As we prepare for the upcoming NaNoWriMo season, I thought it would be good to shareour tips on how to succeed at Nano. This will help thosenew to NaNoWriMo and even us season veterans may learn a new trick or two.
Announce to the world your intention to write a novel in November. This lets your friends and family know you'll be busy in November and may miss some events, activities, and chores. Also, once you've let people know your goal, they can provide encouragement and you'llbe motivated toupdate them with good news on your progress.
Review your November calendar in advance and identify "trouble" days; days when you know you are going to have difficulty finding time to write. For example, Thanksgiving is usually a day when most of us will not have time for writing. Plan extra writing time prior to these trouble days toget aheadon your word count.
If possible, take some vacation time during November.It initially sounds like a waste of vacations, but if writing is your hobby, why not. Others take days off to play golf or go fishing. I'd rather take a day off to write. Some writers have taken the first week of November off, so they can get off to a good start. I prefer taking Tuesdays and Thursdays off during the month. This gives me time to plan out my next scenes in between my days of writing. Plus it makes every workday in November a virtual Friday.
Clean and organize your writing space! What ever space that is for you when you are home and have the time to write! Make it work for YOU...so pens and pencils are with in easy reach, binders, paper, and note books too! Don't forget snacks and candy to keep your energy levels going...and if you can afford one...a desk mini fridge that holds 1-3 cans of soda/water/fruit so one does not get dehydrated...or when one is too lazy to get up to go to the kitchen...
That's my plan for the next few days...it's cluttered right now and i need to make it cleaner and neater because clean, neat, and organized spaces give me less anxiety and it's so much easier to write when you aren't rummaging through trash and wrappers to find your nano notes or your laptop mouse...
Notebooks are your friends....note books for plot...for character...you name it. Some place to write down your thoughts, ideas, random light bulb moments at 3am...some people like to wing it...but if you don't...and want to plan plan plan!...notebooks galore!
For me: the right kinds of writing utensils! no crappy pencils with those stupid erasers that leave nasty residue or smudges. no pens that leave ink blots. I like cute pens and pencils...and the thinner the writing tip, the better...for me anyway.
create a nano writing playlist with songs that get you pumped up and motivated...or songs that are chosen based on the particular chapter or scene you are writing
ambiance works for me...like...going to a coffee shop, on a cool fall day wearing a big floofy sweater and some leggings, looking hella cute with matching jewelry or a scarf...sitting in a secluded corner or by a window while i sip coffee and write write write
Just write. even if it's only 2 sentences...HEY! that's 2 sentences you wouldn't have written otherwise!
most importantly: HAVE FUN! It shouldn't be this big depressing thing that you didn't make your 50k...instead...you should feel a sense of accomplishment that you did something fun or different...and you wrote more words than you would have written otherwise. You got to meet new people, try new things...and have fun doing it...and if you won at the end..then hey! AWESOME! Whether you win or lose, you had fun and you did your best!
I'll be a story in your head. But that's OK:We're all stories, in the end.Just make it a good one, eh?
I do a lot of admin prep work. Stock up on groceries right before, schedule appointments in Oct or Dec. Know where my fav coffee shops are and if they have outlets. Let my friends know what I'm doing, so the blows off don't come from no where. And set up a dedicated time. So say, from 7 to 9 if I'm not at a write-in, I'm still on my couch with my laptop.
Also, set up something in the cloud. It allows the little moments, sitting on the train, waiting in line, work down time, to add up to 50k.
I am also a supporter of doing admin tasks before November! Considerpreparing slow-cooker meals that can be frozen, so you can eat those during November instead of having to cook or worry about feeding yourself! It really helps not to have to spend time prepping food or doing dishes used in food prep. It also helps not to have to spend money relying on takeout / delivery (though those are nice time-saving options, too, if you can swing it).
Clean yourhouse before November, too, so you don't have to worry about doing it later, or so you can't use it as an excuse to "productively procrastinate".
If you have an ideal time of day to write, maximize your productivity by writing during that time, if possible. Unfortunately for me, my ideal productivity comes during the day while I'm at work, but I'm also much more productive when I don't procrastinate writing. I write as soon after coming home from work as I can manage, though I usually have to eat first. If I think to myself, "Oh, I'll write as soon as I finish this other thing," or, "I'll just watch this YouTube video / TV show / etc, then write," I usually find myself making excuses to not write at all! My method is: Write first, reward later. Sometimes this is hard to do, but it really works when I stick to it.
Remember that you don't have to be physically writing to write! When you're typing or hand-writing, that's merely the transcription part. You can work on your story at any time during the day by thinking of what you'll put down on paperlater. Also rememberthat your subconscious can be working on writing while you're going about your daily duties, and that you do actually need to have breaks from actively thinking about stuff so your brain can come up with solutions. Don't feel guilty about the time you aren't actively dedicating to transcribing.
