Summer vacation, moving house, packing, unpacking, adjusting to a new school year. I have many excuses for why my writing has dropped off in the last several months. If I’m honest, none of them are particularly good. So, now that my new office is usable (although far from finished) and NaNoWriMo is coming around again, it seems a perfect time to kickstart myself and get my writing going. That means, from now until November, I shall be mentally and physically preparing for NaNoWriMo.
- Healthy Workspace
The first time I succeeded at NaNoWriMo, way back in ’06, I paid a heavy price. Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked. I’d finished an early draft of my first novel-length story. But I’d also developed my first serious repetitive stress injury (RSI) from spending 6-8 hours a day typing in what was essentially a lawn chair. It was a bad shoulder injury and, to this day it still flares up occassionally. Although, as with most writers, I’ve gone on to more and bigger RSIs. Chief among these are: bad back deriving from hunched shoulders and core muscle atrophy, painful feet from not walking enough, painful shoulders and back neck from improper positioning of keyboard and monitor, … well, you get the picture.
So, my first step in preparing for NaNoWriMo is a physical one. Arrange lifestyle and writing routine so they are more healthy.
- position monitor correctly (should be eye-height when seated).
- take regular 5-minute exercise breaks (should be every 30 minutes). The break should involve (a) gently rolling head from side to side, (b) stretching shoulders and chest with side-to-side movement of arms, (c) stretching shoulders with up-down arm motions, and (d) gentle squats for the buttocks
- leave snacks in the kitchen, but have a large glass of water nearby for those semi-conscious urges to imbibe something – it feels better and waistline won’t expand as much.
- get regular fresh air.
2. Notify friends / family and establish network
The support of friends and family, and/or the presence of a supportive network are invaluable for any writer. Personally, I don’t do well in large groups, so I tend to avoid meetups, however, I’m lucky to be in a writers’ group with some skilled and supportive local writers.
3. Story Plan
Once the office is taken care of and the network is arranged, it’s time to get down to the story. You don’t want to arrive at November 1 cold turkey if you’re at all serious about producing an interesting and potentially saleable (at some future post-revised date) novel. This means at least a minimum of planning.
For some, it will be enough to have a theme or broad plot idea, and a few characters in mind. I’ve always found that having a general, chapter by chapter outline helps me finish. For me, that means about 4-5 pages of outlining. That doesn’t mean I always follow the outline, however, or that I don’t add / remove things from it. In my first successful attempt, I added another 25% to the outline after starting (mostly because I thought the story needed pirates…).
On the story I’ll be doing this year, I’ve already done some research and I have a crude outline. So I’m part way there. But it’s an older story idea and I have to refresh my memory / update ideas / add more detail.
It’s 2 weeks to NaNoWriMo (minus a day) and things are falling into place. How about you? Are you participating this year? How are your preparations going? Let me know in the comments.