How to Rock NaNoWriMo This November
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This article was nearly titled “How to Win NaNoWriMo.”
But life isn’t all about winning. It’s about doing things you enjoy, challenging yourself to grow, and putting forth your very best effort, no matter the end result. So let’s toss the idea of "winning" NaNoWriMo out the window and focus on having our very best NaNoWriMo experiences, shall we?
But what is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Ah, yes. Ahem. That would be a good place to start, wouldn’t it?
National Novel Writing Month — lovingly known as NaNo or NaNoWriMo — is a month-long event in which writers from around the world challenge themselves to write 50,000 words of fiction in the 30 days of November.
In addition to the writing challenge itself, the event boasts a website featuring forums where you can connect with fellow participants, a progress tracker, author pep talks, writerly merchandise, and prizes available to those who “win” the challenge by writing 50,000 words in 30 days.
But we’re not here to talk about winning, remember? We’re here to talk about having your very best NaNoWriMo experience this November, so let's get started!
Should you participate in NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is an amazing event, but it certainly won’t be the right event for every writer. That said, I do encourage every writer to give NaNoWriMo — or a similar writing challenge — a try at least once in their writing lives.
I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2014 and 2015, and through my experience, I discovered an affinity for fast-drafting and, more importantly, a sense of empowerment as a writer. I learned that I am capable of achieving my writing goals, and thus my writing dreams. That I can make the time and harness the willpower to tackle all the chaotic glory that is writing a book.
That knowledge has been simply invaluable. If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo or aren’t sure whether you’d like to participate, I encourage you to check out this blog post I wrote a few years back. It may give you a better understanding of whether NaNoWriMo is the right event for you.
Making the most of NaNoWriMo…
Have you committed to participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Congrats! I’ve loved participating in NaNo myself, and I like to think that I’ve picked up a trick or two from my experiences along the way. It’s these tips for rocking your writing challenge this November that I’m excited to share with you today. Shall we dive in?
Tip #1: Know Your Why.
Just as we give our characters strong motivations for wanting to achieve their goals, knowing why we set out to achieve certain goals in our own lives is absolutely essential to actually seeing them through. So, ask yourself why you want to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo.
Is it simply because everyone else is doing it? That motivation won’t take you very far.
Instead, consider whether you’d like to challenge yourself to overcome writing procrastination, to develop a daily or otherwise consistent writing habit, to get involved in the online writing community, to try out a fun new project, or to move closer toward achieving your writing dream.
Whatever your reasoning, let your why fuel your NaNoWriMo experience.
Tip #2: Make A Plan.
I’ve met many writers who fail to achieve their goals simply because they’ve been fed the false narrative that art should be created in a flurry of inspired passion, that laying out careful plans for crafting stories will only result in boring, unoriginal work. Writer, this simply isn’t the case.
Making a game plan for success won’t suck the magic out of your writing process, but rather help you avoid as many road blocks and hangups as possible throughout your NaNoWriMo experience. That said, every writer’s game plan will look a little different, largely depending on their project and writing process.
In my opinion, having at least some vague idea of your characters and plot is essential to staying on top of your project while drafting. If you want to go in-depth with your planning, resources like The Pre-Write Project and Crafting Incredible Characters can help you conquer project prep overwhelm and help you prepare to write an amazing novel this November.
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Of course, you don’t have to follow the official NaNoWriMo challenge and write 50,000 words for a novel next month. Instead, you can choose to write several short stories, work on your novella, tackle revisions on a previous project, or complete daily prompts to stretch your writing skills.
In any case, take some time this month (which many NaNoWriMo participants lovingly call #Preptober) to outline your project, read through your draft and take editing notes, or collect the writing prompts you’ll use throughout the month. To put it bluntly: Get your crap together, and you’re far more likely to succeed.
Tip #3: Clear your schedule.
