Are you doing #NaNoWriMo? Here’s your 30-day writing bootcamp! (Week 1)

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This post first appeared on this blog on 01 November 2012, and is an extract from our NaNoWriMo-themed issue 3 of Publishing Talk Magazine.

Whether or not you’re joining in the annual novelathon, boost your productivity by taking Sarah Salway‘s challenge to write something every day for the next 30 days.

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompts

So it’s November, that month when many writers start an annual obsession with word counts and sleep deprivation!

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time, when you are invited to write a 50,000-word novel over the course of just one month. Mad maybe, but you just have to look at the list of published novels resulting from this project – nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos – to see there’s some magic going on.

It reminds me of a famous experiment outlined in the book Art and Fear, where a college professor divided a pottery class. Half had to produce just one perfect pot; the other half as many as they could. Surprise, surprise, the better pots were to be found in the second group – those who went for quantity over quality.

Because what this kind of pressure does is to release us from the perfection spell. Suddenly, it’s not our job to craft a beautiful melt-in-the-mouth sentence, but purely to get the words down. And once they’re down, of course, we can edit and make them better. Which as most writer will tell you is the fun bit, really, of the whole thing.

So even if you’re not doing the official NaNoWriMo, I invite you to create your own 30-day writing plan. The only rules are that you commit now to writing something EVERY DAY for the next thirty days, and that you don’t go back to edit or discard. Use these prompts below to keep you going. Some are for inspiration, some to motivate, some are to warm you up, and others you can just throw into your daily write to see what happens.

Day 1: You could spend this first day making word count charts, clearing your writing desk, compiling soundtracks for the novel, or agonizing over what your character really wants. But for today, just write. Five hundred words will do. And be like Hemingway, finish mid sentence. If your allotted five hundred words takes you exactly to the full stop, then start the next sentence: ‘And…’ Then stop.

Day 2: If 500 words works for you, stick to that. You might not have a novel at the end of the month, but you will have 15,000 words, which is more than you would have if you hadn’t started this. Otherwise ramp it up, but by no more than 2,000. The idea is to do some every day, not run out of steam after ten days. What you are going to do now might cause some of you extreme pain. I want you to download an internet-blocking programme such as Freedom –  and give yourself fifty minutes of Internet-free writing time for each hour you work. You will have ten minutes between each hour to check emails, make coffee, complain… etc., but then it’s back to work for the next fifty minutes! This is called a ‘Power Hour’. Try it.

Day 3: From out of the window – write what your character sees?

Day 4: Today put your character somewhere uncomfortable. Get inside their skin. How do they feel?

Day 5: Congratulations! You’ve reached at least 2,500 words. As a treat, buy or find something small that your character would love. Put it in front of your computer so you can see it. What does your character like best about this thing?

Day 6: Make a list of your favourite words, cut them up and put them in an envelope. Pull one out when you are feeling as if you need some help and put it in your next sentence. This works best when you’ve no idea how to make it fit.

Day 7: There’s a knock at the door…

Find Sarah’s full 30-Day Writing Bootcamp in our NaNoWriMo-themed issue 3 of Publishing Talk Magazine, or follow the links below:

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About Author

Sarah Salway is a journalist, blogger, author and writing coach, and has written three novels, two books of short stories and a poetry collection. Previously the Canterbury Laureate and the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the LSE, she is currently writing her fourth novel and researching how writing can be used in the community. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahsalway.

11 Comments

  1. Just love it Sarah, makes total sense, I am going to save this up for January, snuggle up and get writing. Currently tied up finishing my first non fiction book. Thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Karen Sundstrom on

    Nice tips. I plan to do a NaNoWriMo month out of January. The last few November’s haven’t been good months for me to concentrate on a writing project even though I have one I want to sit down and write.

  3. Ah, glad this is working!

    And Monde, as far as writing a novel I can’t really put a time on it because there’s an awful lot of thinking and getting it wrong that goes on before I start writing! Each one has been different, but I always plan for editing taking about three times (at least) as long as the actual writing time.

    I haven’t turned my novels into plays so I can’t help you there, but I’ve a short story I’d love to do this for. This might be a good place to get information – http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/playwriting

  4. January seems a popular month for a 30-day writing challenge with a lot of people! I’m certainly going to be doing that myself – albeit writing non-fiction rather than a novel…

  5. NaNo in Northern hemisphere is in winter;January is (northern hemi again) is deep winter.
    for all Xtians NaNo’s pre Xmas.
    Southern hemi it’s late Sring and the January challenge is high summer, with kids off school for eight weeks!

    I’ll do the 30 days challenge in April – Autumn, and now Script Frenzy’s off the OLL menu, no distractions.

    Love the D.I.Y approach!

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