Advice to NaNo Newbies


I’ve been asked several times if I’m doing NaNo this year, and the answer is – I don’t know. I’m going to be gone for a good chunk of November; my family is going to the Tennesee hills for Thanksgiving! If we’re taking the laptop, I might sequester myself away for two hours a day or so and try to pound out the words, but I’m honestly not sure. I’m excited to be spending Thanksgiving somewhere new (I’ve never done that before, that I can recall) but a tiny part of me is disappointed because I’ve been plotting my nano novel for a few months now.

If I can’t cram…I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’ll think of something.

But in the mean time, I was also asked if I had any good advice for first-time NaNoers.

Do I ever.

1. Find someone to buddy with; a friend or just someone on the NaNo site with whom you can exchange updates, chunks of your writing, etc. My first year of NaNo, I partnered with my sweet friend Cassie. Our novels were completely different, but sharing the excitement – and our writing at the end of  the day – made the entire month ten times more fun than it would have been otherwise.

2. Plot. This is extremely important during NaNo. Yes, a lot of the writing involved is pantsing, but you really need to have a good map and a good idea where you’re headed. You don’t have a lot of time to think “Oh, wait, I have no idea where I’m going with this!” Even if you don’t have it detailed down to the paragraph, you should have a loose outline of each chapter. This doesn’t mean you won’t get stuck, but the NaNo forums are extremely helpful for situations like that.

3. Know your characters. You do NOT want to write for seven days and then realize you have no idea who your characters are, or how they’ll react in certain situations, or how they talk or think. Do your character bios. Find a model to base them of of. If it’s an actor or a singer – any real person, not just a photograph – watch their mannerisms. This is ENORMOUSLY helpful. Every character I have who is based on a real person, is the product of studying their model’s mannerisms, voice patterns, and body language. It adds a whole ‘nother dimension to your character. My point is, you need to go out with someone before you marry them.

4. Have your Supply Kit. Before the computer was positioned about twenty feet from my room, I would bring a box to the computer with me while I was writing for NaNo. Its contents consisted of

1. Fingerless gloves (trust me; your hands get cold during NaNo. Even if you live somewhere warm)

2. My iPod (you’re probably going to need music. Bring your mp3 or your iTunes or whatever you have). If you’re using iTunes or Windows Media Player, make a playlist for your novel. I do this for all my books, NaNo or not.

3. Snacks of some sort. I love chocolate-covered raisins while I’m doing NaNo; I also drink enormous amounts of tea and coffee. I almost always have a cup with me.

4. Your survival notebook. This is the book you need to create before you start writing – it’s got to have your character bios, your plot lines, any quotes you want to put in your novel, pictures of your characters – EVERYTHING you’ll need for your novel has got to be in one place. This makes it 10351X easier, and I’m not kidding. I’ve had a notebook every year, and I don’t know if I could have survived NaNo without it.

5. Don’t forget to read books and watch movies during NaNo. It’s easy to get your brain completely stuck on one track and one genre – when I’m working on a novel, I rarely want to watch/read anything outside the genre I’m writing. Don’t do this. If you’re writing a chick flick, watch i, Robot. If you’re writing a fantasy, watch You’ve Got Mail. Stretch your mind, and it will open new doors for you. You have to keep filling yourself with inspiration.

6. I know you won’t feel like it – I don’t, either – but go outside. Go to the farmer’s market or Starbucks or take a walk somewhere nice. It clears your head and gets your inspiration pumping again.

7. I know this is probably a no-brainer, but be nice. I turn into a bear during NaNo; I tend to get short and snappy, and I don’t want to be interrupted for anything smaller than death in the family. You hacked your arm off with a butcher knife? Walk it off! The neighbor’s house is on fire? Well, go put it out and leave me alone! In all honestly, NaNo makes it easy to get very self-centered, so don’t be. If someone needs to use the computer, let them have it for a bit. Be nice.

I was also asked what my NaNo novel is about, so I’ll give you a brief breakdown. Also, let me know which cover you like better, would you? One’s a bit more fun-loving and the other’s a bit more serious, but I like them both. I want to know which to use on the NaNo site in November.

Restart (working title; I need to think of something better) is set in Futuristic Tokyo. (I’ve noticed a trend in my NaNo novelsRestartcover2 – they’re all futuristic. Why is this?) It’s a world where you talk to a million other gamers a day, but you have no relationships. Your entire life is a cosplay – you pattern what you wear, how you look, how you talk after your favorite hologram character. Your life revolves around beating the next level as soon as it’s out. School education is centered on things that can promote the next levels of virtual reality.

Tournaments are held every year for the best gamers. It’s a high-speed, technology-powered society that no one seems to question – except Q. He’s a decent gamer – going to school for programming, cosplaying his favorite character, and on level 1, 978 of hislife game. When an accident occurs and he’s the only one who seems to care about what happened, he begins to realize that the society he lives in is not only an impersonal one – it’s a dangerous one.

