T. A. Hernandez
Tips for NaNoWriMo Success
November is almost here, which means it's time for National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I've actually only ever done the official NaNoWriMo in November once before, but I have completed my own versions of NaNoWriMo a few times during other parts of the year. It's gotten to the point where I always just try to do some form of intense let's-draft-an-entire-novel-in-a-month-or-two thing for all of my first drafts because I need to just get them out of my system all at once. I've decided to compile a list of strategies that have helped me over the years in the hopes that at least some of them will be helpful to others as well.
1. Decide what you want to write, and have at least some idea of where the story is going. This is obviously going to be much more applicable to writers who are plotters rather than pantsers. I'm a plotter all the way, but even for people who don't like to have a plan before they start writing, I think it's helpful to have at least some idea of where you want to take your characters. It can help prevent writer's block and will get you through the days when you really just don't know what to write.
2. Write through the hard stuff, and don't be afraid to skip around. Let's face it: writing 50,000 words in 30 days is no easy feat, and there are bound to be days where you just stare at your keyboard, waiting for words to come out, and...nothing. Rather than wallow in self-pity and mourn your lack of inspiration, just keep writing. Write anything. Even if it's crap. NaNoWriMo is not about crafting a masterpiece. It's about getting words down. That's it--that's all you have to do. And if you don't like the scene you're supposed to be writing, skip it. Who says you have to write things in order? You can always come back and fill in the gaps later. It's okay if things don't tie together in a way that makes sense at first. That's why we have revisions.
3. Make time for writing. Making time to write is especially important during NaNoWriMo. You're not going to be able to finish anything if you don't make time for it and then protect that time as much as you possibly can. I know life gets crazy and this can be hard, so be creative. Maybe you wake up a little earlier or cut out some of your favorite TV shows so you can use that time to write instead. If you take the bus to school or work, maybe you can use that time to jot a few words down. One of the things I'm doing is meal prep, which isn't something I don't normally do. I'm just planning all my meals a week or two in advance, making sure I have everything I need to make those meals, and then cooking stuff like chicken and pasta on weekends so that I can just throw a meal together quickly and have a little more time in the evenings for writing.
4. Try Reverse NaNoWriMo or some other strategy. Reverse NaNoWriMo is something I found out about recently, and I'm so excited to try it with my NaNo project. Like many writers, I tend to start of strong and then slowly lose steam as time goes on. With reverse NaNo, you start off writing more words and then decrease each day so that by day 16, you're writing less words than the typical 1,667 you need to finish on time. On the last day, you only have to write one word. One. And hey, if you can and want to write more than that on those last days with low word counts, that's pretty awesome, too. In the past, I've also used a sort of rewards system for myself where I'll give myself an hour of TV or video game time on the days I'm able to meet or exceed my word count goal (and still have time before bed). I know someone who uses Write Or Die to keep them on task. Another strategy I'm planning to try this year is to stop your writing sessions in a place where you know what's going to happen next. That way, the next time you sit down to write, you already know how you need to get started and hopefully that initial momentum will keep you going for a while. There are a ton of different things you can do, so find something that works for you and stick with it.
5. Connect with other writers. There's just something inspiring about being part of a community of people who have the same passion you do and are going through some of the same challenges you are. Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers who are participating in NaNoWriMo, and there are also forums on the NaNoWriMo website where you can talk to other writers, commiserate with each other about your gaping plot holes and word count woes, and just get some general support and encouragement. Take advantage of this. Ask for help if you get stuck. Sometimes the answer you need to move your plot forward is staring you right in the face, but you can't see it because you're too wrapped up in the story or frustrated by where you're at to even think clearly. Find a writing buddy and use each other to bounce ideas back and forth. NaNoWriMo doesn't have to be a solitary endeavor, and it's a lot more fun if you have people to share the experience with. After all, misery loves company, right?
6. Don't beat yourself up about your daily word count. There's a lot of pressure that can come with NaNoWriMo, and while it's awesome to connect with other writers, sometimes social media can make that pressure worse. You see everyone else reporting these fantastic word counts, and if you're having trouble meeting your daily goals, that can be discouraging. Try not to internalize it, and don't compare yourself to other writers. Everyone's situation is unique. Some people are great at writing first drafts and churning out words as fast as is humanly possible. Others aren't. Some people have a ton of free time to write while others are lucky to squeeze in a half-hour each morning. Some people have done this a few times and know the routine while others are new to NaNoWriMo. Whatever your situation is, as long as you're trying, you're succeeding. After all, the whole point is to get something written, and at the end of the month, you're going to be in a better place than where you've started as long as you've written something. Celebrate the words you do have, and try to remember to have fun along the way.
That's all I've got. At the end of the day, a lot of it really does come down to just sitting down and putting words on the page. But it's totally doable. Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what other strategies you've used before or want to try to help you be successful for NaNoWriMo. I wish you all the best of luck!