For writers around the world, the stroke of midnight on Nov. 1 meant one thing – NaNoWriMo had begun. We gorged ourselves on candy and scary movies, and now it’s time to shake off that sugar coma and start that novel we’ve been dreaming of writing.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, when the goal every November is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Seems impossible, but many have achieved it. To sign up, you can visit www.nanowrimo.org and announce your project.
So why should you sign up? Here are a few reasons this month of excessive writing is a good idea:
- They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Even if you don’t finish your 50k, just trying and getting into the groove of writing every day can have benefits that go beyond November.
- There is comradery with other writers. You’re not in this alone! Social media is filled with other authors chasing the same goal. So regardless of the outcome, you can make some new friends and cheer on others along the way.
- This is a great time to tackle that project you’ve been putting off. So many people talk about that book they are going to write someday. Guess what? November could be your someday! You will never know if you don’t try.
Whether you are a seasoned NaNoWriMo veteran who has mastered 50k multiple times, someone who has tried before and is determined to finish this year, or brand new to the game, we have some tips to help you succeed this month.
Bank your words
The NaNoWriMo website will tell you that you need to write 1,667 words per day to finish on time. But sometimes life happens, and you may not be able to hit that daily goal. The best way to finish strong is to start strong. Bank more than the 1.7k on your first few days and you will start ahead of the game. That way if your work calls you in for extra shifts or you have a day when you just need to sit on the couch, binge TV, and eat ice cream, you’ve got yourself covered. We’ve all been there.
Banking extra words also helps you stay ahead of the mental game. Sometimes NaNoWriMo gets abandoned when we hit that point of being a few hundred words behind, and then a little more the next day, and then sometimes your inner voice says “well, you are too far behind to catch up, you might as well quit.” Banking extra words on the productive days for the slow ones helps ensure that doesn’t happen.
If you know you have plans over the weekend that might make it impossible to write, add a few extra to your weekdays. If you’ve found your weekdays are rubbish but you can set aside hours on the weekend – aim for huge word counts on those days!
Banking words is all well and good, but it goes without saying that if you are going to write 50k words within a month, it’s going to take a little extra time than you are used to. If you decide to run a marathon, you don’t show up on race day with no prior training and finish those 26.2 miles. You sacrifice your early mornings or late evenings to run. Your family knows what’s going on and cheers you on. You maybe change your diet, your plans, whatever you can to get yourself ready for that race.
NaNoWriMo should be no different. If you want to come out of the month with a finished novel, you are going to have to sacrifice some time to get it done. Can you get up earlier? Is there an hour or two of TV a day you can cut for just one month? Are there plans that you can scale back on? Sit down with your calendar and carve time out to write. Make it a priority.
Here are some good videos about time management during NaNoWriMo:
- How do you make time to write during NaNoWriMo?
- How I Schedule WRITING TIME
- How to organize your time during NaNoWriMo
- NaNoWriMo Prep: Time Management
Don’t stop to edit
One of the hardest NaNoWriMo success tips for writers to swallow is to not edit as you go. Grammar nerds may start to feel their eyes twitch when they see the mistakes they made while trying to write fast, but stopping to fix them is not an option. Remember you are going for quantity, not quality here. Gasp! That’s tough to swallow because we all want our books to be good.
But that’s what editing is for. If you rush to put your book on Amazon and hit “publish” the moment you type “The End,” you’re still going to have a lot of mistakes even if you edit as you go. Books need to go through several phases of revisions before they are ready for others to see. Just push through and get your words onto the page, and then after you’ve had a long nap on Dec. 1, you can start revising.
Write with others
We listed comradery with others as a reason why you should join NaNoWriMo, but it’s also the way to succeed. Word sprints with other writers – where someone sets a time like 20 minutes and you all go write and then report back after with your word counts – are the perfect way to force yourself to sit down and focus for short bursts of time. These sprints prove effective in upping daily word counts.
Here are some ways to find people to do sprints with:
- Join Facebook groups with other writers and look for those asking for sprinting partners. There are many NaNoWriMo-themed FB groups, and there might even be some for your local area.
- Follow the NaNoWordSprints Twitter account, where they start sprints often throughout the day.
- Reach out to some of your writer friends to see if they want to do word sprints over text or messenger.
- Join local writers groups or NaNoWriMo events, many of them are hosting write-ins online again this year due to COVID
Writing in sprints with others not only helps you get in your daily word counts, but it can help provide the encouragement you need to keep going.
When you are trying to get something like 50k words in 30 days accomplished, it is very daunting. Thirty days seems like both an eternally and no time at all. That word count goal? Seems insurmountable. That’s why it is important to set yourself little goals and give yourself prizes when you achieve them.
That’s right, as Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec would say – treat yourself.
Give yourself a candy bar or a cup of coffee from your favorite place every 5k words you hit. You pass that 10k marker? Buy that novel you’ve been eyeing for a while. You conquered the halfway point? I think the best take-out in town is in order!
Create yourself a milestone list with prizes at the beginning of the month and celebrate when you hit each one. Better yet – involve your friends and family in the fun. Have them hold onto the prizes and tell them when you hit the goal. Then they can scream with joy alongside you!
You’ve got this
You can do this. At the end of the month, you will be celebrating your victory. Or at least how hard you tried. No matter what, you will have words on the page, and that’s what matters.
How do I know you can do it? Because I’ve tried and failed several times. But I’ve also succeeded just as many times. And last year? I sold one of my NaNoWriMo books to a publisher. It comes out next February. And that dream of mine wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t opened that blank document on Nov. 1.
Good luck and happy writing!