I feel quite well-prepared this time. I haven’t done any actual planning, but I have a title (The Administrator of Tultrax), a theme (duty and betrayal) and a little sketch of a city nestling within a mountain range.
Also, I spent October finishing one of my previous November novels, Holding Hands Among the Stars, from 2015 (which we have been serialising in recent issues of TQF), and I think that’s given me a good idea of what's likely to work this time around:
Using a large squared moleskine cahier devoted to the novel, with pages for brainstorms, character sketches, maps, questions that still need answering, things worth remembering and notes for each chapter (made while I’m writing as much as before, to remember key points, names, places, species, etc). And if I fail? Having all my 2015 notes in a cahier made it infinitely easier to pick up the novel years later and finish it.
Starting to write at 9.00 pm, when Mrs Theaker goes to sleep. The idea of writing first thing in the morning always appeals to me, but whenever I try that I keep putting it off and it delays my whole day. If I write at nine, I’m usually done by eleven, and I can carry on till twelve or one in a pinch.
Doing everything I could to make sure my work for the day was done by the evening, not leaving anything to be mopped up after everyone else has gone to bed — my worst habit.
Going up to our spare room, writing on my Freewrite, and not coming out until I’ve finished. The living room might be cosier and Alexa might be there to keep me company, but so is the Xbox and the TV and Netflix and a pile of comics and way too many distractions. There’s nothing to do in the spare room except get on with writing my novel.
Allowing space in my novel for improvisation. It helps to know roughly where I’m going, but the fun bit is getting there in the barmiest possible way. I kept saying “Yes, and…” to myself, like they do in improv groups.
Rewarding myself with a food treat every hundred words. Ritz biscuits at first, but that was quite a lot of Ritz biscuits, so then Smarties.
Using a water bottle with a screwtop lid. The one I got came from Paperchase. The unscrewing, sipping and screwing it back on is a good, ritualistic time filler while I wait for sentences to come.
Using an old Kindle Keyboard to play MP3s. No way to select tracks, no other distractions, it just plays a bunch of songs and that’s it.
Getting someone to lock my phone and any other distracting devices with a PIN. I’m going to have to buy an Apple phone next time, because the parental controls on Android phones are no use for parents who need controlling.
Going directly to bed after I’ve finished. A good night’s sleep is always a good idea.
Writing in libraries and coffee shops worked well too. (Not something that will be a revelation to anyone!) While out and about in October I wrote on my Chromebook using John Watson’s Writer, the Internet Typewriter. It was well worth paying for the Pro version. I love the green text on a black background, and being able to export an epub on my Chromebook and add it straight to Play Books is brilliant.
If you want to read more of my tips for completing the challenge, here are a few of the articles from past years. Just remember that it's all advice for writing a novel in a month, not advice for writing a novel that anyone else will want to read.
- Why it went wrong in 2016.
- Why it went wrong in 2014.
- What I learned in 2013.
- What I didn’t like about taking part in 2013.
- What I did like about taking part in 2013.
- Fifteen tips for completing Nanowrimo.
Anyway, good luck with your November novels, and more importantly good luck to me with mine! The first chapter is now done.
Here's how I'm doing: