October 18, 2019

nanowrimo tip: how to hold a great write-in

Blogger's Note: This year marks my 10th consecutive year participating in National Novel Writing Month. So far, I am 9/9 of reaching the 50,000 words mark in 30 days. As I go into this year, I'm reflecting on what has and hasn't worked and passing it along. Please remember, this is my experience and what works for me. Please feel free to take or leave any advice as you like!

One of the best parts about National Novel Writing Month is the way it takes a normally solo venture and turns it into a group activity. Whether or not you're an extrovert or an introvert who sometimes likes to know she isn't alone in this world (that's me!) or just someone who needs a little inspiration to get those words down, hosting a write-in is a great way to not only boost your word count but to get to know or spend time with local writers in your community.

I've hosted a variety of write-ins during my time as a Municipal Liaison as well as for fun. Some of the write-ins have been regular gigs where people are encouraged to get together and write during a set amount of time and at their own discretion. Others have been a bit more organized. However, wherever, and whenever you plan to hold your write-in, here are some suggested ways to make it memorable and productive.

Tips for Hosting at Great Write-In

Pick a Place with Good Space

If you're having an intimate gathering with a few friends, meeting at one of your homes is a super cozy and great location. However, if you're hoping to bring in a dozen or more people (and particularly if they're people you don't know) making arrangements to work in a larger public space is a good way to go. We've worked at coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, and even a museum. In all of these situations, I contacted the mangers of the locations first to reserve space and to let them know what's going on.

And while I am a big fan of writing at Starbucks, when it comes to hosting community events, I aim to work with local businesses. It's a great way to show support and to raise awareness and interest from community partners. If you are working at a business, encourage good etiquette amongst your fellow writers. I haven't had too many problems in the past, but I like to make a good impression so we'll be invited back.

Encourage a Casual Dress Code

I know not everyone is comfortable wearing sweatpants and leggings in public, but if you're planning on staying put for a long time, you'll be grateful you did this. I also try to dress in layers. You never know how hot or cold a place will be on any given day, and it's nice to be able to add or remove a scarf and sweater as the temperatures fluctuate.

Lead Writing Sprints

In a lot of write-ins, I encourage people to write at their own pace. But, some of your fellow writers will appreciate having a little guidance and motivation to get those words down. That's where sprints come into play. Plan on holding a series of timed writes at varying intervals with short breaks. For a two-hour write-in, I typically aimed for a schedule like this (using the time as an example):
7 p.m. - Gather
7:15 - Sprint 1 (15 minutes)
7:30 - Break
7:35 - Sprint 2 (20 minutes)
7:55 - Break
8 - Sprint 3 (25 minutes)
8:25 - Break
8:30 - Sprint 4 (20 minutes)
8:50 - Wrap it Up
I also made sure to tell participating writers they didn't have to do the sprints if they wanted to work at their own pace, but several of us did benefit from these timed writes.

Give a Little Swag

If you're a municipal liaison, you can usually request swag, such as stickers or bookmarks, from NaNoWriMo. I have also worked with MLs who gave away notebooks (and I did folders with word trackers and pencils one year). Maybe my favorite giveaway (and one that was super easy and inexpensive to put together with Halloween candy sales) were themed candy bags. I printed off these sayings on colorful paper and placed them in small baggies with the correlating candies. You can go your own route with something else, but you're welcome to use mine too. Not only do they make for writing fuel, but I thought it was a cute way to offer up a little encouragement to fellow writers.

Hold a NaNoWriMo Fundraiser

During bigger writing events, my fellow writers and I have held drawings for donated raffle prizes with the proceeds going back to support NaNoWriMo. It's a great way to pool your resources together to support the non-profit organization.

Have you ever had an official or unofficial write-in? What were some of the things you did for your event? What's something you'd like to try?

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