Plan on Winning NaNoWriMo?

by Sue Cook

I joined Oldham Writing Group a year ago. I needed to find a local group with the same goals as me, and this fitted the bill.

The first Thursday I turned up to the meeting in the library I was shell-shocked. Some of the writers had agents and publishers. Others had self-published numerous books. All were utterly focused on getting their books to market and making sales.

The group formed for NaNoWriMo support. November was fast approaching. Already they were talking about their NaNo projects. Plot outlines needed firming up. Ongoing projects needed to be cleared.

Lord knows what I said about my plans (I had none). I was out of my depth and kept looking to the guys on the sofas, eating takeaways, drinking and sleeping. I’d have felt more at home there.

I’d never entered NaNoWriMo with any sort of plan. Probably that’s why I never finished. Thanks to the others, I discovered the NaNo website has planning pages.

Determined not to be the odd one out, I downloaded the worksheets and plodded through. After all, these guys were who I wanted to be. Taking my novel writing as seriously as they did must be the first step to publication.

For the first time, I entered November with a plan for 50,000 words. I’m not talking a scene by scene plan. I had the major plot points, the steps I needed to hop between.

After much hard work, Jacqui set up an Oldham group on the NaNoWriMo website, which encouraged us to write as much as we could to repay her efforts. For the first time, I did it. I wrote those 50,000 words. The group as a whole wrote well over half a million words!

It wasn’t easy. I hit walls. Sometimes I didn’t know what to write next. But I knew where I was going, so I wrote something just to get to that next place of certainty. It’s a bit like just heading north when you want to go to Glasgow but didn’t check the map before you set off. Eventually, you’ll see a sign that will put you on the right road.

‘Winning’ NaNo is a wonderful feeling. Of course, getting to 50K is just the beginning. It’s probably not even the end of that dreadful first draft. And when you do finish your first draft, the real hard work of editing begins. 

But you can’t edit what you haven’t written. So, start early. Plan your story out. Know where you want to be by the end of November. And ideally, join a group for added accountability.

It makes sense, it really does.

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