When you're sitting down at your desk to work, focus on that! Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Remove tempting apps, or use an app like Forest. In Forest, you set an amount of time you'd like to focus and it plants a virtual tree. If you navigate away from the app before the time is up, your tree dies! Then you have a dead tree on your day's "lawn" and it's sad, so that's some motivation to stay away from your tempting apps. On my computer, I use Focus to block tempting websites and applications. This one's Mac only, but there are tons of similar programs for multiple operating systems. (Some examples of others: Freedom, Anti-Social, Cold Turkey, Focus Me)
If you're like me and tend to get tons of ideas in the shower, or doing routine tasks like driving, getting ready for work, or doing dishes, have notebooks at the ready (or use speech-to-text software if you're driving) to get down those ideas so you can type them up or hand write them later. There's a genius product called Aqua Notes, a waterproof pad of paper that comes with suction cups and a pencil so you can write in the shower! Last year, I had tons of shower ideas that I would typeup when I got to my computer. Doing that would launch me into that day's writing session. It was great motivation! (Rite In The Rain also produces waterproof notebooks, but the paper gets wrinkly so I don't like it as much as Aqua Notes.)
Remember that every word you write in November counts towards your writing goal. This includes words dedicated to worldbuilding, plot development, and character development. So don't forget to add those words in when you update your NaNo word count!
if you don't know what you're going to write that day, take a few minutes to jot down some possibilities. It is time well-invested and can drive your day's wordcount. Disclaimer: I'm a plotter (but sometimes my plotting isn't detailed enough to carry me every day).
if you're stuck mentally, take some time to take a walk or a shower or a drive. Do some low-level physical activity and don't turn on the radio but just leave yourself to your thoughts. Invariably for me, this generates story ideas.
before October, think about your story long enough that your characters start to talk to you. Listen to them (no, it's not really crazy, I think).
in November, whatever you write is useful even if you later rip it out of your book; at the very least it will tell you what directions you shouldn't be going in, or what background information contributes to your understanding of the character/world/story (learned this from Sarah J.'s valuable prep workshop last year).
If there's a scene you're eager to write, save it until it comes up naturally in your story. If you write it out of order, you don't have it to look forward to, and it may not fit as well as you'd like anyway.
Try to think of a few things that you think would be fun to write. You can figure out how they make sense in your novel, trust yourself, and getting something neat to make sense can add a lot of words. I once wanted a character to walk by her house which was being rented and discover a huge dumpster in the front yard. So I added that to the plot outline. I left to the actual writing (and rewriting) to make sense as to why it would be there. (And, no, her renter wasn't remodeling her house since that really wouldn't make sense.)
If you're having a slow word day, think about having a character write a letter, or send an email, or text, or whatever the equivalent would be in your world. Using a slightly different style for a bit can open up creativity.
Oh, and it's a very good idea to figure out some meals in advance and decline most social events. I did that for years. It made it easier to write 4 or 5,000 words a day. So did getting up at four in the morning.
Honestly, my biggest tip? Go to write-ins. Update your word count on the website. Join writing crawls, challenges, word wars on Twitter. Writing can be incredibly lonely, and NaNo is the best opportunity you're going to have for social support while writing. Take advantage of it.
Also if you write after work, like I do, make it as easy as possible to go straight from work mode into writing mode. Ideally dinner should already be in the freezer, the crock pot, or the delivery guy's car, and all you have to do is walk in the door, change from work clothes into writing clothes, and get going. (...I'm not the only one who has writing clothes, am I?) I like to re-read yesterday's writing on my lunch break so that it's in my head the rest of the afternoon and on the commute home, so by the time I get home I'm ready to jump right in.
I think my biggest tip is fairly obvious but bears repeating: write every day. Even if it's 20 words. Even if it, in your mind, is complete rubbish. You're not going to get to 50,000 words if you spend the whole month finding reasons not to write.
Aside from all of the great advice given above I highly suggest word wars. The NaNo twitter handle does them often if you can't make it to an in person write-in. If it weren't for word wars I never would have hit my goal for the night some nights.
The first day of November has been a difficult day to write for me since my mother passed away on November 1, 2010. This year the first thing I wrote was a blog entry acknowledging this personal challenge. I found this year that facing my grief anniversary head on deflated my procrastination and avoidance of all things writing. I've had a very good day.
I still have four days off to kick off the month, but my challenge this year is my wife is having shoulder surgery tomorrow and that will mean I need to pamper her. She does that for me all the time. That will, I'm sure impact my daily word count.
Still I hope and anticipate I'll meet the goal again this year.