Okay, I know this is late, and I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth just a little since the end of November, at least as far as my writing goes.
I thought it’d be interesting to talk about NaNoWrimo at length, as a person who hasn’t ever done NaNo seriously and also won on my first serious attempt.
Today I’m going to talk about a couple of things. First, my past history and thoughts on NaNoWriMo, and then a some things that I did to keep up the pace throughout the month and not fall behind.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo in about 2009. One of the first pieces of original fiction I read on Fiction Press was a friend’s NaNo novel. When I say I’ve never made any serious attempts, let me clarify. I thought about doing it, and tried to write for one day, or two days and didn’t even come close, and then gave up. I did that a few times before I realized that this wasn’t for me. I thought that it was silly because I always write on and off anyways and NaNoWriMo is for people who wouldn’t normally find the time to sit down and write the novel idea they had in their head.
So, for a long time I wrote off NaNoWriMo as something that I didn’t need.
Now let’s fast forward to 2017. Around October, when I had a major writing project that I really wanted to make myself write. I thought, well NaNo is coming up, maybe I’ll use that as motivation. I’d recently discovered about myself and my writing that if I set myself a strict goal and adhere to it, I surprise myself and usually achieve it.
What better motivation that NaNoWriMo?
Before I get into the tips, let’s talk about the reasons why I failed in the past:
First, I didn’t have a plan. Yes, I had a story I wanted to write, but I didn’t have anything plotted out and was flying completely blind. I know some people call this “pantsing” but I think, even a panster knows a lot about what they are writing before they start writing it. I never had a clear vision, and thus, I believe that is why I failed.
Second, I had almost zero support network. I had a couple of chatrooms I frequented at the time, but I didn’t have any people friended on NaNo and I wasn’t active on Twitter or anything at the time. I didn’t have people reporting word counts back and forth or anyone pushing me to write.
What was different this year? To start with, I had a pretty clear idea of my plot. I had documents with notes and I’d been stewing this idea for quite some time. It was a story that has been ready to come out of me for most of the year. I was raring to go.
So my tip number one…
Tip 1: No matter your writing preference, panster or plotter or planster, have a plan. Don’t fly completely blind. I consider myself a planster, because I have notes for all my stories (I wouldn’t consider these full outlines), usually in chronological order, then a section of miscellaneous character notes. I even include bits of dialogue I think I might want to have in the story. Then, when it comes to writing, I touch on each of the points in my notes, but in between those, I might go with the flow.
Tip 2: If it weren’t obvious from the reasons why I failed… Have a support network. At least one other person, preferably as many as possible, to cheer you on and write together and keep those words flowing. It really does help to have someone saying “you’re doing awesome!” every once in a while.
Tip 3: Word sprints, or word wars. Find a sprinting group, and sprint with them every day when you’re trying to crank out your words. Setting a 10 or 20 or 30 minute limit and challenging yourself to write as much as you can–no distractions, no Twitter breaks as you race against the clock–really is the best way to get those words down.
I also did this Twitter game called #MusicSprint. Each day there were three songs, and sometimes a fourth bonus song. The songs would get shorter after each one, and the challenge was to write as many words each song as you could. To put things into perspective, in a 20 minute writing sprint I usually write around 300 words at most. Usually less. Using #MusicSprint, in a 10 minutes or less time frame, I usually wrote 200-300 words! So it really did help!
Tip 4: Write at the same time every day. Be consistent! Choose the most productive time based on what works for you, and stick to it. Get into a schedule. Every day, I would do what I needed to do after work, and then sit down at my desk, check my Twitter for just a few minutes, then NaNo time.
Towards the end, I found myself trying to hurry out my words within the last couple hours of the evening. That might work for some too, if you work well under pressure. No matter the case, pick what you know works for you and go with that. Try out a few things and choose the one that seems to yield the best results for you. Everyone is different.
Tip 5: Have a buffer! If you feel like you can write extra on any given day, do it. Don’t just stop at your daily minimum word count. But only if you don’t feel overworked or exhausted! It’s about pacing yourself. Do more than you can, because then when you can’t, you aren’t as far behind! If you have a day off, use some of that time to build up a buffer if you are able to. I had two or three days during NaNo that things came up in my personal life, or that I just didn’t feel good at all, and wasn’t up to writing. But because I had a buffer, I didn’t feel so behind when I came back to work on my project the next day. Which leads into the next tip.
Tip 6: Take care of yourself! Take breaks. If you really feel like you can’t write one day, then do what you need to do! Take care of yourself! If you have a buffer, it won’t put you that far behind, and you’ll come back to your project feeling more invigorated (hopefully!).
Tip 7: Celebrate your successes! Publicly in some way if you can. On Twitter, or in your word sprint group. Seeing other people say “great job!” goes a long way towards keeping your morale up. And, if you post your progress on Twitter too, you can thread it and see how far you’ve come!
Tip 8: Don’t forget to utilize the NaNo website! Put in your word counts every day. That’s another way you can see how far you’ve come. It really does help keep you going. Especially once you get past halfway. 50k starts not feeling like that much by then!
Tip 9: Print out a NaNo calendar! I found an awesome one with a Raven on it, which was very appropriate for my project, and put it up on my wall where I could see it every day. It has the word count goal for each day and a little prompt or piece of motivation. It really helped me to stay on track, and saved me the time of having to do math because I could just look up and see what my total word count had to get to that day to stay on track!
I think that’s all I have for now. Whether you won NaNo this year or not, or if you didn’t attempt at all, just keep writing, and try out some of these tips next year, or whenever you start your next project, to keep yourself on track, whatever your goals are.