Eight Tips for a Successful NaNoWriMo
Note: NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the general goal is for participants to write 50,000 words or more in the span of the 30 days of November.
It’s that time of the year when Halloween passes by and intense novel-writing season settles in heavily and all at once. Chances are you’re reading this preparing for this season, and wow–you’ve decided you’re going to write a novel. That is huge and absolutely amazing! But it’s also not easy, not by any stretch. So a big deal calls for some big tips to ensure success. Success in making those word counts and goals, but also success in taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally between all of the moments you’ll spend typing away. Here are some tips I’ve collected from various sources, as well as from my own reservoir of limited knowledge in my journey of trying to write a fantasy novel. Take what works for you and disregard what doesn’t–every writer functions on their own caliber of organized chaos, after all.
Break Down Your Goals
Look at the big picture of your goal–however many words or pages or whatever–and then zero in on specific goals you can complete each day. These specific goals will allow you to actually get your work done, slowly and day by day, week by week. This also takes pressure off of your shoulders. You don’t have to keep looking up at the looming final word count waiting for you at the end of the month because you’ll be slowly writing your way toward it and will reach it before you know it.
Switch Up Your Environment
Your desk in your room or office, the dining room table, your bed, the corner table of that one local coffee shop… the list goes on of where you can write your novel and any number of other projects. You know where you can focus and actually write stuff you don’t end up trashing later, and you know where you can’t settle into the words or yourself at all. This is good–but sometimes changing it up is just what your writing needs. If and when you come across a scene that just doesn’t want to be written, frustratingly stale dialogue, or our old unwanted friend writer’s block, get up and find a new environment. Allow yourself a new view over the top of your laptop, new smells and sounds, and see how it might be just what you need to get back in your groove.
Set Aside Your Writing Time
It may seem a bit obvious to advise having a specific time to write every day, but studies and the word of many authors have shown that carving out a specific time that’s always the same time every day works well for good results. Writing sporadically on lunch breaks, right before bed, or right after waking up might be the only way you’re going to bring this novel into existence, and if that works for you, lean into it. But if it works better for your busy schedule to find a precious half hour or two hours to say, “This is my writing time and I will take advantage of it,” then seize the opportunity and write your heart out.
Remember That Life Happens
What do you do if something unexpected occurs to disrupt your writing schedule or flow? What if you don’t quite make your allotted word count for the day, or you don’t come anywhere near it? You acknowledge it, and then move on, telling yourself that tomorrow is another day for writing and that you’re doing great. Please remember to tell yourself that you’re doing great–because you are. Even if you hardly type a sentence and feel defeated, you are doing great simply because you’re committing to this and deciding that the world needs your novel. Life happens in the process of that writing!
I am a very musical person, and I’ve found that classical music and movie scores help me get into a great writing zone. If you need complete silence, then I’m glad that works for you. But if you like some sort of soundtrack, regardless of the genre, to be playing in the background to offset the sound of your fervent typing, I highly suggest making writing playlists if you haven’t already. I like to make playlists for my characters and fill them with songs that I think just sound like their personalities, or would play as their theme in a movie or TV show. I also have more broad playlists with titles like, “swoon writing,” “melancholy writing,” “epic writing,” and so on. Play around with what works for you and your specific project.
Try Something Visual
Playlist-making proves to get my creative juices flowing and inspiration itching in my hands, but I was also recently introduced to the concept of keeping and adding to a creative journal by author Alyssa Hollingsworth (I’ve linked her socials below so you can check her out!) It’s essentially the idea of having a physical journal or notebook full of various things pertaining to your novel, such as character sketches, maps of your novel’s world, collages, plot timelines… the list goes on and doesn’t end because you could quite literally put anything you want into your journal! I’ve had fun with making collages and dedicating pages to my characters, filling them with printed images and scribbled notes for my future reference. Moving away from actually writing to working on your journal is also an extension of making progress with your novel. It may reignite a spark of motivation and joy for your project and help you visually see parts of your story that were harder to grasp.
Hopefully, you have a couple of companions also setting out on this writing journey with you this month. If not, that’s what the Internet is for! Find those other NaNoWriMo-ers and support each other through the 30 days of this month. Lift up that friend who’s struggling with self-doubt and remember to extend the same supportive words and grace to yourself in your low moments. Take heart in knowing how many people all around the world are endeavoring to produce those 50,000 words and revel in the process of making art and stories come to life.
It Does Not Have to Be Perfect
As much as the perfectionist in me cringes at the thought of my creations having rough edges, I implore you to really read these words: your writing during this month does not have to be perfect. You’re writing a novel–it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and getting those words out of your head and onto paper and screens is better than those words remaining in your cranium. I really need to take my own advice here; it’s easy to convince yourself that if the product isn’t going to be just as it should be upon its first production, there’s no use in even creating. But this ideology stifles writers from being able to fall into the joy of self-expression and actual progress. You can edit those words later, but you can’t edit a blank page. Write through perfectionism and self-sabotage!