National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, has arrived.
What is #NaNoWRiMo, you ask? It’s an internet-based project that challenges writers all over the world to write 50,000 words in a month every year in November.
Hands up if you’ve ever thought about writing a novel but have yet to write a single word. When it comes to putting pen to paper, the excuses flow thick and fast.
- I don’t have time – Step away from the TV. Who cares who dunnit? There’s a couple of hours a night right there.
- My writing sucks – You won’t know that for sure until you actually try.
- I don’t have the right stationery supplies – Awww boo hoo, wait, what? You don’t have the right stationery? Why didn’t you say so? Now that we can do something about.
So, to survive this thing called writing, you will need the following items.
A selection of pens in a variety of colours would be a good place to start. Yes, typing is quicker, but sometimes the creative juices flow better when you’re not staring at a blank screen with the cursor hovering over Twitter.
There’s no rule stating what type of pen you have to use, that’s down to your own personal preference. If you have ideas coming out of every orifice and speed writing is your thing, a long lasting ballpoint is probably best. Does the sight of beautiful handwriting gives you as much pleasure as the words themselves? A fountain pen might be more your style.
Use a pencil or even a crayon, it really doesn’t matter. If you enjoy writing with it and it feels comfortable, go for it.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a highlighter handy. Revisions are easier to spot at a glance if they stand out.
The type of paper you choose depends on your writing style.
Before you start writing, it’s useful to have an idea of what the novel is about, the plot, characters, main events and other random ideas you haven’t found a place for yet. During this brainstorming process, you might find drawing pads or plain sheets of paper helpful. Next, consider the type of notepad you’ll be using. Spiral bound pages can be ripped out without greatly effecting the rest of the pad. Hardback notebooks give your writing more of a permanent feel and are generally more robust. Exercise books can be bent, folded or rolled up for easy transportation.
Size matters. A large notebook is great for keeping all of your writing neatly in one place. Smaller notebooks fit nicely into bags, but you may need more than one to complete your draft. Let’s just wait a moment while the notebook addicts finish jumping for joy.
You have the most amazing idea but you’re cooking tea, so you tell yourself you’ll write it down later. Too late: the Ideas Troll has just taken great pleasure in popping your thought bubble, and it’s going to be at least another two weeks before the idea resurfaces.
Writing down key words will jog your memory later which is why having a quirky dispenser full with post-it notes in every room of the house is such a great idea.
You could also use them for short chapter summaries and character notes which can be swapped around and rearranged to assist you with finalising event timelines.
Once upon a time, a writer started her first novel. Ten pages and two coffees later, she realised she’d written a load of old rubbish. With a heavy heart, she decided writing wasn’t for her. She tore the pages from her book and threw them into the waste paper bin. A furious Fairy rose from within, shook pencil shavings from her hair and scolded the writer for her lack of determination. “A first draft is called a first draft for a reason,” she barked. The writer realised she’d been a fool to think she could get it right first try. 300 pages and several rewrites later, she had a novel she was proud of and lived happily ever after.
The moral of this story: Don’t get on the wrong side of a narky waste paper basket fairy.
You’ll enjoy spending more time at your workspace if it’s organised and inviting. A stapler, hole punch, paperclips and ring binders are all useful items to have in the drawer. Not having these items won’t get in the way of your writing, but they might help you keep things tidy and easily accessible.
If you stock the basics, a visit to your favourite online stationery shop can’t be used as a valid excuse for not writing. And don’t deliberately fail to stock the basics just so you have a valid excuse to browse for stationery again. Oh never mind – go ahead, browse for stationery.
Lost for words? It happens to the best of us. A thesaurus and a dictionary are great writing tools so don’t be frightened to use them. They are helpful to have around when you realise you’ve used the same word five times in as many sentences. Just don’t go over-the-top. If readers have to consult their dictionary ten times a page in order to understand what they are reading, they will quickly lose interest.
Whether you use a diary, desk planner or wall planner, check it daily to make sure you are on target for meeting your deadlines. If you don’t have any official deadlines, set yourself some. It’s a good exercise to help you learn to manage your time effectively. Decide how much time you need to spend writing each day in order to meet your goal and try to stick to it.
Remember, best-selling novels don’t happen overnight. A novel requires a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance, but it’s so worth it in the end. We’ve listed some useful things to get you started, but as long as you have a pen, paper and your imagination, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you.
You can do this. Go, Go, Go!
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