It’s that time of year again—National Novel Writing Month! Every November, thousands of authors take part in the NaNoWriMo marathon writing challenge and attempt to successfully complete a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. In 2014, NaNoWriMo had 325,142 participants!
Many writers start out filled with energy and determination on November 1, eager to begin tracking their word counts. But as the days stretch into weeks and more and more nights and weekends are spent hunched over a keyboard, your initial enthusiasm may begin to falter. Fortunately, we have some tips to help you survive the rigors of NaNoWriMo and make it all the way to November 30 with your head held high—and hopefully the first draft of your manuscript clutched in your cramped, tired fingers.
Have a plan. Writing a 50,000-word novel in one month is not easy, physically or mentally. Be prepared! Do some warm-up writing exercises before you start, and create an outline with a brief summary of each chapter. Give yourself a schedule with daily and weekly goals—and be ready to stick to it. When you start to stumble, remember: Your writing doesn’t have to be linear; some days, it may not even be good. But consistently meeting your word count benchmarks by tackling the work in manageable sections rather than one big, seemingly insurmountable total will make it easier for you to keep moving forward.
Ditch the distractions. Turn off your phone, the television, and any distracting mobile devices you might use to check the latest scores or watch cat videos. Log out of all your social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram. However, there is an exception to this rule: If Tumblr, Pinterest, or some other site helps spark your creativity, allot yourself a limited amount of time to view those sites. Then log out and remember: Writing time is writing time!
Take breaks. Never underestimate the revitalizing power of a short mental break or a catnap. Make a point of taking several quick breaks after an hour or so of work, and do something completely unrelated to your writing. Go for a walk, eat a snack, meditate, listen to music, or do some yoga; this will help boost your productivity and creativity. You may even notice something or someone that will provide inspiration for your story.
Be brave. NaNoWriMo offers you the perfect opportunity to be daring and try something new! Don’t be afraid to explore unusual topics or a genre you don’t usually write in. If you usually write romantic stories, maybe now’s the time to try your hand at a mystery. And if your plot has holes, or your characters seem underdeveloped, don’t throw in the towel and give up. Ultimately, what you’ll have at the end of November will be a draft in need of many revisions. But it may also be the beginning of a really great novel!
Some writers may only make it halfway through November before the demands of NaNoWriMo cause them to give up; others may not even make it that far. But by following these NaNoWriMo survival tips, you’ll be one of the writers to make it to the finish line—and you’ll be able to call yourself a NaNoWriMo winner!
Don’t know how successful I’ll be, but my novel that’s been stalled for five years finally moved past its logjam. I got a couple (short) chapters done back in October, and although I only got about 500 words yesterday, it was after editing a “word sprint” I had done in October. (Yes, I know you’re supposed to keep writing and edit after NaNoWriMo, but I often edit the previous session as a means of “warming up” when I can’t seem to jump right into a new scene. Especially when the “just write” is so fragmented I’m afraid I’ll forget what I was typing about if I wait to flesh it out.)