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Getting NaNoWriMo Done: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Getting NaNoWriMo Done: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days
    Get comfortable...you're going to be spending a lot of time here.

    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.

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    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:

    1. Wash my face. This wakes me up and provides a fresh start to the day.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

    Take Breaks

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Epilogue

    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.

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    And that’s “The End” that we’re all looking for when we do it.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments—you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time. That’s why the art of saying no can be a game changer for productivity.

    Requests for your time are coming in all the time—from family members, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To stay productive, minimize stress, and avoid wasting time, you have to learn the gentle art of saying no—an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger, or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to stop people pleasing and master the gentle art of saying no.

    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it.

    Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which, for many of us, is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

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    For example, if my wife asks me to pick up the kids from school a couple of extra days a week, I’ll likely try to make time for it as my family is my highest priority. However, if a coworker asks for help on some extra projects, I know that will mean less time with my wife and kids, so I will be more likely to say no. 

    However, for others, work is their priority, and helping on extra projects could mean the chance for a promotion or raise. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say yes and no to in order to get there. 

    You can learn more about how to set your priorities here.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word[1].

    Sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry, but…” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important when you learn to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.

    When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you. 

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. However, if you erect a wall or set boundaries, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss—they’re our boss, right? And if we start saying no, then we look like we can’t handle the work—at least, that’s the common reasoning[2].

    In fact, it’s the opposite—explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

    “Look, everyone, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects, and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    This, of course, takes a great deal of awareness that you’ll likely only have after having worked in one place or been friends with someone for a while. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be incredibly useful.

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    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, try saying no this way:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands. If you need to continue saying no, here are some other ways to do so[3]:

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    Saying no the healthy way

      10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

      This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

      Simply say so—you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization—but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true, as people can sense insincerity.

      The Bottom Line

      Saying no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you. There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good to you.

      Remember that when you learn to say no, isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and prioritization. 

      More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

      Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

      Reference

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