It’s November again, and you know what that means, kids. No, not time to bust out the Christmas decorations…time to write like crazy idiots for a month!
I love National Novel Writing Month. It’s pretty much the only reason I can claim any full rough drafts under my belt. And messy or not, a rough draft is a rough draft. Nanowrimo taught me how to turn off editor mode and just write some damn words. Some drafts I’ve never looked back on. Some I’ve taken to the second-draft level or beyond. But I’ve never regretted trying, even when I’ve stalled out in the first week.
So, with no further ado, my 5 tips for surviving Nanowrimo (and having something to show for it).
1) Pace yourself.
Whether you’re a Nano-newbie or a seasoned veteran, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed; that’s the easiest way to fall behind. Especially if you’re a newbie, or have never completed Nano before, focus less on the daily word count requirements, and more on the task of writing daily. That’s the real habit we’re trying to build, here. If you can focus on that, and keep going even if you’re behind, you’re more likely to make it to the end of the month.
2) Take it scene by scene.
The first time I finished Nano, I did it by writing basically a series of connected vignettes. I titled each scene something snappy and memorable, and didn’t worry about the connecting bits or the overall flow. I just wrote the scenes I wanted to write, that I felt inspired for, no matter what order they fell in. I could come up with them any time during the day and jot down an idea, a summary, or just a first sentence, to use when I got home. It’s still how I keep motivated, especially in the first 10,000 words, when the story is still finding its voice.
3) Don’t look at the forums.
Ok, so the forums can be really helpful sometimes; they can be good if you get stuck, need to blow off steam, or want to celebrate a new milestone. But it can be really demoralizing, especially if you’re behind, to see people posting about how easy they think Nano is, or how they can’t believe they’re finished—yes, finished—already. They’re not trying to be mean jerks, but it can be really discouraging. The forums can also be plain distracting. So unless you’re really stuck and need help with a problem, get your writing in before you go to the forums.
4) Read the Pep Talks.
It may seem like a distraction, but those pep talks are always really motivating to me. I love hearing authors talk about writing, even if I’m not familiar with all the authors. More than that, I like imaging what I’ll say someday, when I’m reminiscing about how my best-seller started out as a humble little Nano draft. Yes, I find my ego very motivating.
Here’s a great pep talk from Rainbow Rowell, the author of Eleanor & Park.
5) Its Just a Month
If you’re sleep-deprived, or getting jittery from coffee, remember: by December, this will all be a memory. And even if you don’t have a full 50,000 words, or a completed novel, as long as you start Nanowrimo, you come away with more than you had in October.
Also check out my advice for how to beat the Week Two Blues, and an alternative to the 50,000 words.