Writing might feel like trudging across endless sand dunes, but as with the sand dunes, if you keep going, you’ll eventually reach the end. Unlike sand dunes, if you go back later, you’ll still find traces of your words.
I’ve done Nanowrimo a few times. This year (2022) will be my 21st time, and yes, I’ve “won” every year. Some years in 3 or 4 days. Some years I’ve done 200K months. I’ve been an ML too. So I know a bit about what works for Nanowrimo, and one important thing that you need.
And that one important thing is: Value your writing time.
For one month, finding time to write has to take priority. Look at what can be put aside for a couple of weeks. Think about whether you really need to watch that TV show today. Look for spare moments when you can add a few word, even if it’s on your phone or scribbled in a notebook. Be resentful of anything that takes that time from you.
Then–and this is the important bit–when you have time to write, use it. Don’t talk about writing. Don’t plan your next writing session. Don’t just check social media quickly. Write.
Now the tips. (I might add to these as I think of more.)
First, Nanowrimo is a personal challenge.
The point of Nano is to write a novel (or other writing project), or to make progress towards writing a novel.
It’s up to every participant to decide what they want to get out of it: make a start on the novel you’ve always wanted to write, complete an existing manuscript, create a new WIP to edit during the year, develop a regular writing habit. Then work out what goal you need to meet. And then set out to meet them. Ignore those people with their stupid high word counts. (That’s them setting their own personal challenge.) Work out what you need and work towards that. If you do that, you’ve won.
Second, let’s talk word counts.
To get the 50K in 30 days, you need to write 1667 words a day. But make it 2000. This gives you a cushion if things do wrong and you need to take a day or two off. Also–important–if you’re ahead of the curve, it’s easier.
On those days when writing is easy, take advantage of that and add to your word count. Future you will thank you.
And when writing is hard… remember, if you don’t do it today, it’s not going to be easier tomorrow. I mean that. You might think you can catch up on the weekend, but you won’t. You’ll just feel discouraged and give up.
(I’ll add here, if you know you’ll have days when you won’t have time to write, adjust your daily goals to accommodate those times. Maybe you’ll find it easier to write only 1400 words on weekdays and an extra thousand words on the weekend. Create a simple spreadsheet or make a list of days and write the goal for each day throughout November. You’re still meeting your goals and you’ll get the satisfaction and motivation that comes with that, but fitted in around your life.)
(If you do find it easier to write on certain days, maybe plan that into your schedule e.g. write 1000 words a day during the week, and 4500 each weekend day. Deliberately seting a lower goal for days when you’ll be busy helps because you’re still meeting your goal and you’re still progressing.)
If 2000 words a day scares you, try breaking it into smaller chunks. 250 words is easy! So do that 8 times. Done. Or forget about the word count. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Repeat until done. You can write a lot in 10 minutes blocks.
Third, when things don’t go to plan.
Well, they won’t. No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. This applies to writing too, So, if you story isn’t going where you expected, that’s OK. In fact, it might even be good. It means your creation is getting a life of its own. But if you’re finding it hard to push on, and you’re writing to an outline, throw it away and go where the characters want to do. If you don’t have an outline, stop and work out where the story needs to go and how to get there
If you’re not sure what to write next: Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen to this character now?
Or, think about the character/s goals: What do they want? What is stopping them getting there? No, what else is stopping them getting there? And what can make that even more complicated?
Then find a way for them to get there.
Sometimes you need a break. It’ll help refill the writing well and improve you overall productivity. Go for a walk. Take a shower, or wash the dishes (something that occupies your hands but leaves your mind free to wander). Listen to music. Do a puzzle game or a jigsaw (something that occupies your rational mind but leaves the creative mind free to wander.)
Fourth, something I try to do
First thing in the morning, write a few sentences. Now you can’t put off starting because you’ve already started. And it is easier to sit down and start typing when you have words already there.
Fifth, have fun