With November 1st almost upon us, NaNoWriMo is set to begin. There are plenty of tools to help budding novelists achieve the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, but what about the reasons behind committing to such a daunting task in the first place? Surely, many of those taking on the challenge have other priorities that they have to deal with – myself included – so adding on the pressure of pushing through those commitments and the occasional bout of writer’s block is going to take herculean effort, right?
Well, yes…and no.
Just as there are many people who have yet to give NaNoWriMo a try, there are many who have – and have met the challenge while maintaining a modicum of their regular lives (and sanity) in the process. There are those who have taken on the challenge and have fell by the wayside again, myself included), but there are things you can do to keep you on track to finally typing “The End” at the end of your rapidly-created opus. Here are a few tips to keep your momentum while you’re writing your novel and how to ensure you don’t let the other things in your life slide while doing so.
Set Up Rituals While Writing
As a daily writer already, I’ve put in place rituals that draw me to the keyboard in a way that breeds productivity. Each and every day that I work (Sunday through Thursday), I do the following first thing in the morning before starting my writing:
- Wash my face. This wakes me up and provides a fresh start to the day.
- Make my Aeropress coffee. Sure, it isn’t as automated as using a pre-set drip coffeemaker, but the coffee is so much better, from a fresh grind of beans to the rich aroma to the exquisite taste. It’s my morning treat.
- Make an egg and cheese sandwich. Fried egg, slice of cheese, cracked pepper. All on an English muffin. Simply made, simply eaten. I’ve got my protein to start the day and a few carbs in there to boot.
- Walk my daughter to school. Except for Sundays, I’ll load up my son in the stroller and the kids and I head out the door at 8:30 am. The air further wakes me up and it gives me time to connect with them before I sequester myself away for the better part of the day. It also allows for contemplative time on the walk home, which is a great way to get into flow.
- Read my RSS Feeds. When I get home, I finish my coffee over some of the best writing on the web. It puts me in the right mindset and gives me time to warm up a bit in the process. Besides, a good writer takes time to read.
Then I walk to my working area, shut the door, go to my standing desk and start making the clackity-clackity sound.
Even though you’ve got a lot of writing to do, be sure to take plenty of breaks. Vary them up a bit, some short and some long. If you’re in a state of “flow”, then wait until you come out of it and step away from the computer. Go for a walk, grab a snack – whatever. Just get clear by getting clear of the writing space. You’re in this for the long haul, so rest stops are important along the way.
Don’t read during these breaks, either. It’ll just serve to draw you back out of your break that much faster. Do something that doesn’t involve consuming anything that has words related to it. Eating is good, exercise is better. Refresh yourself so that you can tackle the novel recharged when your break is done.
Check In Frequently
Make sure you keep tabs on what’s going on at the challenge’s website. Revise your word count – even look for locals who might want to do a write-in or simply take a break with you. The NaNoWriMo website has badges for you to put on your personal website (or Facebook if you prefer), offers helpful tips on how to get through the next 30 days and offers a ton of other resources for you to look over. By checking in on the site, you’re actively participating in the entire process of the challenge, not just the writing itself. It’s not just a challenge that you’re involved in, it’s a whole community of people with an aspirations just like yours: to write a novel.
Keep. On. Writing.
“Feed a cold, starve a fever.”
Think of your writing as a cold, keep on going. You’ll get hot and the words will start to flow out of your fingers. Think of editing as a fever. Starve it.
Do not edit during the 30 days. Don’t even try it. It will steer you away from the actual writing process, which is crucial if you want to get the novel done in the time allowed. NaNoWriMo is about creation, not curation. Save the editing for later…otherwise you won’t have much to edit at all.
Schedule Time Blocks
If you have a job that keeps you busy through the better part of the day, be sure to schedule time to work on your novel. The only way you’ll be able to get that novel finished is by scheduling blocks of time that you dedicate solely to working on it. And you need to commit to those blocks.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do when it comes to scheduling your time. You may wind up with some days where you cannot take time out to write, and other days you’ll set aside time crank out more words to make up for those days that you just can’t. Know your limits and write within them.
NaNoWriMo is frenetic. It is challenging. It is somewhat unreasonable. But it also a heck of a lot of fun.
With the right tools in place and the right strategies in place going into November, you’ve got a great shot at getting through NaNoWriMo with a completed novel in your hands.
And that’s “The End” that we’re all looking for when we do it.