This post may come across to some of you as a bit preposterous. This is my first time participating in NaNoWriMO. How am I going to be able to give tips on being successful at something I have never done?
Here is part of my answer:
It is also important to understand that I have written a lot of content over the years. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of pages and even more time spent writing. So I know what makes writing easier, and NaNoWriMo is a fancy month of writing. That’s it. It’s writing, and I have a lot of practice doing just that.
That my come off as douchey, but the point is that I am having success. And it is because I am following the tips that I am about to share with you. 50,000 words is a lot, but broken down it really isn’t that much writing.
So here are my 5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success.
1) Have a Plan:
Let’s be real. Having a plan when writing anything is helpful. Since grade school we have been taught to outline essays, presentations, short stories, and more. Why wouldn’t you make a plan when you are committing to a 30 day marathon of writing?
To what extent you plan? That is up to you. You can go crazy and do huge charts, character bios, daily word count objectives, or whatever you want. I don’t usually like to plan. I like my writing process to be organic. This time I wrote a simple outline though. I am slowly learning how great outlines are at keeping me on track and focused on the story arch. So, I made a plan and I am following it to the best of my ability and it is helping.
2) Create Accountability:
Think about every time you have said you are going to wake up early and workout, or journal, or make coffee and read, or do sunrise yoga, or whatever. How often does that actually happen? If you can confidently say every time, then by all means, skip this tip and move along. For the majority of us though, we need some help staying with our plans.
Accountability is a big scary word for having someone or something keep you in line. While I do not often need accountability for writing, this blog, and posting updates of my word count, keep me accountable. While you don’t need to have a blog to stay accountable, you can create accountability in small and easy ways. Put a daily reminder in your phone, write it down in your planner, ask a friend or family member to text you everyday to ask you if you’ve been writing. Better yet, find a partner who will do NaNoWriMo with you!
Any of these will remind you to keep working toward your NaNoWriMo goal.
3) Do Not Use a Normal Word Processor:
Oh yeah, this is the big one. You can ignore those fancy word processors like Scrivener, or even Word, and go back to the basics. Dig into the bowels of your favorite operating system, open up Note Pad or Text Edit, and go to town.
Why? Because to often we get caught up in formatting, sentence structure, syntax perfection, diction differences, and fancy frills. All these things slow down the writing process and take our attention away from the goal. Writing the content. This is a huge change for me. But I see the reasoning behind it every day I start writing. I open Note Pad and it is just a blank canvas, with only a blinking cursor and a few options. It holds words and nothing else. So much potential and no distractions.
This has been foundational in my early success. I can focus entirely on the story this way. No longer are my thoughts lost because of red and green squiggles or line spacing issues. I love it.
Perfection can come later. Which brings me to the next tip.
4) Don’t Write Everyday:
Wait, what? Yes. The goal is to write a novel in 30 days. However, I am in favor of editing during NaNoWriMo. Maybe you have read, and agree with, other posts about editing during NaNoWriMo (like this one), but before you protest against my blasphemy, think about some of these:
- If you are writing with a bare-bones text application, won’t you need to edit eventually?
- Are you going to be more willing to edit now or trudge through it after a month of hard writing?
- If you go back and edit, or even just read, what you have written, won’t it minimize large plot issues if you get off track, and reduce editing required in the future?
Novels require editing. All writing requires editing. Why not take a day and edit now?
I am not suggesting that you edit like this WriMo, but instead once a week. That’s it. While I believe it is sustainable to write everyday for 30 days straight, I think it is doing yourself a disservice. Take one day a week and make your goal that day editing instead of writing.
Think of it as a maintenance day. You focus on the characters voice, sharpening the scenes, clarifying the conflicts in your mind, and bringing out details. Do not get crazy. Make the edits surface level. Read through the past days of writing and see the whole progression of the story; refresh your mind. Come the next day, you know where you have been and where to go. You stay on track and you stay energized.
Edit. It is worth the time and effort.
5) Have Fun:
Above all else, make sure you have fun. I am not going to tell you that it is okay to not make the goal. I am also not going to tell you you have to make the goal. What I am going to tell you is that if you stop having fun, then you should stop. Just walk away. Do not make writing a chore. The moment it becomes a chore, your writing will show it. No one wants to sit at a computer and torture themselves for hours a day to produce lack luster work. That just sucks and then you have a bunch of crappy writing to show for it.
Don’t do it. Enjoy the experience. Challenge yourself, but don’t kill yourself.
Those are my tips to NaNoWriMo Success. I know, why didn’t I include persistence and perseverance, grit and determination? Because, I am not your mother. If you want to participate, you are already have those things inside you. My tips are not radical, and I wasn’t trying to make them radical. I want to give you strategic, easy-to-follow tips that you find helpful. I am following them and I am really enjoying the experience thus far, and I am succeeding. Hopefully, these tips will help bring you success too. The best part? Success is whatever you want it to be.
Do I want 50,000 words? Absolutely. But success, for me, is a drafted story, not a verbose vomit of words that equals 50,000.
So what would make NaNoWriMo a success for you? Comment below and let me know. Also, if you want accountability, just tell me. I will reach out and help however I can. It is the least I can do for having your support.