◎ 10 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

October 15, 2012

October is a terrifying month for several reasons. One: The Atavists Trilogy takes place in October, meaning I get to fret about how accurate or inaccurate my descriptions of the weather are. Two: NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. (Note that Halloween didn't make the list.)

If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, I'll bring you up to speed. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place in November and, as you may have guessed, involves writing a novel in a month. 50,000 words breaks down to you needing to write 1,667 words per day AT A MINIMUM to come out with a first draft on December 1st. You don't win any prizes or anything if you complete your novel on time, but hey, isn't the first draft of a novel reward enough?

50,000 words in a month is a lofty goal. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of people successfully complete NaNo every year. I'm one of those people.

I finished my novel in two weeks during my first year. I wasn't quite as prolific last year (I finished around the 20th or 21st, I believe), but you get the idea. I know NaNo motivation like the back of my hand, so if you're itching to cross the finish line this year, here are some tips to get you there.

1. Form a Group
Be it online or in person, find other people who are participating in National Novel Writing Month and befriend them. Add them to your Buddy List on NaNo's website. Join or create a NaNo group on your favorite social networks. Form a little writing circle at your school or with friends from other activities. By participating in a group, you will experience more pressure from your peers to get the job done!

2. Compete
It's as simple as finding someone on the NaNo website who writes just a little more than you do every day, adding them as a writing buddy, and making it your goal to beat their word count every night. If you're as competitive as I am, you can compete with ALL of your friends and make it a giant, bundle-of-nerves race to the finish line. (It's brutal. I do believe I cried each year when an online friend sped ahead of me despite my having written in every spare moment of my day. Luckily for my ego, I finished and they did not due to unfortunate circumstances.) Without the element of competition, I don't think I would have gotten as far as I did on my two NaNo novels. My desire to have the highest word count at all of the write-ins I attended and among all my friends did wonders for my productivity and motivation.

3. Minimize Distractions
Check out my post on minimizing distractions here. NaNo is all about putting one's nose to the grindstone. You're not going to finish your novel if you spend as much time on Facebook, tumblr, and pinterest as you usually do, so log out and use sparingly! You may also want to invest in an AlphaSmart word processor, which you can buy used on eBay.

4. Plan Ahead
Need to do research for your novel? Do it in advance. Need to read through a previous book to refresh your memory? Do it in advance. Need to outline? Do it in advance. You get my drift.

5. Set a Schedule
When will you write? For how long will you write? Where can you sneak writing in? Take a look at your schedule and plan accordingly. I normally don't advocate setting a specific time to write, but November is an exception. If you have a busy schedule, carve out some time to write and stick to it.

6. Attend Write-Ins
Write-ins are incredible. You get to meet fellow NaNoers, race each other in Word Wars, and feel like you belong to something truly special. Write-ins are typically held in coffee shops and libraries, so they are relatively distraction-free. View your region's NaNoWriMo forum for more information on write-ins in your area. (If you are in ABQ, I will be leading write-ins on Mondays at the Cherry Hills Library this year!)

7. Be Creative/Efficient with your Time
Standing in line? Write on your phone. Being driven somewhere? Write on your phone. Waiting for the bus? Write on your phone. On a machine at the gym? Write on your phone. In a big lecture class? Dim your screen, sit in the back, and write on your phone. (Don't do that last one.)

8. Use a Word Count Tracking Sheet
Every year, I pick up a copy of the NaNoWriMo word count tracking sheet. Every thousand words you write equals a cloud or spark you get to color in. It's a great visual representation of all the hard work you've done throughout the month. You can download said sheet from my ML's website here. (Thanks, Kitty!)

9. Carry A Notebook
I carry a little notebook in my purse. If you think of something for your story but can't boot up the laptop to work on it, then by gawd write it down. Don't trust yourself to remember it because you won't. Write down ideas that strike you and have them by your side as you work on your novel.

10. Get Sleep & Hydrate
Don't forget to take care of yourself. NaNoWriMo is certainly a lifestyle change for those of us who get all gung-ho about it, and it's easy to forget to sleep enough and to drink enough water. Also consider investing in a laptop tray so that you can walk on the treadmill as you write. (They're $30 on Amazon!) It's important to stay healthy and alert, so don't neglect yourself!

And the obvious: stick with it. NaNoWriMo is tough, but it's absolutely doable if you put your mind to it and persevere.

If you're not already a member, go to nanowrimo.org and get yourself an account ASAP!

Have anything else to add? Leave a comment below!

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