It’s coming up to November, and for writers, that only means one thing- NaNoWriMo! But how does it work? And more importantly, how do you win (and smash those writing goals!)?
A recap of NaNoWriMo…
What is it?– NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. If you aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo is an organization that pushes writers to write 50,000 words in the month of November, with the help of pep talks from famous authors, live sprints and daily motivation.
And the big question, how do you win?
Build in consistency
Of course, this one had to be number 1 because it is the hardest and most annoying, but also the most important. If you want to hit 50,000 words (or whatever target you have set for yourself), you need to write. Every. Single. Day. Well maybe not every day, but as many as you can (its ok, its only for one month ?. But how can you become consistent?
- Choose a time and place to write and stick to them– I like to write at the top of my garden, and so when I go there, my brain knows its writing time. Even if you write for just 10 minutes a day, make sure those same 10 minutes are spent writing EACH day.
- And whilst we’re at that… make sure where you write is organised and uncluttered– I don’t know about you but I honestly cant concentrate on anything if I’m surrounded by mess. Ok, that’s a slight lie– my room usually ends up covered in papers when I’m writing there- BUT, its so much easier to concentrate on just writing if your notes, stationary, is tidy.
- Have a clear writing routine– as well as time and place, what other parts are their to your writing routine? Maybe you have a particular playlist. Maybe you read a writing pep talk first, or watch some on youtube (I have a whole playlist just for writing tips and pep talks). Maybe you drink tea, water, coffee whilst writing. Whatever it is, it helps your brain to know that when you have those things, it’s time to write, and this means you can get started much more easily.
Make a plan
This doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m an obsessive plotter– honestly, I would not be able to write 50,000 in a month without my strict, 10-page outline and in-depth character descriptions. Whether you plot this extensively or not, it helps a lot to have some sort of out-line, even if that’s just a few words summing up each scene.
This can also be a major help to avoid writer’s block (it’s impossible for me to not know what to write when I have such a long plan ?).
NaNoWriMo is that it is designed as a (pretty strong) push for writers to get words on the page; the focus is placed almost entirely on quantity rather than quality. If you’re going for 50,000 words, that is roughly 1667 a day.
This means you have to get really good at writing really fast! The best way to do that is… practise sprinting. Sprinting just means writing as many words as you can for a particular scene in a certain amount of time (usually five or ten minutes).
NaNoWriMo ran Youtube, Instagram and twitter live writing sprints- these entailed writing as much as you can (often with prompts, given by the organisor) in five or ten minutes. Trust me, if you’ve never tried sprinting a scene (even if you aren’t actually going to include it), it can be so useful– not only to get into the heads of my characters, but to have a lot of fun and engage with the community (who are all sprinting at the same time if you take part in a live sprint session).
And if you really want to improve your sprinting, the key is…
Turn off the inner-editor
I was going to include this in number 3, but I think it definitely deserves its own point. When it comes to sprinting, you cannot afford to reread or question your writing– get the words on the page and worry about how good they are later. If you need to, dim the screen, or change the word colour to white so that you physically can’t edit your work.
This is also a general rule for all of NaNoWriMo; no matter how much you might think your work sucks, don’t look back. Don’t reread, redraft, replan until you have reached your goal. This was actually something I found really freeing when I took part- giving yourself complete free reign to be rubbish. You can always rewrite the whole thing next month ?.
Engage with the community
A lot of people don’t realise how important this is– writing can be extremely lonely and NaNoWriMo provides the perfect opportunity to connect with writers in writing groups and to make ‘Writing Buddies’. Whether or not you reach your goal, finding friends who are writers is invaluable and comes in very handy (not to mention, they’re just super fun).
As well as this, you can engage directly by joining Instagram or Youtube lives or by following the daily creative prompts sent out by NaNoWriMo.
Make the time
I understand as well as anyone how busy life always manages to be, but truly, the only way to find the time to write is to make it. You’ve already passed the first hurdle of signing up, you’ve made the commitment and now you have to stick to it.
That might mean carving out one hour each morning to write, or even just joining each Youtube or Instagram live sprints and using that time to write as much as possible. It doesn’t matter how much, just take out a little time each day where all you have to think about is writing.
This comes down to:
1. Writing quickly (the only way to do this is PRACTISE)
2. Writing whatever you like– seriously, just work on any scene you like; it doesn’t matter if it isn’t at the point in your story that you’re at. If it’s later, you can always go back and edit it to fit your characters, and it could maybe even give you some insight into where they’re heading.
3. Cut out the distractions– whilst you’re writing, use that time to do just that- and nothing else. Switch off your phone (trust me, this is something I find really hard), turn off notifications and focus just on your work.
Have fun and experiment
Make sure you don’t lose sight of the reason you write! For fun, because it’s your passion and you love it! Writing to a deadline can be stressful, but remember, if you reach 50,000 words but hated every single one, it wasn’t worth it (but none of the words have to be perfect either ?). Experiment! Find your style! Write terrible passages and golden ones and horrifically mediocre ones! Use the month to have fun with your writing and to enjoy your story.
Inevitably, there will be days when you don’t want to write. Instead of letting them spring up on you (and potentially turn into weeks), plan in breaks. I am constantly trying to work on this but if you plan in the days you won’t write, you can plan FOR them by writing more on the days when you have more motivations.
This is where cake comes in ?. Honestly though, 50,000 words (or whatever your goal is) in a month is a massive achievement and deserves rewards. Make sure you also plan them in along the way as pick-me-ups for when writing feels harder.
And that’s it! Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Do you plan to? Let me know if you found this useful in the comments, or by contacting me on any of my social medias.