Last year, almost ½ million writers took part in November National Novel Writing Month, and this year’s challenge is set to be just as popular.
The goal of the challenge: to write 50,000 words (roughly the length of a short novel) in just one month.
81% of people have said they would like to write a book, so it’s no surprise that NaNoWriMo attracts so many hopefuls. However, less that 20% of NaNoWriMo participants reach their goal each year.Tweet
Whether this is your 1st or 30th NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words is a difficult goal to achieve without strategies for managing your time and staying consistent.
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 throughout the month of November.
Do you get a prize for winning?
The main prize is the satisfaction at having written a (nearly full-sized) novel- that’s no easy job! Many writers find NaNoWriMo helpful to kick-start a first draft and help push past the fear of getting started.
And don’t forget- Nanowrimo isn’t always just for fun! Check out these best-selling books who wrote their first drafts during NaNo sessions:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Build a consistent habit
The truth is that you just won’t feel inspired every single day. If you want to reach the 50,000 goal regardless, you need to build a water-tight routine.
Write at the same time each day
50,000 words is approximately 1,667 words a day, and this builds up quickly if you fall behind. For this reason, it’s important to take time (even just 5-10 minutes) to write every day, if possible.
Carve out a block of time (depending on which time of day you work best) to focus solely on writing, and make it a priority.Tweet
Before you mark in 2-hour writing sessions, studies show that writing in short bursts can increase creativity and productivity. Before NaNoWriMo starts, take some time to work out whether you work better writing for longer chunks of time, or if shorter sprints suit your writing pattern more.
Write in the same place
The key to building a habit is consistency. If you normally write at your desk, use that space for every writing session.
Similarly, if a particular playlist motivates your writing, listen to it before every writing session. If you usually drink coffee whilst writing, use the same mug for writing session. Setting up mini routines like these help you to ‘put on your writing boots’, making it easier to start writing.
Make a plan
To hit your goal, you’ll have to write 1,667 words a day- this is especially difficult if you don’t have a plan for the month.
Even the most ardent pantsers (someone who does very minimal outlining for each novel) can benefit from some preparation in the month leading up to NaNoWriMo.
If you’ll be starting a novel completely from scratch, here are some important things you could include in your prep:
- World-building: where and when is the novel set? Is there a magic system? What are the politics like and is there a government? These are all questions you need to ask yourself when building up a picture of your world. Other important points to include are the geography of the world, its history and technology (this especially applies to sci-fi). You could even draw maps for the specific places important to your characters.
- Character profiles- depending on how much depth you like to go into before beginning will determine how detailed these are. Some things you could focus on are physical description, background, hobbies, hopes/ fears. These are the key questions to consider: what are the characters’ wants/ needs? What are the characters’ motivations and how will they have changed by the end of the novel? What are the stakes for the characters?
- Storyline- it’s much easier to face the task of writing a novel if you have a basic outline of each scene. Begin by jotting down any scene ideas you have on post-it notes or in a notebook. You can then decide which of these to keep and reposition any that don’t fit properly. Write up the ideas into a document or notepad, and flesh out any parts that need extra development/ additional scenes. Now each of the scene has a general outline, you can add in changes to characters’ environments, conflict and tension, and any subplots you want to include. Read through your storyline to ensure pacing is even, and that goalposts are in the proper places.
Prepping yourself mentally
October isn’t just about preparing your idea to be turned into a novel. Writing every day for a month isn’t something you can just jump into, especially if you’re having to write around a job or additional duties.
Plan out your writing time as if you’re going to be ill for a good chunk of November- this way you won’t end up feeling overfaced, and ready to throw in the towel before even starting.
The first few days of NaNoWriMo will be full of adrenaline, with the idea fresh in your mind. Utilise this by getting ahead with your words– this will come in handy later on in the month if you hit a writing block and fall behind.
The average user spends almost 2 hours on social media every day; convert some of that scrolling time to writing by turning off any digital distractions. If just having your phone in the same room as you is tempting, try some of these tricks:
- Turn the Wi-Fi off whilst you write
- Install an app like Forest to help block distractions.
- Close all browser tabs on your laptop, except the ones needed for writing
- Remove any devices from the room altogether.
Let your family and friends know when you will be writing- if needs be, put a sign on your door or writing area.
Ensure your writing environment is clutter free at the end of each session- an organised space aids an organised mind.
Mute your inner-editor
Even with all outer distractions removed, getting started (and keeping going) is difficult, especially if you’re critiquing yourself as you go along.
The main focus on NaNoWriMo is quantity (50,000 words!). You can rewrite your draft as many times as you like after November ends. This means writing without looking back, and without editing as you go along.
If you find this difficult, try dimming your screen, or changing the font colour to white. This physically ensures that you can’t edit as you go along.
Take regular breaks
A month sounds like a short time to write 50,000 words, but it can feel long when you’re writing every single day.
Avoid burnout by scheduling frequent breaks into your writing schedule. This will also increase your creativity when you come back to writing.
Try to have fun
Writing 50,000 words is going to be miserable if you don’t love the project you’re working on. Spend the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo getting excited about your project- this will make it a lot easier to sustain for 30 days.
Remember- NaNoWriMo is about the process as much as the end product. Focus on your love of writing and the fun of creating a story; November will be over before you know it, and you’ll have a complete draft before you.
Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? I’d love to hear your experience and know whether you have found this tips helpful. Let me know in the comments below or connect with me directly on any of my social medias.