5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Participants

by krstaten


Happy November 1st! While some people are busy putting away their pumpkins and taking out Christmas decorations (Really? Already? Okay then), you’ve got a more important task at hand: NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. You probably won’t write a full, complete novel in 30 days, but the goal is to churn out 50,000 words of one.

Now, as any NaNoWriMo critic will be all too quick to tell you, 50,000 words does not a novel make. But the point is to develop a habit of writing every day and silencing your inner critic long enough to get the story on paper, and any seasoned writer will agree that this is critical.

A NaNoWriMo victor I am not, and never have been. This month I may or may not be making my second attempt at it, and I anticipate failure if I try, because…well, it’s November 1 and I still don’t know for sure if I’m participating. So here are some handy reminders, not specific to NaNoWriMo but for writing in general, that all of us will find helpful this month:

1. Create a writing environment. This means finding a place where you can focus, and setting it up–get the lighting right, put your favorite pillows and blankets there, find music (or no music, or whatever background noise you need) to create the right ambience, etc.

If you focus best while drinking tea, go make yourself some damn tea. If you find you can’t write effectively unless you’ve got some crackers to munch on in between typing/writing, grab some dang crackers. Make it your official Writing Home, minimize distraction there, and make sure it includes everything you need to be an atmosphere where you can Get Things Done.

2. Turn off the inner critic. I mean, this is literally the whole point of NaNoWriMo. Most of us can’t write when we’ve got the demon on our shoulder murmuring over every perceived mistake. You’ll tell yourself, “This idea has been done before,” “this character is terrible,” “this plot line is boring.” Tell yourself to shut the hell up and write it anyway. This story is not going to get written if you don’t write it.

3. Try to keep a schedule. Not always easy, especially if you have a lot of obligations, but you have to carve time out of your day to write. Maybe this means waking up half an hour early every day to give yourself time alone with the laptop. Maybe it means scheduling yourself for an hour after work. If you’re doing it regularly and making a habit of it, it’s easier to stick to the habit.

4. TAKE BREAKS. This isn’t just any writing project–this is marathon writing. I mean, there’s the obvious–make sure you’re giving yourself time to, you know, eat and sleep. But also get up and stretch. A change of scenery can be what you need to restart your brain.

Been writing for 45 minutes and feeling stuck? Get your body moving! Physical movement helps mental energy a ton. Try going on a walk around your neighborhood for 15 minutes, and pay attention to what you see. Watch everything from how children at the park interact to the way the wind moves through the trees. Maybe stepping away from the story will be what gives you more ideas to put into it.

5. No pressure! If it sucks, it sucks (and it probably will–you don’t write 50,000 words of quality prose in 30 days). You’ll learn something from having written it. You might not even hit 50,000, but if you write anything at all you’ve accomplished something. Whatever the outcome, you still walked away having created something that wasn’t there before, and having learned something about and from that creation.

So, be prepared for the pain and the glory, the sweat and tears, and the gratuitous amounts of coffee. You got this. Roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, and get writing.