NanoWriMo Tips & Tricks From a Past Participant

  • 1- Stock up on snacks to keep motivated. 

    Get healthier snacks for keeping energy throughout the day. Focus on protein, things like trail mix, baked or veggie chips, cheese sticks, etc. Nobody wants to lose their train of thought because they got hungry and had to go make something, so keep things on hand that are easy to grab and require little prep. 

    Also grab some candy and sugary snacks. These will be used as rewards, so make sure to grab your favorites, or candies you usually don't get because they're too expensive or sugary for "every day" treats or things like that. Give yourself a treat for each chapter finished, every 500 words... whatever system works for you, just make sure to motivate yourself for all the hard work you're doing. 


    2- Tag in a friend. 

    Part of the excitement of NanoWriMo is knowing that you aren't alone. For most, writing a novel is a solo activity, so alienation is common. The beauty of Nano is that it erases that. You are no longer alone. For one month, hundreds of thousands of writers just like you have set aside 30 days to race to a finish line. Tell a few friends what you're doing. 

    Most won't understand or will think you're crazy. (We are, totally, but it's a fun kinda crazy) Some will tell you that only 'serious' writers do this, others say that serious writers would never do such a foolish thing. Ignore those people. Find a few that will cheer you on and actively prod you for a word count each day. Knowing you're being held accountable to someone other than yourself helps keep you on track. 

    I told my family and friends that I was unavailable for November except for Thanksgiving Day, because I would be writing. They made it a point to ask me my word count each day, to cheer with me when I hit milestones, and give me gentle encouragement for the days I wasn't sure I'd make it. This helped more than they'll ever know. 


    3- Update your word count EVERY day. 

    Yes, every day. Even if you only write 10 words, update that word count! You will kick yourself when it's over and you missed new badges being added to your badge count because of one missed day. In order to get all the badges, you have to update your word count all 30 days. It's so rewarding to look down that badge list at the end and realize that you did it and hit every one. Seeing that 30 day one missing because you forgot to update a count just one day is a definite downer, so whether it's 2000 words or 20, make sure you log in and update it so you get counted for each day. 

    Remember to check out the rest of the badges, as Personal Achievement Badges are self-awarded. The links to those are here. You'll be able to award yourself badges for saving your work, being a planner or a panster, caffeine abuse, and other fun ones. The others are system awarded and you'll get them for hitting certain word count milestones, adding a novel, promising to edit once Nano is done, etc. 


    4- Start strong, forget pacing yourself. 

    The "hook" for NanoWriMo is that anyone can write 1,667 words a day, and at the end, they'll have written 50,000 words. It sounds great and achievable- and it is. However, this is a demanding goal we've set for ourselves. Some days, we will hit a wall of writer's block. Life will get in the way. A scene will get stuck and we'll need to take a few hours to untangle it before moving onto the next. 

    The best way to handle this is to give yourself some leeway. Don't stop at 1,667 each day if you can help it. If the muses are talking, keep writing. Give yourself some padding, so that on the "bad" days, you don't fall too far behind. The first two weeks are your "go" days. Write as much as you possibly can, even if that looks like 2-4,000 words a day. You will thank yourself when you hit that 3rd week and start dragging, knowing that you've got a solid word count already behind you. 


    5- Stop in the middle of a scene, or the middle of a sentence. 

    It seems counterproductive to stop in the middle of a thought, but in a goal-oriented challenge like this, it can be very helpful. Opening a document with no ideas, or to a blank page, can be frustrating. It can take time to get back into the swing of things, time that you could be using to get words down. Stopping in the middle of a scene or sentence lets you open the document the next day, quickly read where you stopped, and start right back in. It helps keep the train of thought moving forward, instead of taking time to wrack your brain to figure out where to start each day. 


    6- Utilize Word Sprints. 

    These were a godsend for me. As admin of RPL, every time I stop to check things, I lose my train of thought on the writing, and have to get back into it. Word sprints forced me to set aside a strict period of time for writing only. You set a timer for however many minutes you'd like. I usually chose 25. Hit start, and write like a fiend until the buzzer sounds. You get so lost in the words that the buzzer noise kind of shocks you and makes you jump. 

    As you get into them, you start racing against the time, trying to write more and more words before that godawful noise happens. Using word sprints, I was able to write in 25 minute stretches, take 5-10 minutes to check RPL and emails, have a cigarette or snack break, and then settle in for another sprint. When doing them with other writers, the challenge aspect is even more fun, because you try to outdo each other's word counts for that time period. 


    7- Forget the word counts. 

    I know, I know. Everything above this is all about word counts and hitting that totally awesome 50k. Here's the thing though. Even if you only write 10,000 words? That's 10,000 words you didn't have when you started this. No matter how far you get, you have now put into practice a habit of writing a little bit every single day. 

    They say it takes 30 days for an action to become a habit, and at the core, that is what NanoWriMo is really about. Showing people that even in the busiest of lives, it's possible to sit down and carve out some time for writing, even if it's only 10-15 minutes at a time. 

    No matter what our word count ends up being after 30 days, we've earned it, because it's an incredible challenge that we rose to, and we made writing daily a part of our lives. Creativity can make even the bad days seem better, and that's a habit worth keeping.

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