Greetings, programs! We’re only a couple of days away from go time for NaNoWriMo, so this is my final post on getting ready. You’ve ruthlessly examined your schedule, squirreled away some casseroles in the freezer, resigned yourself to a full DVR, and lined up your treats for winning. Aside from creating an outline or doing some research (because pshaw, pantsing), what more is there left to do?
Probably the most important part, that’s all. It’s time to start spreading the news.
Writing is, by nature, a fairly solitary activity. NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is all about the community. Anyone can choose any time of the year to put nose to grindstone and crank out a novel, but this is when we all do it together, when you have a whole gaggle of writers eager to cheer your word count milestones and willing to help you when you get stuck. This is an extremely valuable resource, and if you want to get across that finish line, you’ll make use of it.
Google+ has an impressively large and active community of writers, and one of the great things that happens is the accountability circle. It’s very simple: on Monday someone will ask everyone what our writing goals for the week are, and on Sunday they’ll ask if we achieved them. Since everyone sets their own goals, they can be humble (like “write anything at all”) or lofty, easily achieved or major stretches. And let me tell you, what gets me pulling up the word processor on Saturdays frequently isn’t the burning desire to write, it’s the knowledge that otherwise I have to admit defeat on Sunday.
The brain works in odd ways, and sometimes aversion is a bigger motivation than desire. It’s not so much that I want to win NaNoWriMo as that I don’t want to have to tell people that I lost. And the more people who know you’re doing this, the more it’s going to suck to have to answer their inquiries by admitting that you couldn’t cut it.
This doesn’t mean in general conversation that you have to bring it up out of the blue. (“Man, it’s starting to get cold out.” “Sure is. Have I told you about this contest I’m doing, random stranger?”) But don’t be afraid to mention it to friends, family, coworkers, and so on when it is relevant. I’d advise giving a heads up to your nearest and dearest even if it doesn’t come up otherwise. NaNo often translates to burying yourself in a hole and ignoring all social obligations, which can lead to some very strained relationships if you’re not clear up front that this is not personal and not permanent. Remember, your loved ones are going to be some of the strongest supporters in your corner, but only if they know you need them there in the first place.
You may have heard of NaNoWriMo in some other writing community and think it started there. It’s an official yearly event backed by the Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit organization devoted to advancing literacy. So if you do nothing else that I’ve suggested, get ye over to nanowrimo.org and sign up. That puts you in the official tally of participants, and gives you access to the various shiny tracking widgets and your own personal statistics for the month. Official participants who validate at the end of the month with 50,000 words also receive access to the winners’ page, which contains various freebies and discounts on things of writerly interest (including half off the full version of Scrivener).
I’d also encourage each of you to buy something from the store or make a donation (or both!) at some point in the month. It costs quite a bit of scratch to make this thing happen, and most of that is going to come during November. If every novelist currently signed up donates $5 (or another $5 if you’ve already donated), they’ll hit their funding goal for the year. Be good to the community and give back.
If you’re interested in joining the craziness but not so hot on the guidelines of writing 50,000 words on a new novel, you can still sign up for the site. There are people referred to as NaNo Rebels who do rewrites, short stories, screenplays, memoirs, poetry… Whatever strikes your fancy, really. You can set your own goal and still sign up (though remember that if you don’t have the 50K to paste into the validator at the end of the month, you won’t have access to the goodies).
Signing up for the site gives you access to the site’s forums, which are in general a pretty awesome place to hang out, bounce ideas, and get questions answered. The most important forum for my money is your local. The world gets divided up into regions, each one managed by a handful of Municipal Liaisons (or MLs). These awesome volunteers set up all kinds of events in the area and keep an eye on their forum.
I cannot advocate enough for attending these local events. Networking with local writers is a valuable thing, especially when it comes to looking for beta readers and trying to get this thing out into the world. They’re also frequently very productive: you’ll have writing sprints and word wars where people try to beat each other’s word counts, and you have smart and creative people right there to help you out if you get stuck. Plus, it’s just bloody fun.
Perhaps you don’t live anywhere near any of your local events. Maybe you don’t work well out in public, or your schedule doesn’t really sync up with any of the official things. Never fear! There are all kinds of online events, like silent writing hangouts in the massive Writers Discussion Group on Google+ or hosted by other writers or communities. It sounds like kind of a weird thing to just stare at a bunch of people who are all working with their webcams on, but they’re a lot of fun and very productive and encouraging. If you don’t want to go the hangout route, you’ll also find writing sprints (writing as much as you can for a set amount of time) on Twitter where you just chime in with your total once you’re done.
Don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag! On both G+ and Twitter, hashtags like #NaNoWriMo, #NaNoPrep, and #AmWriting will take you to active and lively discussions. On G+, you can even limit your NaNo posts to just a dedicated circle so you don’t spam your non-writer friends. Regardless of where you’re posting, I guarantee there are people who are interested in seeing those updates. It’s always nice to have cheerleaders, and if you’re a writer, they’re positively everywhere during November.
And that’s it! If you’ve been following along all month, hopefully you’ve gotten some good ideas and have taken some time to get things in order and set yourself up for success in November. See you at 50K!