November is coming soon. For some people, this means growing a moustache. For others (like me), it means thinking about writing – and perhaps, this year, it will mean writing a lot more. So if you cannot afford writing coaching, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) can be just the sort of month-long boot camp you need. But if you’re not into novels? Relax, you can still use NaNoWriMo to your advantage.
0. How NaNoWriMo works
It’s best explained on the project’s official site. Head over there soon, to sign up and get access to all the wonderful info. Basically, the goal is 50 thousand words in one month. They will keep checking on you throughout the month, and you may get access to meetups – which are also a good way to sit together and write.
Now, for those of us who ain’t writing novels this year, here’s what you can use the 50K words for.
1. Write lots and lots of blog posts
You’re reading a blog right now. Why not start writing one? For yourself, for your friends, for the whole damn world. No ideas? Here’s a brilliant idea generator: Claudia Altucher’s Become an Idea Machine. Read this and just follow the steps. It’s easier than you think.
2. Write a damn good diary
This is something that 20th century writers did AS WELL AS write novels: they sat down and wrote damn good diaries. I’m talking publishable stuff here. My favourite is Gombrowicz (read this New Yorker piece about how this came about), but there are plenty more. You don’t need to aim for publishing, though. Just make sure you sit down each day and write down what happened, how it made you feel, and what you were thinking of. Because the word limit is quite ambitious, you will be forced to write quite a lot – so think a lot about your events, too!
3. Just mess about with writing
Stream of consciousness. Really weird fan-fiction. Bad erotica. Bilingual writing? Essays? That thing you always wanted to write – could just happen this month. And really, the word limit needn’t bother you too much here. If you’re finding stuff out, that’s the important bit. My advice here would probably be: don’t edit. Keep writing, keep writing wrong, until you hit the right bits in your writing. There’s time to edit later when the month is through.
4. Write long letters to lots of friends
Who does this any more? I find it’s so much easier to send emojis and GIFs to people now, and enjoy this. But I used to write letters, lots of them, up and down the country. So why not use NaNoWriMo to discover again how it felt? Prepare your friends for an onslaught of epistolary talent – and fire away.
5. Really describe your goals
It’s funny how most people’s Really Big Ideas and Really Deep Thoughts could fit on a Post-It.
Imagine you have 50 thousand words to really describe your goals. That house you’re dreaming of building: sit down, each night, and describe it wall by wall, smell after smell, one square meter at a time. By the time you’re done, you may feel much better about the goal you’re chasing, much more committed to a vision that is now more detailed – or you may realise how hard it will be to achieve. Either of these beats “build that house” scribbled on a mind-map somewhere.
6. Write fifty good short stories
This one really resonates with me. Partly because I don’t believe that life works like a novel, and partly because I’m just too agitated to focus on one big story. If that’s your thing as well, focus on writing fifty good short stories during a NaNoWriMo. This gives you a thousand words per story – good enough for a simple episode, and you don’t have to feel like a Great Writer to get that done, right? In time, these may arrange themselves into themes, story arcs…characters may repeat, or you may find that different names you’re using could just describe one person, one place. Voila: stories blend into novels, just like that.
7. Review the best books / films / games of your life
Get an account on a review website and get going. Every night, write a thorough review for a book, film, TV series – something that really changed your life. Maybe you’ll hit 50K words, maybe you won’t. But the other thing that will happen is much better: you will have the chance to re-live the stories and experiences that moved you so much. And to share it with others. The way those websites work, by the end of the month you will have plenty of new recommendations for more fantastic moments – and plenty of reader / viewer friends to discuss them with!
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