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5 Tips to a Successful NANOWRIMO for Memoir Writers

Last week I wrote about how National Novel Writing Month 2012 (NANOWRIMO) changed my life.

It can change yours too!

No, I didn't write a novel or a memoir in 30 days—in fact I ended up with a tangle of 50,000 words that were largely a stream of consciousness (see below for how you can avoid the same).

But I did develop the habit of putting my butt in the chair and writing—which is the big difference between wannabe writers from real writers.

Most of the LGBTQ+ folx & allies I work with have never written a book before, let alone taken on the challenge of writing a memoir.

NANOWRIMO is a great place to start.

Here's how you can have a successful NANOWRIMO & end up with 50,000 words that you can shape into a meaningful manuscript.

Step 1: Block Out Time

Block out time on your calendar every day to write and set a daily goal. 50,000 words divided by 30=1,667 words a day. The equivalent of 6 to 7 pages double-spaced every day.

If you know there are days you can’t write, adjust your daily goal. If you know that 50,000 words in 30 days isn’t possible, adjust your overall goal. Consider any quantity of words you write this month a WIN. 

Step 2: Set Up a System

Set up a system to keep track of your word count and organize your writing. This could be as simple as a Google or Word doc, but check out Scrivener and Dabble Writer too — online writing tools that offer free trials and other incentives during NANOWRIMO.

Step 3: Create Accountability

Find a writing buddy or writing group for accountability. It’s the rare individual who can sustain the discipline of butt in chair for 30 days without some kind of outside accountability.

Check out the NANOWRIMO website to join a local group or form your own. If you're a queer writer, find other queer writers who will relate to your story and experience.

Step 4: Plan Before You Write

Plan first and write second to dramatically increase your odds of producing meaningful work.

Make a list of the key moments you KNOW will be in your memoir. I call these your “tent pole scenes.” These can be the first scenes you write when you start NANOWRIMO.

Get clear on your reader, your narrative arc, and the other key questions you’ll find in the Memoir Mini Blueprint before you start writing.

Need a copy of the Memoir Mini Blueprint? You can find it here.

Step 5: Avoid Perfectionism

It's difficult to get to 50,000 words if you edit as you go. There will be plenty of time for editing later. Write now, edit later!

It's Not Too Late to Write for NANOWRIMO

If you're worried that it's already too late to do NANOWRIMO, do not fear! I started on November 8th and I still reached my 50,00 word goal.

In a perfect world, you would have set yourself up for NANOWRIMO months in advance. You would have used a planning tool like the Mini Blueprint and/or drafted an outline.

Perhaps you would've joined a writing group, and you definitely would've blocked out time on your calendar to write every day.

But life is rarely perfect, right?

If you wait for the perfect moment to start writing, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll never write.

“Perfectionism,” wrote Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, “is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

Perfectionism can show up in the writing itself—and in your writing process.

So here’s my NANOWRIMO advice:

If you have a story you're burning to share with the world, it’s not too late.

Jump into NANOWRIMO whenever you can. Spend an hour or two doing some planning first. And then sit your butt in the chair and write.

Don’t worry if you don’t make it to 50,000 words. Any number of words is better than zero. Call it a win!

You need to write your story because there are readers out there who need to read it.

Your story matters. Write it! 

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