WRITING Boss your NaNoWriMo goals


If you want a writing career, you’ll have to write more than one book. November is approaching, the month when writers of all genres join together as a community to try to write a whole novel in thirty days. If you’re up for the challenge, Kate Walker has some tips for you to boss your NaMoWriMo (NaNoWriMogoals.

Plan Ahead

While free writing an amazing book straight off the bat is the dream, inspiration doesn’t always strike when we need it to. Start thinking about what you plan to write and why. Explore themes, genres and decide on an age range. Set up possible characters and a loose plot now, test out ideas. Which are the strongest? Why is this different? What will hook readers? While writing a book in thirty days is possible, it’s significantly easier if you have a destination in mind and a crew of characters ready to set sail from the start. You can prepare with online writing courses for inspiration and craft tips. Check out SCBWI for upcoming events (https://britishisles.scbwi.org/events/), Amy Sparkes’ Story godmother website (https://www.storygodmother.co.uk/) and Writementor (https://write-mentor.com/).


Make an outline

 Writing a plot outline will create a spine to build your story upon. Make it as detailed as you need whether you are a plotter or not. Consider it a map to navigate through the month, writing a chapter a day. You can pants your way, you’ll have to edit anyway at a later stage, but in the cold November air, staring at your empty page with the pressure of a daily word count you may find things harder without any plan. Make it easier for yourself to succeed with a few key plot points as beacons to guide you.



Set Realistic Goals

 NaMoWriMo aim is 60,000 words, that’s 2,000 every day, but this doesn’t have to be your goal. Think about your constraints. What days do you work? Do you have young children to care for? You need to factor these things into a wordcount plan. It’s difficult to write with toddlers, or after a twelve-hour shift in A&E. Be kind to yourself and set realistic targets. If your children wake at 6am can you get up earlier and write 500 words while they’re still asleep? You’ll still write 15,000 words over the month, that’s a long chapter book, or three short ones in a series. It’s almost a third of a Middle Grade novel, or a quarter of a YA. 

Write at a time that fits around your life and if you miss the word count start afresh the next day. Playing catch up is miserable, it’s unlikely you’ll write 4,000 words the next day. You’ll be tired and demoralised. Celebrate your daily achievements. Log your wordcounts either on the NaMoWriMo website, in a spreadsheet or notebook. The accumulation of numbers will track your achievement and by 30th November you’ll be surprised how productive you’ve been. Writers like Annaliese Avery (https://www.annalieseavery.com/) run great goal setting courses online, so you can work out in advance what you want to achieve and how best to get there.

Don’t be Precious

 The newly typed words will be raw and messy. You can clean it up and make it shine when you edit later. For now, just write. No one will see your creation until you decide to sub it. Until then, this is your personal Frankenstein’s monster hidden away. It won’t escape, shape it however you like. Just create.


 Community Spirit

Writing is solitary, but team up with friends or your crit group to take the challenge, with regular check-ins. Try writing sprints to make you accountable with a community like Write Magic (https://writemagic.org/) or Writementor (https://write-mentor.com/). You’re more likely to reach your goals with mutual support, share your achievements and cheer each other on.


 Keep a Writing Streak Tally

Make a note of the number of consecutive days you’ve been writing. It will motivate you to keep it up. It’s going to get tough just before the halfway mark, but once you’ve clocked up a seventeen-day writing streak, you won’t want to drop back down to zero. You’ll have worked too hard to stop now. Even if you write ten rubbish words on that day you’re shattered, it’s better than none. You showed up, that’s the point. Who knows, once you get started you might keep going and write a killer chapter.

It's not all about Novels

While NaMoWriMo was established with novels in mind, it is about hitting your personal writing goals. You could aim to write two picture book drafts in that time or work on a spread a day for two weeks and revise them during the second two weeks. Whatever works for you. Write graphic novels, draw illustrated spreads, it’s just a mechanism to get you consistently creating. There’s not one way to do this. No one will fail you; all your words or illustrations are a win. The aim is progress, a community spirit to light up the imagination, not a doom-path to beat yourself up on.



Don’t give up

 Stock up on snacks. Put your phone away. Make your writing the priority, don’t fritter away time on social media. Be kind yet strict with yourself. You want to write a book. It will be difficult at times but turn up and do the work. Imagine how delighted you’ll be when you’ve had a really productive month. If you don’t hit 60,000 words it doesn’t matter, if you’ve written 30,000 that’s a huge achievement and a large chunk of your book. You can keep going past the 30th, you’re not Cinderella, your manuscript won’t poof into a pumpkin as December chimes.



 Set yourself goals and when you reach them reward yourself. A coffee for showing up, a tick sheet or a walk for hitting the daily wordcount, a plant for writing all week, a new notebook for lasting a fortnight, a trip to the bookshop for writing all month. Whatever motivates you and makes you happy, do it.



November is over, you’ve created new words. Celebrate. Go outside with people away from your screen, enjoy your achievement. Now you have words to shape into an edited draft. Congratulations, you did it!


*Illustrations by Tita Berredo




Kate Walker is a feature writer for Words & Pictures. She writes MG, chapter and picture books. Kate was longlisted for the Chicken House Open Coop, Guppy Publishing Open Submission and Writing Magazine Chapter Book prize. Kate lives mainly in her imagination, but also in Sussex with her two children who she tests her story ideas on, when she’s not writing about gardening for her day job. Twitter: @KatakusM




Gulfem Wormald is Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at editor@britishscbwi.org

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