Last November I toyed with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month during which you write 50,000 words. However, I chickened wimped decided against it because it was already a few days into November and I’d done no planning or preparation whatsoever. I was also worried about the prospect of having to get the word count done, without there being any scope for my much-needed “ponder time”. (This veers wildly from brainstorming ideas in a notebook to hot writing to creating family trees and devising flow-charts to watching the squirrels in the trees out back while eating chocolate and drinking tea and a lot of other things in between.)

This year, however, is different.

This year, other writers who’ve taken part in previous years, 2009 included, have positively encouraged me to give it a go.Β I’ve talked to published writers like Miranda Dickinson and Keris Stainton, who have successfully used the month to get a jump on a novel by writing 50,000 words of a “dirty” draft. (This is also known as a First Draft but a “dirty” one just sounds like it’s more fun to write, doesn’t it?) Both Miranda and Keris have subsequently gone on to write the remaining word count (50,000 words is not enough for a complete novel, despite the name of the month), finish, edit and polish it. You can read what Keris says about NaNo here.

Roz Morris has some great advice from some of her NaNoWriMo winner friends on her blog Nail Your Novel. (If you’re a writer, I really recommend you following Roz both on Twitter where she tweets as @dirtywhitecandy and on her blog, Nail Your Novel. She also has a book out under the same title and I’m finding it invaluable, as it’s packed full of practical tips, hints and checklists. Check it out here: Nail Your Novel. (I’ll be posting a full review shortly.)

This year, I am being more organised about the whole thing in order to give myself the best chance I can for success. I’ve already signed up and made the commitment to take part, for starters, and I’m currently working out which of my ideas I’m going to submit to the NaNo treatment. I’m going to spend this month prepping it, factoring in some “ponder time” and putting down some ideas. I am also going to be doing mini-NaNo’s to get myself into the habit of writing at least 1,667 words a day. (If you’re doing NaNo, feel free to buddy up with me. I’ve signed up as “katheastman”. Highly original, I know!)

This year, I’m doing my research with some recommended reading, such as Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem!: A High-velocity, Low-stress Way to Write a Novel in 30 Days

This year, I have my buddies doing it with me. Thanks to social networking – take a bow Twitter and Facebook – I now have a support group of other writers, most of whom have taken part in NaNo before. We’re going to be cheering each other on and helping each other get past that finish line on 30th November with 50,000 words a-piece. I feel more confident about taking part this year because I know I won’t be going it alone. And, out of everything I’m doing this year, this is what’s encouraging me the most. I believe I can be a NaNoWriMo winner.

Have you taken part in NaNo before? Did you manage to cross the finish line with 50,000 words? Have you worked on what you wrote that November and finished a novel? Do you have any tips or hints for things I should be doing this month to get ready or for November itself?