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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp: Day 1

The best way to fail is to not prepare.

You think you're going to start NaNoWriMo November 1st with no preparation, no practice, and no prior thought? Well, honey, that's just setting yourself up for failure.

No worries, though. I am a certified* NaNoWriMo Boot Camp instructor. Every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of October we will meet right here to put you through your paces and make sure you're in fighting shape for NaNoWriMo.

Day 1: Establish A Baseline

The number one mistake of new NaNoWriMo participants is assuming that they will find the time to get their writing done. Worse, there is a tendency to woefully underestimate how much time it will take to write the daily word count.

Free time does not magically appear. A gap in the space-time continuum won't open up between your favorite TV shows allowing you to write 1666 words in under three minutes. Like everything else in life, you need to plan ahead. You need to make time in your schedule for writing.

This is where the second mistake comes in, and it's a common mistake for newbies and seasoned NaNoWriMo authors, they schedule the wrong amount of time, for the wrong time of day, for the wrong days of the week.

That's why the first day of boot camp is devoted to getting a baseline and figuring out your writing schedule.

Exercise 1: Set a timer for ten minutes, sit down, and write. 
- Repeat three times (or more if you like)
- Average your word count to get an idea of how many words you can write in ten minutes. Don't worry if the number seems low. You'll be faster by the end of NaNoWriMo.

Exercise 2: Set aside three hours and write until you can't any more.
- The goal here isn't to write for three hours straight (good job if you can, though). This exercise measures your natural writing rhythm. Can you focus for fifteen minutes? Forty? Ninety?
- There is no wrong answer.
- Do three sets of writing at your natural writing pace. Figure the average. This is your Writing Pace Word Count.

Exercise 3: Look at a calendar of November and decide what days you will actually be writing.
- In a perfect world you'd write all 30 days, but realistically it's not going to happen. You're going to have days where work, school, family, or health prevents you from writing.
- Pencil in your writing days. Now, divide 50,000 by the number of days you intend to write. This is your Daily Word Count Goal.
- Divide your Daily Word Count Goal by your Writing Pace Word Count. This is the number of writing sprints you'll need to do for each writing day in November.

EXAMPLE: Julie wants to write 50,000 words in November. She has 5 days she can't write, and she can write 500 words in 15 minutes.
50,000/25 = 2000 (daily word count goal)
2000/500 = 4
Julie will need to schedule 4 writing sprint so of 15 minutes each to hit her daily word count goal. 

Exercise 4: What do you need to write?
- Very few people can sit down in any environment and write without problems. If you're one of those lucky people, bask in the glow of your own awesomeness and skip this exercise. If you're not, no worries.
- Over the next week take notes about what was going on around you on the days you write best.
Do you work better at a desktop or on the couch using a laptop?
Do you like music or silence?
Will any noise work, or do you need a specific playlist?
What time of day do you feel the most creative?
Do you write better in pjs or dressed up for work?
Do you need a snack?
Do you need some water?

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Keep the Book Moving


  1. Thank you for this. I really needed it. I've been out of writing mode for a couple months now and I wanted to jump start in November with Nanowrimo. This will help. Tremendously.

    1. *high five*

      I'm looking forward to seeing more books from you. :)

  2. Really good practical pointers. The timer method I learned from a pro writer who does 3-4 contracts a year for a category romance line. I have so much respect for people who write without excuses, and write while raising families, active in community, working day jobs. Thanks!