The Writing Sparrow Episode 8: How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Without Overpreparing

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Transcript:

Sarina Langer  00:06

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!

Hello friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 26th of October 2020, and this is episode eight. Two weeks ago, I talked about my favourite time of the year, the glorious beast that is NaNoWriMo. And this week, I wanted to give you a few ideas on how to prepare for it without completely overwhelming yourself in the process. Because let’s be honest, that’s a possibility. I know it’s a bit late given that NaNo starts on Sunday this week, but I don’t recommend you completely plot everything anyway. And who hasn’t decided to do NaNo last minute? I know I have once or twice.

So NaNo prep, for me at least, is all about the basics. If you plan too much, as I admit I tend to, NaNo arrives and you’ve got this huge list of things to consider and a whole notebook full of ideas and things that you want to fit in there somewhere. And trust me, you’ll really feel the pressure if you do that. And you probably won’t even know anymore where you’ve left what in your notebook, so that just overcomplicates something that’s already quite difficult to start with. So my advice is to keep it simple and stick to the basics so you have just enough to know where you’re going. And hopefully you won’t get lost partway through NaNo, because that’s a nightmare.

Now, the following will sound like a lot, but don’t worry, the most important points are also included in the show notes, so you can always just copy those for your character prep.

Think about the most obvious things like the names, age, looks, you know, obvious things like that, but also consider other personality points like speech habits, like their wants and needs, because that will really drive your plot forward when you’re lost. Things they are afraid of and their strengths and weaknesses, because those things will also help you keep everything informed when you’re not quite sure what to do and hopefully keep you from getting stuck because no one wants to be in that position, certainly not during NaNoWriMo.

Now, of course, there’s plenty more that you can add when you plan your character and get to know them, but this should be just enough to keep you on track during NaNoWriMo.  When you think about your world, you could think about details like the country names, what the countries are known for, what their traditions are, their culture, how growing up there influenced your characters, things like that. Now, I love world building,so I can get a little bit carried away there. But the last thing I want to do is get carried away now and ask you to create an ancient, complex religion that influences that country’s religion at the time of your book. So do keep it simple to start with. Of course, if you’re writing something that’s in our world, you can just google those details if you don’t know them already. You don’t need to come up with those things because they’re already there.

The plot is another thing I can easily get carried away with very easily. But don’t worry if you’re not a plotter, there’s no need to have every last detail planned before you begin your NaNoWriMo project. In fact, I recommend that you don’t overdo it at this stage. Because again, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. But knowing how your book starts, what causes your character to go on his journey, what happens at the midpoint that changes everything, and how your book ends will hopefully keep you from drawing a blank partway through NaNoWriMo. Because that’s the last thing you need, trust me. 

Finally, figure out your necessary daily word count to reach 50,000 words and realise it’s not that bad. If you write every day, it’s only 1,666 words a day. Sounds like a lot at first glance, but it’s not even 2000 words a day. It’s not that bad. You can totally do that. If you take the weekends off like I do, it’s a little more at 2,380 words a day, but that’s still not even 2500. Totally doable. Make a strong tea or coffee or whatever helps you focus, get the words down and get writing. And as I’ve already said in the last episode, it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 50,000 words. I am back at the day job now three days a week, and I’m working from home Monday and Friday. I take the weekends off on top of that. So I’ve a feeling I maybe won’t make it this year. And I’ve made peace with that because by the end of November, I will have made progress and quite possibly more than I would do without NaNoWriMo motivating the next month. And really, that’s what matters.

Ultimately, NaNoWriMo is all about getting into writing habits and starting or finishing your work in progress. So those 50,000 words? Great goal, but don’t worry if you don’t get there, that’s fine.

Your action step for this week is to jot down a few notes about your characters, a few notes about your worlds, and to keep it simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself next month and add any extra stress to yourself. You don’t need that. Nobody needs that. I definitely don’t need that, and neither do you. And most of all, take a deep breath. We’ve got this NaNonite, let’s go smash it.

Although, having said that, there is another thing that you might like to do, which might just help you keep focus during November. It’s something that I quite like to do, and that’s to set rewards for myself at various stages throughout the month. I tend to set the first one when I reach 15,000, another one for when I reach 30,000 words, and something, not one, not massively extravagant, like not a holiday, you know, but something that I really want to motivate me to get to 50,000 words. It can be anything you want, as long as it keeps you on track and motivates you enough to keep pushing forward, even when NaNo, eventually, let’s be honest, gets a little bit harder to follow through. So, it can be a book or a candle, or maybe even just some time to yourself, whatever helps you keep focused. And when you reach those milestones… you can set them to whatever you want, so 15,000, 30,000, and 50,000 are just what I like to set them to, but you can do as many or as few as you want or not at all if that’s more your thing, whatever you like. And then make sure that you also hold yourself to them when you reach them. So if you get to your first reward, whatever it is, wherever it is, make sure you treat yourself to it because it’s really good motivation partway through the month. And if you don’t hit one or two milestones, don’t get yourself those rewards anyway, because then what’s the point of having set them in the first place?

