By Maria Arnt | A 4 minute read
It’s that time of year. You can feel it creeping up on you, that subtle anxiety that you’re not ready, that it’s going to be too much, and this time… someone could end up dead!
No, it’s not a scary Halloween movie. It’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. While many first-time NaNo writers are currently as excited as small children in the lead-up to Christmas, some more experienced veterans have come to dread the month of November. If you belong to a writer’s group on social media (and you should) there’s a lot of peer pressure to participate, even if the last time you tried it ended in disaster.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo for four years (the last three in a row) and won two. After last year, I swore I would never participate again. It was just too stressful, and I found myself turning into some kind of Gollum-like creature who only cared about my daily word count and saw all social interaction as a threat to my success. Thanksgiving was an imposition, not a holiday. By the end of it, I was miserable and an entire month had seemed to go by without me.
But this year I find myself in the unique situation of actually having enough time to devote to writing. Without the excuse of graduate school or a 55-hour work week, I feel less confident in fending off the peer pressure.
This time, though, I’m going to take steps to ensure that I don’t turn into a raging author-monster. Here are a few techniques I’ve used in the past as well as some new ideas other successful NaNo winners have shared with me to help you get through the biggest challenge in the writing community today.
Yes, yes, I know there’s a whole debate about “planning versus pantsing” but even NaNoWriMo’s
That said, planning doesn’t mean you have to outline your entire novel in excruciating detail. Simply by deciding what genre, setting, and perspective you want to write the novel
The important thing to remember is that these plans don’t have to stick. If you get part way through the month and you decide you should have been writing in third-person perspective instead of first-person, just keep writing but switch to third. You can go back and fix the parts you’ve already written in first later. Which leads me to…
Don’t start over, no matter what
Seriously. Stick to it. If you decide you want to change something, continue writing as if your change had been there all along. DO NOT go back and fix what you’ve already written. It’s a waste of time now because it doesn’t increase your word count; you can fix it in December. As Newberry-winning
Focus on your weekly count instead of daily
To successfully reach 50,000 words in 30 days, you must average 1,667 words per day, and that is the metric that the NaNoWriMo website uses to determine whether you’re “on track” or not. But unless you have the same schedule every single day, writing the same amount every day isn’t the best path to success. This is something that many people struggle to understand, since “write every day” is the most common advice given to writers. But if you work a job with flexible hours and you have a
And that’s okay! Odds are you (hopefully) have another day that week where you work less, or don’t work at all. Keep track of your daily count, but aim for a weekly goal – about 12,500 to reach that 50k goal in 4 weeks. It sounds like a lot, but if you can hack 4,000 words a day for 3 days and then 500 on another, you have three whole days where you don’t need to write at all.
Break the rules
Maybe 50,000 words isn’t a reasonable goal for you, but you still want to participate. Set a goal for 30,000 instead, or whatever is workable. Maybe you want to work on more than one project. Perhaps you have a manuscript you’ve started but you need that extra push to finish it.
Technically speaking, these don’t fit the “rules” of NaNoWriMo, which state that you should be writing 50,000 of one book that you just started on November 1st. But that’s not what everyone needs. I know plenty of authors who use the structure of NaNoWriMo – and the camaraderie from their fellow authors who are also participating – to reach goals that don’t quite line up with those rules. I myself will be finishing one YA novel I’ve already started, and probably beginning the sequel.
If you feel like this is cheating, then don’t claim the winner’s badge on November 30. Participating isn’t the same thing as trying to win. Which leads to…
While NaNoWriMo is absolutely a contest, it’s not the sort of thing where you win and others “lose.” It’s a challenge to yourself and no one else. If it starts to feel like it’s putting an undue strain on your life – friendships are suffering, your mental health is at stake, your job performance is affected –
It’s okay if you don’t win. If you participate at all, then you’ve written something down, however much that was. That is an accomplishment. Some people never get around to writing down the stories in their heads, and you’ve already done more than them. November 30 isn’t the last day to write ever (which is good because 50,000 words isn’t actually a whole book in most cases). And anyway, there’s always next year!
As an Author Success Consultant, my goal is to help you make your book as successful as possible! I’d love to have the chance to chat about your book and help you out.