Determined to get to the top and find out about the world outside Tokyo – and find out who the Game-Makers are – he enters the annual games. If he wins, he gets to go inside the shuto and meet the people who run the city and create the games. When he realizes who he’s up against – including Deuce, a hard-core gamer he knows from school who has it in for him, and Yomashita-kun who earned the nickname ‘psycholicious’ for good reasons, he enlists the help of Lolli, a sweet girl he’s known since he was small who believes there’s nothing wrong with the system.

So there’s my NaNo novel in a nutshell. I hope I get to write it, but if not I’ll see if I can’t give myself another month of 2014 to pound it out. Maybe I’ll do JaNoWriMo! Are you doing NaNo? What’s your novel about?


28 thoughts on “Advice to NaNo Newbies

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m going to be doing my first NaNo next year and I’m SO EXCITED. I already know which project I’m going to novelize for it, and luckily it’s mostly outlined, even if it’s still in my head and not on paper. And I already have a notebook designated for it. My working title is Drawn Away, from James 1: 13-14(those two verses will give you a good idea of what the main theme of the novel is about :D)

    I was thinking about your NaNos the other day and realized they’re all futuristic. I LOVE YOUR FUTURISTIC NANOS. XD

    Random titles I thought of while reading about Restart:

    Game Over.
    Play Again.
    Game Over, Restart.
    Game Over, Play Again.

    Anywho, it sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it//hear more about it!!!

  2. I might be entering NaNo this year, I still don’t know. Your advice is really good though if I do write this year I will be sure to do these lol. Soooo, the book I have is going to be called ‘By Your Side’ (Still working on that but best I have so far.) It is either going to be a first person changer (That’s the only way I know how to describe it don’t know the technical term) or first person from the guys Pov. So the story is about Blake and Jasper, Blake is in the hospital and paralyzed from the shoulders down, she really can’t do anything on her own right now. Jasper is a nurse at the hospital she is in and as his first job as a new nurse there they assign her to him. He is the second nurse she has had, Blake hasn’t really gotten along with others because of the circumstances of her predicament, she was in a car accident it was the other persons fault but it still impacted her life, she has no family to take care of her so she is staying there ’till they find a place. So basically this novel is a sad romance about Jasper trying to make Blake’s life turn for the better. Sorry that wasn’t a very good description but eh, I think it is easy enough to understand, right? =)

  3. on the subject of playlists, spotify is immensely helpful.

    also. i’m hoping that my aggressive word count competitiveness has helped you. at least a little. or not. whichever way.

  4. November is such a horrible time. With school, and Thanksgiving, and my birthday, and the tons of homework being thrown at me… I did Nanowrimo back in 2011, and succeeded (Horrible novel though, I laugh at it now xD), and I haven’t tried since. It was a ton of fun though, I simply decided last year that I couldn’t carve out the time for it. But I think it’s time I challenged myself to finish something. Quality’s a beautiful thing, but I do need to push my limits, and at least write out the rough draft of something. I’ve been playing with the idea of Nano this year. Unfortunately, I’m horrible with sticking to a story x} So many plots and not enough concentration… *sigh*

    • Yes; the idea of having NaNo in November wasn’t the most scathingly brilliant idea, but I do love having NaNo in during an autumn month. I find autumn and winter far more condusive to writing than spring or summer.

  5. I always say I’m not doing NaNo because I’m too busy or whatever, but then by October, I can never help but sign up to do it again! How many years have you done NaNo? I did 2010-2012. I haven’t had a November without furious writing for so long! 😉

  6. Yay Nano advice! Oh, and I like the second cover better.

    I’ve no idea what I’m writing for Nano this year — not because there’s a lack of ideas, but rather because there are too many. XD I might write the first or third of my fantasy series, or the contemporary fantasy with gnomes/mermaids/griffins/leprechauns that I was going to do last year, or a thriller-sci-fi aliens/secret agents/writers… Or anything else. I really haven’t decided yet but I need to. O_O

  7. I think I like the second better – just… it’s like, bambambambam, and the pics are peickal. The very bottom of the second one reminds me of a character from one of the more recent Final Fantasy games, which is actually a plus. Also, love the cosplay idea. As one of my best friends loves anime, I better, hmm? XD

    Also: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. the be nice thing… yes. this. >.<
    and I love the name Q.

    a piece of advice is be careful about plagiarism – guessing you don't want to get into that. Unidentified by Rae Mariz came to mind when I read this and yeah; just, the whole discovering plot behind Gamelives, et cetera. Just a heads-up.

    I shall email you about my NaNo, if I attempt this, and if you'd like because now is curfew here. 😛

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