Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Slow and Steady Writes the Novel
It’s been a while. Did you miss me? Because I missed you, obviously. I’ve been summoned from my Drafting Cave of Horrors to dispense some NaNoWriMo advice. Many will try to convince you otherwise, but the truth is the secret to winning NaNoWriMo is to have a proper plan in place. Fear not, my lovely pantsers. This post isn’t about creating an outline.
The Tortoise was onto something when he passed the Hare, who got cocky, burnt out, and took a nap. Keeping it slow and steady, consistently hitting smaller word count goals is arguably the best way to cross the NaNo finish line. Sure, you could binge-write 50,000 words in one intense weekend, but at what cost? Your brain will melt into a puddle of wordy goo. Carpal tunnel will come for your hands and arms, say goodbye to your lower back, your hips and shoulders will hate you, and you’ll probably start tasting colors. NaNo, like most writing endeavors, is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you’re like me, you need a plan in place to keep yourself consistent and accountable.
1.) Set a Schedule
I’m Team Day Job—working forty hours per week and writing whenever I can. Being a writer means making it work. It means carving out the time you need to make word magic. That might be deciding to write at midnight for an hour before going to sleep or waking up three hours early before work or cramming in some words on your lunch break or dictating while driving. Only you can decide what will work best here, but you have to make it work. You have to want to make it work. Your word count goals aren’t going to reach themselves on their own (rude, I know).
2.) Join a NaNoWriMo Cabin or Group
Writing is often a solitary activity, but NaNo doesn’t have to be! Nothing gets me in the NaNo mood faster than knowing thousands of other writers all over the world are aiming for the same goal. Seeing your fellow writers-in-arms upload their word counts could be the edge you need to kick yourself into gear. You can also plan writing dates! Write together over Skype in a coffee shop (no, that’s not weird!!!!) or host word sprints on Twitter or in Slack. The NaNo website also connects you with writers in your region if you’d like to make some IRL writing buddies.
3.) Treat Yo Self
Positive reinforcement is basically bribery dressed up in disciplinary finery. See, the way my reward system is set up, I’m an adult with very little discipline. If I want something special, I get it for myself. But NaNoWriMo is the one time of the year where I force myself to wait. I make a simple chart of word count goals and the equivalent reward I get to have once I’ve crossed it. It can be anything—like a piece of candy for writing 100 words to a new camera for writing 49,999 words. The trick here is to make sure my rewards are things I really want to have, leaving me no choice but to do my work. I’m bribing myself, and I have no shame about it. Neither should you.
4.) Make It Public
It is not necessary to write every day to win. Let me say that again: you do not have to write every day. Many writers can’t because of work or kids or any number of other valid reasons. But a fun thing to do is to post your progress on social media. Check-in with a fun pic/graphic/video on Instagram to update your word count and maybe even write a little post about how your story is progressing (without sharing too many super-secret plot details, of course!). Tag your post with #NaNoWriMo and #AmWriting to get a conversation going in your comments, and maybe you’ll find some new NaNo friends. You can set your check-ins to be daily or weekly—find what works for you and stick with it.
These are just a few examples of what I plan to do this year. What about you? What measures do you plan to take to ensure you’ll hit your NaNo goals?
Let’s cosplay as tortoises and win this race!