5 Tips for Surviving NaNoRenO from a NaNoWriMo Winner and Game Jammer

With NaNoRenO 2019 around the corner, I wanted to take a minute to emphasize the importance of self care as part of your work schedule. As a several-time participant of NaNoWriMo and a once game jam fanatic, I’ve had a lot of experience with short term high pressure competitions and endurance challenges. Here’s a quick list of things to consider incorporating into your NaNoRenO schedule that will help you maintain your sanity and make it to the end.

#1: Delegate Tasks

This one might feel like common sense, but there’s a lot of room for error in your planning and knowing what to look out for and who is in charge of what is important.  

If you’re going solo, good news! You don’t need to delegate out responsibilities. You can skip to the list at the end of this point for a quick reference for things you might need to consider. However, if you’re working with a team, establishing priorities and responsibilities is super important.

First, figure out what your team mates bring to the table. ¬†Odds are this won’t take you long because you’ll likely know or have been introduced to them at some point. ¬†Second, identify gaps in your project’s needs. Virtually everyone doing NaNoRenO will need someone scripting and writing the VN and a source of art, and ideally a source of music and a source of sound effects.

If your team can’t custom make everything, then you should task people to secure things you cannot otherwise make. This may mean your writer is checking out royalty free, free-to-use sound effects on websites, or your artist might be looking for public domain tunes, but figuring out who is doing what when your team isn’t fully staffed will go a long way to helping you meet the deadline.

Things to consider:

  • Written Content
  • Scripting(always necessary)
  • Programming(if necessary)
  • Sprites
  • Backgrounds
  • Scene Illustrations or CGs
  • Logo and Main Title Graphic
  • UI Graphics
  • Background Music
  • Ambient Tracks(may be useful in place for music)
  • Interface Sound Effects(Clicks, beeps, etc.)
  • Story Relevant Sound Effects(Foley, most of the time.)

#2: Self-Care Blocks

Schedule time ahead to take care of yourself and your team. I’d recommend at least an hour for every 8 or so hours you’re putting into your project, though I wouldn’t recommend anything that would prevent you from accomplishing something each day of the jam.

Breaks are incredibly important for marathons like NaNoRenO and NaNoWriMo. It’s very easy for NaNoWriMo to consume 100% of your day, and with all of the additional concerns that NaNoRenO adds by being for a full featured medium, you’re going to find yourself gasping for air if you don’t set something aside for yourself.

I personally enjoy taking a step out of my work environment, throwing on some jazz and going for a walk, or checking into my favorite chats and striking up a conversation. I know some people like to stop and watch a movie or play a game, and that works for them. Do whatever works for you.

#3: Scope Focusing

While it is completely possible to make a full visual novel in a month, for small or inexperienced teams, it can be a very daunting task. Virtually all aspects of visual novel creation take time and are frequently dependent upon each other in some regard. When you’re talking to your team about what you’re creating, be realistic about the outcome.

If you’re making a galge or otome, consider handling at most a single character route, or a character introduction demo. If you’ve ever read Romancing the Beat, maybe write and plan each character up to the Meet Cute beat. If you’re making a plotge or something more interactive like a puzzle/vn hybrid, consider scoping to what you would release in a demo, like an hour’s worth of content. For pure visual novels, this would be something like 13kish words at 220 words per minute, or 1-2 puzzles or interactions for hybrids.

Whatever you’re making, I strongly suggest outlining your scope and defining key characters, scenes, and backgrounds before you start. If you’re running solo, I’d stick to around 7k to 10k words in length (roughly a week of 1-1.5k+ words per day). If you have a dedicated writer who isn’t also being loaded with other tasks, such as scripting or resource hunting, 20k-25k words should be doable without tremendous effort. If they’re experienced in the medium, they might be up to a challenge for a word count-for-word count with NaNoWriMo at 50k words.

Remember that the writing will drive and influence the needs of the rest of the team. The more that is written, the more total work will need to be done on the scripting, art, and audio sides, so define that early and set the pace for the rest of the project.

#4: Accept Daily Victories

Staying positive is arguably one of the most crucial things about month long jams. Running into problems or having minor failures build up and snow ball is the reason many jammers and NaNoers drop out of their respected challenges. It’s not only important that you work on something daily, you must acknowledge what you’ve accomplished and accept victories, even the little ones.

Set achievable goals for yourself daily. When you hit your goals, know that today was a victory and your hard work got you there. If you miss your goals, celebrate what you were able to get accomplished as a victory and don’t linger. Accept what went wrong, adjust for tomorrow, and keep going forward.

For the humble, this whole idea can be pretty hard. We downplay our victories and are quick to succumb to negative think. We’re taught that the things we’ve accomplished are no big deal and we deny ourselves the satisfaction of a job well done. Well, I’m here to tell you now there’s nothing wrong with a little ‘Go me!’ at the end of a hard day. A little pride in yourself and your team will help keep you in high spirits and go a long way to helping you cross the finish line.

#5: Work Environment Balance

Sort your work environment out. Seriously. If your desk is super cluttered, especially as things get busy and you have less time to straighten up, stop and take a minute to get it under control. Your brain will thank you.

It’s very easy to get into a state of messy when you’re working on a marathon project. For you grown adults out there, you work all day and come home to work all night on your projects. Over the course of a month, that’ll add up and you’ll start feeling the consequences of having what is effectively two full time jobs in how well your work environment has become. For you younger folks, I’m not your mom but cleaning your work space can amount to helping you clear your head space.

Hopefully these things will help you out. Remember to plan ahead and take care of yourself during NaNoReno 2019! Good luck!

Author: Ian Glidewell

Remort Studios

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