10 Tips for Making it Through NaNoWriMo
For writers worldwide, NaNoWriMo is the ultimate marathon: a literary sprint towards the coveted blue ribbon: a 50,000-word manuscript.
For many writers it represents the height of their writerly self-discipline and motivation, as they sit down each morning, noon, or night to write towards that humbling goal.
If you’re participating this November and are looking for survival tips to keep you on track until the end of the month, or you’re keen to get a leg up on tips and tricks for next year, allow your typing fingers a moment of respite while we bring you ten sure-fire ways to make it through NaNoWriMo.
1. Decide On Your Strategy
While NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, participants aren’t confined to a novel necessarily. In fact, many choose to freewrite. Our advice: Save yourself the time and self-doubt, and start NaNoWriMo committed to a single idea.
2. Make a Plan
If indeed you want to write a novel—or at least a partial novel—by the end of NaNoWriMo, it’s a good idea to plan ahead in the months leading up to November. If you’re a last-minute participant, even the week before can make a world of difference. Knowing and committing to certain aspects of your story, such as your cast, climax, and plot points, will allow you to breeze from one scene to another whilst clocking optimal word counts, since you’ll know for the most part what you need to be writing next. Character names and other lesser details are easy to change later in the editing stage, but having a logical plot in place before you begin will be a huge motivator.
3. Learn to Adapt
Of course with any novel-writing process, your characters, plot, and how you perceive your own work is going to change as you write, so be open to adapting your original story and don’t be afraid to rejig as you go. You aren’t going to be satisfied with the end result if you ignored your intuition!
4. Create a Routine
If you’re keen to meet the 50,000-word manuscript goal, you need to be writing about 1,700 words every day, and that’s no easy task, especially if you’ve got a busy life to begin with. To maximize your time and stay on par with your goals, create a schedule for the month and if you can, make it routine. Whether that means waking up early to get a good few hundred words in before work or sitting down to your laptop by 7 every evening, the more repetitive and predictable the schedule the simpler it will be to stick to it. You will still need to apply flexibility to reach that word count. There’s no telling what unavoidable commitments will arise and eat into your writing time, so allow for an afternoon writing marathon or two across your weekends.
5. Set Word Count Deadlines
Though ideally you would sit down and write page after page with ease, some days won’t be as productive as others, which is why you might want to consider setting weekly or bi-weekly word count deadlines instead. This is a great technique if you know that you won’t always be able to hit your daily mark, and can make up for it later on the better days.
6. Write Now, Edit Later
As hard as it may be, you’re much more likely to find your flow without the constant stop–start of editing as you go. The aim of NaNoWriMo is to get as many words on the page as possible, so put your focus there, and remember that you’ll have plenty of time after November to edit. Trust us, we understand the urge like no other, but keep your eyes on the prize and leave the red pen for later.
Looking to take your NaNoWriMo manuscript to the next level? Check out our Manuscript Assessment page to see what level of editing is right for you! Or, book a call with JEC’s founder and editor-in-chief to chat about your manuscript’s potential!
7. Join the Forums
If you feel your motivation starting to slip, join the online forums! Aside from logging your word count so it can be verified at the end of November, the official NaNoWriMo website is a great tool for connecting with others writers around the world who are in the same boat as you. More of a face-to-face person? Put a call out on social media for fellow writers in your area participating, and have a weekly get-together to chat strategy. You’ll also likely find write-ins in your area through the NaNo website, where writers join forces in coffee shops or libraries and write en mass!
8. Write Every Day, No Matter What
While giving yourself a specific word count deadline is incredibly useful, it would be naive to think that you’re always going to meet those goals, or exceed them, every day. There are going to be days when you wake up for your early morning writing session and want to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. We get it, we really do. But even if you end up writing a grocery list, or a quick character description, put something down on the page every day.
9. Write What You Know
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about the tired old cliché. A handy tip for staying productive when you’re struggling to write the next chronological scene, conversation, or bit of exposition, is instead to write a scene from later on in your story that feel ready to write or know the outcome of. Admittedly, writing out of order is rather unconventional advice for fiction writers, but it can be effective.
10. Keep Writing
Perhaps the most important piece advice of all: Keep writing after NaNoWriMo is over! While at first the transition back into everyday life is going to feel like a huge sigh of relief, try your hardest not to lose the momentum. If you can write 50,000 words in a single month, then you can surely find time for a few weekly writing sessions when you aren’t NaNoWriMo-ing. Start editing that new manuscript and stick with it! We believe in you!
You’re a determined writer; you’ve got character sketches, plot outlines, and a list of to-dos. What you might not have a plan for is how you’re going to get your manuscript published. Fear not! Download our Publishing Guidebook for a step-by-step breakdown to how JEC can lend a hand.