NaNoWriMo

Struggling to write that novel during NaNoWriMo? Gabrielle Prendergast has 5 tips for you

The Canadian YA author gives advice on how to complete a novel draft in 30 days.
Gabrielle Prendergast, author of Zero Repeat Forever, is a YA and middle-grade author and Vancouver Book Awards finalist in 2017. She has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2011. (Simon & Schuster/Gabrielle Prendergast)

Gabrielle "G.S." Prendergast is a Vancouver-based YA author. Prendergast was a 2017 Vancouver Book Award finalist for the middle-grade novel Pandas on the Eastside. Her YA novel Audacious was included in CBC Books' list of 100 YA books that make you proud to be Canadian. She is also a big fan of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the annual Internet-based creative writing challenge where participants have exactly 30 days to write a draft of a novel.

Prendergast tells CBC Books that not only does she take part in the global event each year, she's actually written book drafts that went on to be revised, edited and then published. This includes her latest YA book, Zero Repeat Forever.

Prendergast offers some tips to ensure writers stay the course and complete their 50,000 words by the end of the month.

1. Look at NaNoWriMo as the motivation you need to kickstart your writing career

"I wrote the first draft of Zero Repeat Forever during NaNoWriMo in 2011. I tend to take a long time to write things. I consider NaNoWriMo a chance to turn something out quickly. It still took me a few years to get this book off the ground, but NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to get a lot of words on the page in a short amount of time."

2. NaNoWriMo is a community-based event — think about reaching out to fellow writers for support

"There are great local and online communities. I have connected with some other authors here in Vancouver and also with authors around the world. For example, there's a great Facebook group page called Nanoland. Sometimes, when I can't think of the name of something, I'll just post it on there and everybody will come back with an answer. It has become a great writer's resource during November and year-round."

3. Keeping a daily word count is key to success

"Your daily word count for 50,000 words is about 1,667 words, which is actually really easy. It's not that many words when you think about how many emails you send in a day. I would even advise writers to exceed the daily count — sometimes you'll have a day where you can't write and may get behind. Even for me, things can happen and my output has gone off the rails. So try to write as much as you can."

4. Use an outline when you're struggling

"I've mostly been a pantser in my life, but the process is a lot faster if I plot. Usually, I'd pants for about half the book and then realize it's all a jumble and I don't know where it's going. From there, I step back and do an outline. I find that's quite useful because you can explore the characters a lot in the first half of the book. You find out who your characters are and that helps you to predict how they're going to act — and how they're going to face the conflict. It's easier to plot if you have that foundation."

5. When you complete NaNoWriMo, celebrate! But understand that your first draft is just a draft

"The whole goal of a first draft is to have something that you can tear apart and put back together. There's a saying, 'You can't edit a blank page' and writing is about rewriting. Some novice writers complete a draft and then think they should immediately send it to agents, but seasoned writers know not to do that!

"I recommend that you set it aside for a little while. Then go back in as an editor and see how much you can accomplish by revising your work. Then show it to people — someone who isn't your mom — and try to find people who are going to give you honest feedback. It could be a critique partner or you could hire a professional editor."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.