7 tips to surviving NaNoWriMo
The funny thing about NaNoWriMo is that many things you’re told to do during the writing process regarding time and efficiency (don’t think about word count, don’t rush yourself, take a break if you get a block, write and rewrite when you get stuck, etc.) all go outside and sit in the coming winter until the end of November when you can take your second breath, the first being when you wake up on November 1.
NaNoWriMo is an incredible commitment and it’s not for the busy writer. It’s also not for one who gets writer’s block often but refuses to write an outline. For NaNoWriMo veterans, this month is like an adventure you know the ins and outs of and know how to make it to the end. But, for those who are new and think this month is a gamble instead of a guarantee, let’s work on that enthusiasm and lack of confidence.
1. You’ve already started
I’m not going to tell you what you should have done before the month started. That would be pointless. What I can tell you, however, is that you made the commitment. You wouldn’t put yourself through this if you didn’t know you could do it. The immediacy that comes with the first day of this fantastic month is its own case of doubt, and you can overcome it by proving to yourself that you can reach those weekly milestones and come out with a novel in the end. A rough draft novel, but it’s a novel.
2. Don’t look back!
You’re going to want to go back several times and fix your writing. You’ll want to refine it before you continue (some of you). That’s the kind of writer I am, anyway. But, I’m an editor, too, and even I’m going to tell you not to look back. Wait until the rush month is over and you take that second breath. If you made an outline, look at that instead.
Some of you might need to look back so you can move forward. Fine, but don’t try to rewrite your entire novel. That doesn’t increase your word count. If you want to add a chapter in between chapters or add to a scene, however, do it. Do it, do it, do it.
Even if you find something you messed up on. Maybe a plot hole exists or you wrote your character wrong in the beginning. Write it as a note. Keep going. If you have time in the end, you can go back or you can just wait until the competition is done. But, if you go back now, you’re only tightening that hold on yourself and you’ll really have to rush when you don’t meet your word goals.
If you meet a daily goal, go ahead. Go back and fix stuff. But, do what you need to do first. Write!
3. Ask for encouragement
Post small excerpts on your page. Get a writing buddy and encourage each other to reach set goals each day. Join a NaNoWriMo group if you haven’t already. Have a word count countdown set aside so you can look at how far you’ve gone and how much farther you need to go. If that is discouraging, try counting down the days like you might have done with Christmas or another holiday by using paper circles.
Say a prayer, do a happy dance, take a run, or drink some coffee. Don’t threaten yourself. Encourage yourself. This sounds cheesy, but I’m not kidding. Things are easier to do when you get something from it. They’re harder when a threat is involved. Pessimism is definitely a psychological thing and it will hinder you. Keep yourself positive.
4. Don’t procrastinate
If you think you’ll do double tomorrow, you might be right. But, what if work calls you in or your kids finally sleep in for once and you drowsily decide to take advantage? What if your significant other wants to take you on a date or if he/she gets called into work and you have to stay with the kids or just take care of something else? What if? What if?
There are many of those, and although some seem unreasonable, there’s nothing like an inconvenient time for the unreasonable to happen. I started a huge editing project right before moving, and although I probably could have pushed it back, I had other things coming up. I needed to get it done. Good things don’t like to happen at convenient times, and procrastination becomes a nasty habit. Don’t start one when you only have one month to overcome it.
5. Beat your goals
Nothing feels quite as good as doing better than you thought you could. If you have the words inside you, go past whatever word count you have set for yourself. Write more than you thought you would. Don’t sotp if you have the time. Keep writing until the writing muse turns away for the night (or day).
6. Take a day off
I know. Blaspheme, right? Some of you might have set crazy goals to write every day. The most-likely number is 1,666 or 1,667 if you included that fraction and rounded up since you can’t have part of a word. Well, what if you take one day off each week. Four days? Your word count goes up for each day, of course. Now your number is 1,923 or 1,924, right? Something like that? That’s only a few more paragraphs. The closer to two thousand you get, the scarier the number seems. But, remember, if you double space a document, that extra three-hundred words is only one page. That’s not even a whole scene sometimes.
So, why take a day off? Don’t you want days off from work? NaNoWriMo isn’t just fun and a great way to get writing. It’s work. It’s hard work. Recharge and do something with family or just relax and do nothing at all. Pick your day wisely, and use that day as your reward for not procrastinating those six other days.
7. Remember that this is more fun if you’re having fun
Don’t torture yourself. Don’t curse and swing at your computer and scream at your pet because you’ve been writing five days or ten days or whatever number you’re at when you read this. It’s not a death sentence unless you make it one. You’re doing beautifully, and your novel won’t be perfect. I promise. But, it will definitely be a novel. That’s the point. Just keep writing. Keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t cry. You have thirty days. That’s four weeks. You have twelve hours in a day and this might not be the last chance you get to do this crazy project. You’re crazy for doing it, but all the best writers are crazy in some way. Prove your kind of crazy is a writing kind. Your journey just started, and what a wonderful journey it is.