It's that time again! NaNoWriMo. If it doesn't make you want to run away screaming, it means you're attempting to climb the literary Everest. Whether you've been putting off your story for too long or you want to challenge yourself to see what you can achieve, NaNoWriMo has a way of bringing writers together. Writing a book in 30 days is the goal, but the reality can prove to be much more challenging than expected. Set yourself up for success this year with these 10 tips.
Prep & Commit
Before you begin, it's important to know what you're trying to accomplish. Putting 50,000 words down onto paper in 30 days is no joke. The best way to prepare yourself is to adjust your mindset before you start. Abandon the concept of correcting, editing, and tweaking as you go. The only thing that matters here is getting the words down on the page (as editing is not included in Nano unless you're choosing to do editing and not write). That being said, you also have to mentally commit to being successful in order to succeed. Approaching this challenge with an impulsive or casual mindset will guarantee that you don't win at the end of the month. You have to ask yourself if you want to spend hours before the computer typing. If the answer is yes. Knowing what you're in for and taking it seriously is key. Check out this Nano Workbook to help you get started and track your progress as you go along this month.
Do Your Research
Part of planning is research. Did you know there are tons of books out there geared for writing a novel in 30 days? Who knew! But as it turns out there are and they do an excellent job guiding you through the process. Here's some of the ones we found:
Write Your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next by Jeff Gerke. His book brings a comprehensive guide that will walk you through every stage of the process from generating ideas, to the muddy middle, to completing your draft.
First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript by Karen S. Wiesner, an award-winning author, shows you how to create an outline that will see you through 30 days and beyond. To assist you there are worksheets, day-by-day planners and brainstorming exercises.
Write-a-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander. Get ready to stretch out your brain muscles and sprint to the finish line, this book will have you thinking and writing at a marathoner's pace.
Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D., this book is backed by Writer's Digest. It's charm lies in an interactive approach to helping you finish your book in 30 days, complete with expert advice and tracking spreadsheets.
Using any of these guides will help you to stay on-track and inspired throughout this writing process.
Make A Plan
Creating an outline (no matter how simple or complex) is a good idea before you begin Nano. If only because it will take the guesswork and potential writer's block out of the equation so that all you have to do is write. Another great idea is to do the math. Calculating how many words you need to write each day is crucial to staying on schedule. You can track your progress on the official challenge website as well, so there's the extra benefit of seeing your progress bar change colors as you go which is another motivating factor. You should also have a designated notebook, pens, highlighters, inspirational playlist, or anything else you need to write all ready to go so you don't waste any time fussing once the challenge begins.
Here's the tools you'll need to get started:
Just Do It
The most important rule of Nano: JUST DO IT. Don't think, don't worry, don't let anything get in your way. While this is the hardest part since life, kids, and the holidays tend to get in the way, it's important to put the blinders on and stick to your goals. It's also important to remember that this is the time to shovel sand into the sandbox. You'll sculpt the castle later on once Nano is over and the editing begins. It's about exploring your ideas and letting your creativity run wild, so throw caution and reason to the wind while you write.
End When You Know What's Next
A useful tip to keep in mind while you're writing is to end each day where you know what's going to happen next. If you leave your writing on a cliffhanger or after you finish a chapter it'll be twice as hard to pick it up the next day. If you stop in the middle of the action where you know exactly what is going on, you'll be much more motivated to pick it up the next day because there's less thinking involved. Chances are because its more exciting you'll also get sucked back into your draft easier too.
Tap Into Support
Lots of writers participate yearly in Nano, which means that there's lots of support groups that get created within online writing communities. It's the perfect way to make new writer friends, find an accountability buddy, and to generally rejoice in being a writer with other people who "get" it. Bonus, not only does the experience bring people together it also allows for friendly competition to help drive everyone participating forward. Friends who write together, finish together.
Need some extra pep in your writing step? Check out these positivity boosters:
One thing you'll definitely learn from participating is what your writing habits are really like. There's no way you can hide the type of writer you are but guaranteed no matter how disciplined you are, you will be challenged and at times want to give up. For this reason you have to be realistic about yourself, your expectations, and your goals. Being truthful with yourself may be saying that it's okay for you not to finish your manuscript. It may be finishing but not having a perfectly crafted story. It may even be allowing yourself to participate, but breaking the rules by choosing to tweak the process in a way that suits you better. All of these are okay! Do what's best for you and your overall writing goals and don't let the pressure of the time limit get in the way of creating the book you want to create. Writing goes beyond Nano!
Unplug from your social media and technology during this process. So much of what distracts us is that open web browser and those random text messages. Now is the time to distance yourself from all the pesky technology that keeps you from writing normally and to actually make an effort to stay away from it. This can be surprisingly hard. Let's face it, we're all addicted to technology and using it is like breathing. We may even suffer withdrawals from not using it, or find ourselves reaching for a phone that's no longer nearby. Don't stress! Simply block off writing time each day where you limit your distractions and then allow yourself time to indulge in them later on.
Don't Force Things
Don't stress out about the methods if they aren't working for you. If you fall behind in your word count, it's not the end of the world and you should stop to reevaluate your expectations before killing yourself trying to catch up. Ask yourself: What's more important? Words or the word count? For a lot of writers, especially if its your first attempt, simply participating in the challenge and getting words (no matter how many) down on the page counts as a victory. That being said, if Nano is turning into a stressful, monstrous task that you're up late guzzling coffee trying to accomplish- quit while you're ahead. You don't lose credibility as a writer if you don't finish, so take it easy and do what works for you.
Lastly, have fun! The point of participating in this challenge is to see how far you can go, to grow as a writer, to hopefully be on your way to finishing your book, and to make new writer friends. With so many benefits, it's definitely worth joining in on the fun. Just make sure it stays fun and doesn't turn into something ugly.
If you're thinking about participating in Nano this November, hopefully these tips will help you succeed with your writing goals. Happy writing!
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