NaNoWriMo 2022 has come and passed. The annual challenge has proven to be a challenging but immensely rewarding experience for me. Through the month of November, I challenged myself as a writer to write a 50,000-word novel like so many thousands of writers around the world. The initial conception of the story was fairly straightforward, as it was essentially a prequel to my debut novel. So, the setting and the main characters were already familiar, but I had to adjust a few minor aspects of their personality for them to fit this new narrative.
Devising the plot proved to be more difficult as I understood where the characters needed to go within the story and the major plot beats, but I didn’t know their “why”. A lot of the individual complications and conflicts weren’t apparent until writing the scene itself. I think that is where some of the fun is to be had when writing, it's just as much of an adventure for the writer as it is for the characters, as you’re never quite sure where they’ll take you.
For some writers, the writing habit is hard to develop. This is why NaNoWriMo can be a powerful motivational tool to help them nurture their habit. To maintain such a habit, it's important to organise your day accordingly and set a specified time for you to write, whether it's early morning or after you get back from work. The time of day isn’t important, just as long as it's a time that’s easy to commit to. Motivation is fleeting, but discipline is forever, and that ultimately allowed me to push through those difficult days when I didn’t want to write. After a while, the initial battle to sit down and write diminishes, and as your discipline grows stronger, it becomes easier to sit down and get the work done.
Another trick I found useful was having a reward system in place. Writing 1,667 words per day (minimum word count per day to reach 50,000 words) isn’t easy, and it's imperative that you have something that rewards you for your hard work. Personally, I used video games. A few hours in the evening after work and a tough writing session is a good way to blow off steam and chat with some friends. Additionally, having a separate hobby outside of writing is a good way to escape the complicated world of prose. I found it very beneficial to go to my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu classes a few times a week just to exercise my body and mind in a different way.
As Stephen King says in his novel Stephen King’s On Writing: A memoir of the craft, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Finding books you enjoy reading is an essential part of being a writer, and having a consistent time where you can sit down and read or, alternatively, listen to an audiobook is imperative. Reading is critical to the writing process as it allows you to see or listen to how your favourite authors construct their sentences, the tropes within your chosen genre, and the style and syntax. If you have the time, you can reread your favourite books and analyse how authors have utilised specific words and literary devices to achieve their desired effect. This is a long, laborious process to go through an entire book like this, but it's worth the effort if you find the time.
Lastly, it's important to have a support network in place. Whether that be supportive friends, family or other writers. You’re going to need someone in your corner cheering you on or providing a little boost of morale when you find yourself in a rut. There are plenty of writing groups that encourage both new and experienced writers to join, who can provide valuable advice, critique and even just socialisation. There are plenty of free resources available for writers that provide information ranging from writing, editing, and even publishing. A few personal ones I would recommend would be The Rebel Author podcast, found on both Youtube and Spotify (she also has great craft books too), the Activated Authors podcast with Daniel Willcocks, who runs a NaNoWriMo Bootcamp, and the Write Direction podcast with A.G. Mcdonald.