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Writers' & Artists' Blog

Teaching NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo advice

NaNoWriMo is difficult enough by itself. Once you add in the challenges of working around a very real schedule, the challenge increases exponentially. I started out with a four year losing streak during college and I thought that was hard. Then came full-time occupation and I learned my lesson. Last year was a near miss at 40k words, but it was also the first time I, as a teacher, started looking into the possibility of doing NaNoWriMo along with my students and that opened up a world of possibilities.

I guess I should back up a little. Just over a year ago I moved from my hometown all the way to South Korea to work as a teacher. It means I’m half a world away from my friends and writing buddies. As a foreign teacher here in South Korea, you either teach English at a hagwon (academy) or a normal school. Last year I was the former and NaNoWriMo couldn’t be fitted in. However, I was determined this year to push it through.

What enabled this was my changing jobs …

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Conquering NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo advice

Last November, I dedicated myself to writing the first draft of a novel in thirty days. I had attempted NaNoWriMo the previous year while studying for my Masters degree, but failed miserably, giving up after ten days. Though I knew I desperately wanted to be a writer, the fear of failing in my studies prevented me from dedicating the necessary time to writing. But, there was another reason for my failure that year: the idea for my novel wasn’t solid enough.

NaNoWriMo 2013 was another experience entirely. That August while I was writing my Masters dissertation, I went to visit a friend in London. My route back took me via the Underground. While on the Tube, I was listening to Ramin Djawadi’s score from Pacific Rim. The score had such an epic feel to it that I soon imagined a fight scene taking place while I sped through the Northern Line. The hairs on my arms prickled as the scene in my imagination played out: inspiration had struck. My first thought after that was, why was the …

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Winning NaNoWriMo with the Online Community

Lee Warren

Going into NaNoWriMo last year, I was never going to have been able to win. I had good intentions, but always fizzled out a third of the way into the month. As I look back, one of the main issues I struggled with was writing in isolation.

None of my family or friends knew about, or understood what I was doing. They had never heard of NaNoWriMo, so it was hard for them to offer support. And I didn’t do a very good job of explaining how important it was to me. That was a mistake, by the way – one that I fixed going into NaNo last year.

In addition to not having a lot of support, I’m a freelance writer and editor, so I have to work on paying projects during the day while working on my novel at night. After working by myself all day, taking on a huge project like writing a novel in isolation at night just didn’t work for me. Without any support, I often opted for social gatherings instead. 

Last year I sought out other writers who were participating in NaNoWriMo, knowing I would …

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Completing NaNoWriMo With An Impossible Schedule

NaNoWriMo advice

I’m going to let you into a little secret: there’s no such thing as the perfect time to write. And I know this, because I spent many years waiting for that right time, and if I hadn’t realised that little secret, I’d probably still be waiting. It’s as Anne Tyler said: If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.

I always imagined those sorts of mild epiphanies to strike when gazing up at a starry sky, or standing upon a snowy mountain-top (not that I’ve ever hiked higher than Debenhams’ second floor). Instead, it was June, 2013, 2am, I was staring at an email from ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’, my hair on end from another sleepless night with a teething toddler, and Play-doh trodden into my socks, remembering with sadness the novel I always planned to write before I’d put it off for a month, which turned into a year, which turned into many. I thought: if I didn’t have enough time then (pre-toddler, pre-university, …

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Back in the Saddle Again

Writing advice

My first NaNoWriMo winners’ certificate indicates that I participated and won for the first time in 2005. I can’t say it feels like yesterday, but I do have some clear memories of the experience. I didn’t know if I could write a complete story; I had never really tried. I didn’t know if I could create living characters, or even make it to the end of the first chapter. All I had was an idea for a book: who would be in it, why they would be there, and how it would end. I was scared of failing but I was driven by a deep need to find out what I could do.

After years of being a driven proto-professional, I had fallen off the cliff of motherhood. I was unemployed and at home with a toddler. Doing NaNoWriMo was the suggestion of a friend in a similar situation. “Just try it,” she said, like any good pusher. So I signed up on the website and set up a desk. I even made a calculation of how many words I would have to produce per day. Then, on November 1st, I sat down and started. …

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