You’re a writer. That’s what you tell yourself, at least in your more optimistic moments. On bad days, well…we all know what sorts of terrible things can fill our heads. I won’t give space to all the lies here.
But the truth is…you’re a writer. You joined KRW (or are subscribing to this newsletter–that counts, too). You’ve probably taken classes. You want to improve. You want to get better. And, bottom line, you want to write.
Unfortunately, writing doesn’t come easy. We can find all sort of things we find easier to do–browsing the internet, binge-watching Outlander, rearranging all your books into alphabetical order, possibly performing brain surgery.
And then we get closer to November and are reminded that NaNoWriMo exists. For some, NaNo is a fantastic opportunity to set a goal and see it through, easy-breezy. Some see it as a fun challenge, a way to get some extra words down on the page, and a time to support and receive support from other writers. Others approach Nano like they’re preparing to climb Mt. Everest with a tanktop, shackled feet, and a rice cake for food. (That would be me. Lots of swearing is involved.) Others avoid it all together. Whatever camp you fall into, NaNo, whether you participate or not, provides an opportunity to reflect upon your writing habits and make them better.*
NaNo does take a little extra thought than your typical month of writing, particularly if you have your heart set on penning 50,000 words. It averages to 1667 words per day! And Thanksgiving is towards the end of the month, so you may have to plan around that to boot.
So what are some good tips for a successful NaNo?
1) Make a plan. Even if you’re a total pantser, some planning is required. Day One is not the day to create your characters. It’s definitely not the time to do historical research. (In fact, novels that require a lot of research are particularly tricky to write during NaNo. Contemporary, “real world” settings tend to make for faster writing.) If you want your plot to make any sense, you need to do some preparation. An outline, no matter how much you may hate them, is a fantastic idea. If there is research to be done, get it out of the way early. But even a list of character names and a general direction for the story is better than nothing.
2) Once you start writing, do not go back to edit. You’ve probably already heard similar advice in general, but during NaNo, no editing is critical. You are trying to get as many words on the page as possible, and if you keep backtracking, you aren’t going to get there. Tell you inner-editor to take a hike.
3) Find some friends to cheer you on! (*cough* KRW Zoom Mondays *cough*). The process is made easier when you can find the support of likeminded writing friends.
4) Get ahead when you can. Look, there are going to be days when you fall behind. So, if you have the opportunity, particularly early in the month, to get ahead on your writing, take it!
5) Turn everything off. No Internet, no TV, no texting, no phone calls, during your dedicated writing time. Even during the rest of your day, limiting these things may stir you to better creativity. The more time you can spend on your book–even if it’s just thinking about it–the more likely you’re going to hit your goal.
6) Create a routine. Find a way to make writing part of your everyday schedule and stick to it.
7) Stay positive, and give yourself a little grace. There are going to be bad days. There may even be bad weeks. Heck, you might feel like the whole month of November is a bust. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Think about giving yourself mini-rewards for certain benchmarks. Maybe it’s every 5000 words you get a chocolate bar. Maybe at 10,000 you get a trip to Starbucks or to the bookstore. Find little ways to reward yourself, and don’t sweat it too much on the days you fall short. NaNo should be about positive reinforcement, not finding ways to be down on yourself.
*If anyone reading this believes their writing habits are perfect, please don’t tell me.