How to stay on 50K write track for NaNoWriMo author challenge

November is National Novel Writing Month, where writers challenge themselves to get down 50,000 words before the end of the month. Jessica Singh with the Idea Exchange in Cambridge offers some advice on how to keep going if you've hit a mid-month writer's block.

Challenge gives people a 'concrete goal' to turn something from an idea into reality

Jessica Singh is an information specialist with the Idea Exchange in Cambridge and is also running the NaNoWriMo programming during November. (Submitted photo)

Writers are putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboards – during the month of November for the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge, also known as NaNoWriMo.

The challenge: write a 50,000 word manuscript in just 30 days. It's a difficult task, but one that can be really rewarding, says Jessica Singh, who runs NaNoWriMo programming at the Idea Exchange in Cambridge.

"I think a lot of people have the idea that they've always wanted to write a novel but that's sort of this nebulous thing of how you're going to do it and when you're going to do it," she said.

"NaNoWriMo sort of gives you a concrete goal, a time frame and also a community."

The challenge means writers need to get about 1,600 words on down each day, but Singh says with support of others doing NaNoWriMo, it doesn't have to be a daunting task.

The Idea Exchange offers weekly write-ins where people can get together with others and discuss ideas, brainstorm plot points or just commiserate about the challenges of the challenge.

Like a New Year's resolution, NaNoWriMo authors may start off with gusto but falter in a few days, so Singh also had other advice for writers.

1. Ask yourself questions

Singh tells people to ask themselves three questions:

  • What do I like about my novel?
  • What do I want to write?
  • What do I want to read?

"I hope those three questions sort of motivate people to remember why they're writing because they have a story that they want to tell," she said.

The third question is important, Singh said, because you're writing something that isn't out there yet that you want to read that doesn't exist because "you're thinking about it in a way that nobody else can think about it." 

2. Carve out time each day to write

Some people will take vacation days from their job to do the challenge, but most continue to work and write the novel in their spare time. It can be hard to find time but Singh says schedule some time for it.

"Instead of sitting down and maybe binge watching TV, sit down and write a couple of pages," she said.

3. About more than word count

Singh also likes to remind people that while this is a challenge, it's also meant to be fun.

"I hope you know when you're slogging through in the your second or third week, you remember that it's more about than the word count. It's about what you want to tell and the story that you want to tell," she said.

If you're stumped or plagued by writer's block, she says to remember that you've already written more words than you had before the challenge began.

"A lot of people always decide they want to write and they never get to it," she said. "If you've done something, you've written something, you can always edit a page instead of a blank page."

4. What happens Dec. 1?

When the challenge is over, the Idea Exchange will hold a finale party for people to figure out what to do next with what they've written. That includes having panelists including editors or publishers who talk about how to write a query letter to a publisher. 

There are also tips on how to keep going. Singh says 50,000 words isn't quite enough for a novel - they're usually around 80,000 to 100,000 words – so you may need more motivation to complete what you've started.

For more tips, check out these ones CBC Books received from authors:

Listen to the interview on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition with Jessica Singh here:

It's National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and writers have challenged themselves to creating a 50,000 word manuscript in just one month. Jessica Signh is an information specialist with Idea Exchange in Cambridge and she offers some tips for writers who may need some inspiration to keep going. 7:00


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