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7 Ways to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

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7 Ways to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

So, you decided to take the plunge and commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. That’s awesome!

But now you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. 50,000 is a lot of words. Certainly a lot more words than you’ve ever written before.

But isn’t that why you signed up for NaNoWriMo in the first place? To challenge yourself to really sit down and write that story you’ve been meaning to write for years?

You have the story idea. Here are some things you can do to help yourself succeed:

1. Put it in your daily schedule

If you want to reach your word count goal, you’re going to have to write a little bit every single day. The math works out to about 1,667 words per day, and you need to make the time to actually sit down and work on your project.

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But that can get tricky, especially if you have a holiday in the middle of the month.

The solution? When you sit down to make your schedule, plan time to write. Maybe you have to get up half an hour earlier and stay up half an hour later to fit in time to write. It doesn’t matter where you fit it in as long as it’s in your schedule and on your to do list.

A lot of times we push writing out of the way in favor of more “productive” tasks. But if you know that you’re going to write between the hours of nine and ten each night or between five and six in the morning — it’s going to get done.

2. Turn off your internal editor

I know when I write, I’m constantly going back to change mistakes that I’ve made. Usually this is a good thing — papers for school or articles for work can’t have mistakes in them. But when I’m doing creative writing, that internal editor can be a big problem.

I don’t really need to stop in the middle of an important scene in a story to grab the Chicago Manual of Style to look up exactly how to use a comma, or which kind of dash I need to include. I also don’t really need to worry about grammar or spelling, because at this point it’s more important to get the ideas down onto the page (or into the computer) than it is to have perfectly written prose.

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Turning off your editor is even more important for NaNoWriMo, when you’re trying to write a particular number of words each day in the hopes that they’ll add up to a whole novel by the end of the month. The editor slows you down.

You can turn the editor back on — on December 1. Or on January 1 as part of your new year’s resolution to get your book into shape for publishing. But for November, ignore that editor and really focus on getting your ideas out there onto the page.

3. Find your most efficient spot

I prefer to do creative writing by hand. There’s just something about a clean notebook or loose leaf paper and a fresh new pen. I love the feeling of the ink flowing across the page as the ideas flow out of my mind.

You might work best on a desktop, sitting up in your office. You might work best outside with your laptop, breathing in the crisp fall air.

The where or how don’t really matter. All that matters is that you figure out where you’re the most productive, and then go there every day to write. If you don’t already know where you work the best, take some time between now and the beginning of November to figure it out.

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This knowledge will do you good long beyond the end of NaNoWriMo. Trust me.

4. Don’t make excuses

If you decide to get up earlier every day in November so you have time to write, after a day or two you probably won’t want to anymore. You’re too tired or you think you’ll do it later, maybe on your lunch break.

Don’t give in! These excuses can quickly catch up to you and will cause you to fall behind on your goal. Drag yourself out of bed. You’ll be so happy you did once you see that word count tick over the 50,000 mark.

5. Prepare ahead of time

Some people work better with outlines and some people work better flying by the seat of their pants. Both tactics are equally valid.

Prepare by figuring out which of these people you are. If you’re going to be more successful with an outline, sit down and write it before November 1 hits. This way you’ll be prepared once it’s time to start writing.

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If you’re not going to use an outline, spend the time between now and November thinking about what you’re going to write, where it will fit into your schedule and where you’re going to sit down and get to work.

Don’t wait until November 1 to do these things. Procrastination isn’t going to help you here.

6. Stay on track

Similar to not giving yourself excuses, don’t let yourself fall behind schedule either. If you know that you have more time to write on the weekends and weekdays will be busy for you, plan that out. Write 500 words every weekday and then write 5,000 on each weekend.

It’s okay to write like that. It’s only going to be a problem if you do that by accident — because then those 10,000 weekend words become an emergency, not a plan, and that quickly becomes overwhelming.

Staying on track keeps November stress-free and fun…which is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

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7. Just sign up

You can’t win if you don’t start! Just sign up for NaNoWriMo and get writing.

Featured photo credit: Tony Hall via flic.kr

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