Okay, are we ready? Just a few more days. Let’s calm down, join my cabin if you haven’t already if you’d like, and let’s get excited for NaNo and let’s show our works in progress who owns whom!

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!


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The Writing Sparrow Episode 6: What Is NaNoWriMo?

Listen to the Episode:

Transcript:

Sarina Langer 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!

Hi friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 12th of October 2020. This is Episode Six, and today I’m talking about my favourite subject NaNoWriMo. If you’ve been anywhere on social media this month, you’ll have seen other writers mention NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but you may not actually know what it is. So today, I wanted to explain to you what it is and hopefully also get you excited to take part yourself if you haven’t done it before.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words between the first and last day of November. If that sounds like a lot, you’re right, it’s a monster event and I love it so much. There’s always this excitement I get around early October when I realise that next month is NaNoWriMo, and then from there on, I’m just motivated until I eventually get really tired halfway through November, because it’s also really difficult. But I don’t want to put you off already.

So, you can prepare for it if you like. I normally do but then I’m a plotter anyway. But there have also been times when I didn’t prepare for it, and I was kind of surprised by how well it worked anyway. I think the only thing to remember is that you don’t overprepare for it because otherwise, you’ll end up with so many notes come November and so many pages upon pages of information that you’ll end up overwhelming yourself. And I promise you, there’ll be plenty of that during November itself.

You may also have heard of the smaller events that happen twice a year, Camp NaNo. They happen every April and every July, and they’re a lot more relaxed, so you don’t even need to write for them. Just editing or outlining is a perfectly good goal for camp. And your word count goal doesn’t have to be as chunky as 50,000 words, it can be whatever you want it to be. So if you just want to write, say, a 5000 word short story, for example, then that’s fine. If you want to edit 20,000 words of something, then that’s also perfectly good. Whatever you want to work on in the camps is great.

A lot of writers actually use the smaller camps to edit the book they’ve started or finished or continued in November. But you can also start something completely new if you want. The only important thing to remember is that for the big event in November, the idea is to only count the words towards that goal that you’re writing in November. So, say if you’ve already written 10,000 words in October, then they do not count towards your NaNo goal.

Joining NaNo is completely free, but if you fancy it, you can donate to support the good people who keep it running every year, because they do a really smashing job of that. And I… there’s also lots of other events that they put on around the country – maybe not this year so much given COVID – but normally, there’s lots of other events that they run throughout the world, I think. So all the more reason to donate if you want to. But again, you don’t have to, just joining and taking part itself is completely free. So don’t worry about that.

You can do either event, the big one in November or the smaller camps, on your own. But I actually recommend that you join a cabin so you’ll have people to cheer you on throughout the month. A cabin is basically like a private-ish chat room. On the NaNoWriMo website, well, you can join, I think the number is limited to about 20 people, so it’ll never be too packed and never feel overcrowded. And to be honest, most people who join it, or a lot of them anyway, they end up just being silent throughout the month. I think they’re then mostly just there to read all the encouragement from the other writers, but they don’t necessarily take part in any of those chats themselves. So the number is quite small to start with and then it’ll never feel that busy anyway.

I don’t think joining those, well actually it definitely wasn’t possible to join those cabins for the big event in November, they were a camp only thing, but it seems like they’ve changed that for this year. My cabin is still active and people can talk in it, and I’m very excited about that because the cabins are a really good way to talk to other writers and generally keep your excitement going for the month and get that support and encouragement. So they are a really cool thing to join and I recommend that you do if you fancy maybe the more social part of such a pig monster event.

You will have to declare your project on the website to take part officially and you can also collect badges that way. So I think you got, say, one if you’ve written 1666 for the first time and then you get another badge if you’ve written for seven days in a row, things like that. And that’s always quite fun. I like collecting badges. All of those things will also help keep you accountable and get your excitement going as NaNo gets a little harder every week.

I’m not selling it, am I?

