer to as you're writing.
Gather your mascots. I have a rubber duck with a book, a hamster on top of my computer, and a writing dragon inspired by one of my favorite books series. They are necessary and vital to the process.
Ambiance. Good lighting (or lack thereof, if you prefer), twinkly lights, and an endless soundtrack of good music. (And I would definitely recommend, if you use a service like Spotify or Pandora, paying a few extra bucks for this month for no ads. It will be worth it, trust me.)
Vision board. Next to my computer I've started a small vision board with the cover of my book and some quotes to inspire me. Which leads me to my next step.
Find Creative Inspiration
"The character (and the author) will have a goal. It is not important whether they achieve it, but that they are changed by it."
Why are you writing? What is it about this particular story that makes you want to see it finished? What do you love about your characters? Your world? Your magic? This vision that you see in your head?
Gather together all of the reasons you are doing this, and put them somewhere you can see them. This could take the form of any number of things:
Making a pinterest board. Pinterest is a great way to gather ideas from across the internet for your story. Images, quotes, prompts, characters, backstories, magic, technology, settings, planets - anything you can imagine, you can pin. If you'd like an example, you can click here to see my pinterest boardfor my book, Soot of the Stars.
Making a physical vision board. Same as pinterest, except just print everything out. It does take some extra work, but it can be beneficial to have a physical reminder. Plus then you can handwrite notes, quotes, and ideas on colored sticky notes. With glitter pens. And stickers.
Speaking of sticky notes, you can post them everywhere. On your fridge, the bathroom mirror, by your keys, on your coffeepot. Piece of advice - reinforce with tape, as the "sticky" in sticky notes isn't all that accurate, and there's nothing more annoying then having them fall down.
Post reminders and messages on your home screen. We look at our phones and computers a ton across each given day, and your home screen or wallpaper can be a great place to leave yourself notes and inspiration. My wallpaper is the cover of my book.
Daily emails or texts. Perhaps you could send yourself daily automated emails with different quotes and motivational images to keep yourself going.
Anywhere else you can think of. Post reminders, ideas, and inspiration everywhere across your life. Anything to keep yourself going.
Stay Motivated On Your Quest
"I do not exist to impress the world.
I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy."
- Richard Bach
Sometimes, though, inspiration can only go so far. How will you motivate yourself and bribe yourself and goad yourself to put one word after the other and keep your fingers on that keyboard, no matter how stiff they get?
For me, it's chocolate hershey's kisses. You can't see it in the picture above, but I have a mini raccoon cookie jar that is my chocolate-guardian. For the next month, he will remain stocked. I decided long ago that if I was going to do this thing, then I was going to consume as much chocolate and coffee as was needed to get through each day's word count. No guilt.
So find ways to bribe yourself to work. Small rewards and comforts that will make figuratively chaining yourself to your desk and forcing those words out a little bit easier.
This doesn't necessarily have to be food (though that has always been the way to my heart), it could be any number of things:
Treats or drinks or promises to eat out at milestones.
Going to see a movie or a concert or a show at the halfway point.
Take yourself on a shopping spree when you finish.
Buy yourself a new beanie for every 10,000 words you reach. (Or any other form of comfort you choose like leggings, gloves, a new soap or bath bomb or candle).
Buy yourself a new soundtrack/album/writing music every week.
Promise yourself a new, leather, custom notebook at the end of the month.
A new pen every week.
Anything that will help you get through to putting the next word onto the page until you reach the end.
Your Finished Novel
"I know nothing with any certainty, but the light of the stars makes me dream."
- Van Gogh
I am extremely lucky, in that my sister happens to be a super-talented artist, and she drew me an amazing book cover for my novel. I have it posted everywhere - my computer desktop, phone wallpaper, on my vision board. Everywhere I look I see what my finished novel will look like.
This image is going to get me through the tears, coffee grinds, gritty eyes, frozen fingers, and late nights of the coming month. This image is why I'm writing. This is what I'm working towards.
Even if you can't draw or commission a cover for your novel, find something that represents what the finished product will be, and put it where you can see it. Remember what you are doing all of this for, remember that it will be worth it, and remember that this crazy journey has an end destination.
"A first draft cannot possibly be great, but it will have seeds of greatness in it."
Inspired yet? I certainly am. I almost feel ready to write. (It comes and goes).
50,000 words in 30 days is daunting, insane, and exciting.
The important thing is that you do it. Write. Have fun. Paste your words onto the page, and hope that some of them are the right ones. It won't be perfect (not even close). But it will be there.
My teacher always said that the only thing a first draft has to do is exist. Editing comes later, and that's when you can find the seeds of greatness and help them grow into a published book. A book with your name on the cover and your world in the pages.
I hope this blend of chocolate, quotes, tiny animal mascots, images, pens, and notebooks will be enough to get me through the next 50,000 words of my novel. I hope it will help you, too.
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips for gathering inspiration and staying motivated, I'd love to hear them!
ONE LAST THING: to celebrate NaNoWriMo and all of you other crazy writers who are taking this challenge on, I'm offering a 25% discount on all of my editing services (proofreading, beta reading, and developmental editing) for anyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year.
Email me if you'd like to discuss a project.
Other NaNoWriMo Resources
If inspiration isn't enough, and you want more concrete tips for next week, here's some resources I've found super useful:
Megann is a speculative fiction editor, writer, and artist specializing in fantasy, science fiction, and basically anything with magic. Or dragons. Or starlight and spaceflight and gods that walk the worlds.