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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 April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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