Writing takes time, and lots of it. The biggest reason writers fail to complete their NaNoWriMo goals is because they simply don’t have enough time to see them through. That’s why making extra time to work this November, before the first of the month hits, is key.
Get out your planner or print out a monthly calendar, and write down any events you have throughout the month. Then, try to consolidate the errands you'll need to run in as few days as possible. You'll want to carve out as many long stretches of writing time as you can.
Next, establish when you’ll have the free time to write and make sure your family and friends know what you’re doing. Ask them to be mindful of your time this November, so you’ll be less likely to face unexpected interruptions.
Tip #4: Find your support system.
Writing 50,000 words in a month is tough stuff. Chances are you'll need a little encouragement from time to time. That’s why getting involved in the writing community is so important. Fortunately, the worldwide NaNoWriMo community is huge!
On Twitter, you can use hashtags like #Preptober, #NaNoWriMo, and #NaNo2017 to connect with fellow participants. You can also engage with writers in the official NaNoWriMo forums and in regional NaNoWriMo events throughout the month of November.
Finally, don’t forget to join our Well-Storied Facebook group, Your Write Dream, where many group members will be participating and supporting one another during this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!
Tip #5: Find Your Pressure Points.
Motivation isn't infallible. No matter how much you want to achieve your NaNoWriMo goal this November, you’ll likely experience a dip in motivation after the initial high of the first few days of the challenge has worn off.
That, my friend, is when pressure comes into play. Healthy pressure, that is.
Reward systems and writing chains can both be highly effective ways to add a little motivating pressure to your writing routine. Small rewards can be used for reaching writing session goals, while you can gift yourself larger rewards for achieving weekly or monthly writing goals or even larger project milestones, such as rocking NaNoWriMo.
Maintaining a daily or otherwise consistent writing chain — in which one session completed equals one “link” in your chain — can also encourage you to overcome a lapse in motivation and get back to work. Fail to complete your session link, and your writing chain starts over from zero.
Give these motivators a try this November and see which ones work best. It may take a bit of exploration, but you’ll likely find that the promise of a much-desired reward or the pressure of failing to maintain your chain of success will light a fire under your creative bum when intrinsic motivation begins to flag.
Tip #6: Make a Back-Up Plan.
Sometimes, projects don’t work out. Massive plot holes emerge, characters grow aggravating, the story doesn’t quite fit your style, or project burnout leaves you in desperate need a break.
Rather than accept defeat should you face any such problems this November, go into NaNoWriMo with a secondary project at hand. Break out your drawer of possibilities and have some fun! There’s more than one way to make the most of your NaNoWriMo experience.
Tip #7: Quit the Comparison Game.
Some writers choose to go above and beyond during NaNoWriMo, doubling or even tripling the 50k challenge in an attempt to one-up their previous year’s word count. But more isn’t always better.
It’s easy to look at other writers’ word counts or story ideas and believe they’re better writers than us. But our writerly self-esteem shouldn’t be based in how we compare to others, especially considering no two writers share the same process, writing routine, schedule, or literary interests.
Friends, there is no “right way” to be a writer. What is right is staying true to yourself. Rather than comparing your NaNoWriMo experience to others’, choose a goal that challenges you — without stressing you out — then pursue it with all your heart. Rock your writing, your way, and you will succeed.
Tip #8: Go forth and conquer!
Here’s the thing: you’re never going to feel like it. Challenging yourself to become a better writer is hard work. It requires time, effort, dedication, and a healthy measure of self-criticism. It’s no wonder that writers often face creative blocks, procrastinate their work, and begin to question whether they truly love writing at all.
Writing is hard. It’s okay to love having written more than the writing process itself. I know I do!
Conquering NaNoWriMo — or any challenging writing goal — will always have its ups and downs. What will pull you through is remembering your why, then doubling down and making it happen. Believe me; the effort is well worth the end result. There truly is no better feeling in the world than rocking your writing life.
All that’s required is a little determination. So writer, are you ready give it your all?