But the most important part of NaNo is that you do not have to make it to 50,000 words, okay? You don’t need to write that many. Because let’s be honest, that’s a monster goal for just one month. So don’t worry if you don’t. Just have fun, enjoy the excitement, get swept up in it as I normally do. And if you, if you make it, then yes, that’s a fantastic feeling obviously, 50,000 words in one month is a huge achievement, but NaNo’s really, really hard. It’s really easy to burn yourself out on it, trust me on that, I’ve done it once or twice, and especially if you’re also working at the same time, maybe even full time, and you’re trying to keep a family alive. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

So just remember that all progress is good progress. And it’s totally fine to just join for the hell of it, especially if it’s your first time doing it. Enjoy it, do your best to reach 50,000 words, and if you make it, great, if you don’t, who cares? Look at all those words you’ve written during November and just… or maybe if you hadn’t joined NaNo, maybe you wouldn’t have written all those words. So that’s a great achievement already. Well done. Just join and enjoy the NaNo madness cause there’s a lot of that.

I’ll leave it here because I want to keep the episode short as promised. But in two weeks, I’ll do another NaNo specific episode on how to prepare for it without overpreparing for it.

The action step this week is to join the fun, join the madness, sign up for NaNoWriMo and declare your project. Make sure you stock up on tea or coffee or whatever your brew and make sure you have a few snacks ready as well, because you’ll want them and you’ll deserve them. You can sign up at nanowrimo.org but don’t worry, the link is also in the shownotes, so you can just click that. If you would like to join my cabin, get in touch. There’s limited availability, but I’ll fit you in if I can. The more the merrier or you know up to 20 people because that’s the limit. The easiest way to do that is probably via social media. The links for that will just follow in a second. See you there!

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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October Goals 2020 | The Blood Wisp Heat Is ON! Also NaNoWriMo Denial/Acceptance

Happy (Almost) Most Wonderful Time of the Year, friends!!

The veil is thinning, spirits are getting more chatty, and – as is tradition – I’m trying to talk myself out of doing NaNoWriMo next month while kinda talking myself into it. I fail at this every year, and I’m starting to accept my participation as an inevitability.

So, that’ll be one goal this month! 😀

What else is happening?

Blood Wisp

With my more-or-less done decision of doing NaNo, I want to put the heat on these rewrites. There’s much to do, and I know I’ll be happier going into NaNo with them done. This will be my priority this October. Fortunately, my NaNo prep should be pretty light, because…

NaNoWriMo

I’ll be writing The Silence of Magic *high five*

(me: ‘I’m considering maybe doing NaNo this year if there’s time.’

Also me: *talks about it like it’s decided*)

I’m very aware that I only just burned out earlier this year and that NaNoWriMo usually puts a lot of pressure on me when I’m also working somewhere else, so I’ll be taking it slowly and won’t stress over the end goal. Having said that, I also know that I’ll struggle to not work on it should I make it within 10k of winning *shrugs*

And I believe that will do! I’ll need October to get used to my new routine of being back at work, so the goals above will be plenty.

What are you up to this month? Are you preparing for NaNo too?


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My NaNoWriMo ‘Prizes’ for Motivation

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you probably know that I love NaNoWriMo. It’s super stressful and I’ve burnt out more times than not and the deadline is glaring at me with shiny red eyes–

And I love every second of it.

I ‘won’ my first ever NaNo three years ago, burned out bad the year after that, and didn’t even try it last year, because I knew I was too busy and I was burning out even without that pressure.

When I did it before–both when I smashed it and the year after, when I failed miserably–I set myself three rewards to keep me motivated, and I’ve done the same again this year.

And the best part? I don’t even need to make it all the way to 50k to get something 😀

Here’s what I’ve set for this year:

15k of NaNo Success

These cards are so beautiful, and as someone who prefers animals to people most days, they were an easy first reward. I’ve been looking for new cards for ages, and these speak/meow/bark to me.

Earned and moved into my basket ^-^

30k of NaNo Success

It’s the entire trilogy, actually! I’ve been meaning to read them for years, and then a friend posted a picture on Instagram while I was considering my rewards, so I saw it as a sign.

Not far off earning this one. 25k there, 5k to go.

50k NaNo Triumph

Despite my obsession with this mega-monster event, I’ve never bought the shirts :O

I can’t find a good picture of this year’s or any of what the winners can claim, but if I make it all the way to the end–and it’s looking good right now! –then I’ll finally buy one of these pretties.

It’s about time, honestly.

Stand by to see pictures.

(unless I fail, in which case… better luck next year? *shrug* but damn, I want this shirt!)

Do you set yourself rewards if you participate in NaNo or for other milestones? Make a tea and tell me what you’re writing for! <3


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