NaNoWriMo begins at 12:00 a.m. on November 1st. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, over 100,000 people take a vow to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Less than 20% succeed.
Fifty thousand words in one month is a challenge for even fulltime writers, let alone writers who are working fulltime at a day job, going to school, or taking care of a family.
I’ve never joined the NaNoWriMo challenge. While I love the energy surrounding NaNoWriMo, I work at a slower pace — I’m happy with my writing production and see no reason to change it. In that proverbial race, I am the tortoise.
But for all the hares out there, here are 5 tips to help you make it through “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.”
1. Use that extra hour! If you’re like me, you set the clocks ahead Saturday night/Sunday morning before bed when daylight saving time rolls around. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo, skip it.
Stay up very late tonight, and get up earlier than usual tomorrow. Do things tomorrow: run errands, go for a long walk, or hang out with friends…just do anything you can to keep yourself awake. Then, go to bed at a decent time Saturday night.
Set your alarm an hour or so earlier than you normally wake up on Sunday and start writing. When you’re an hour or so in and you get up to stretch and take a break, then set your clocks back.
BOOM! extra time coming out of the starting blocks!
2. Take breaks. I’m not talking about breaks from writing — I’m talking about allotted breaks at work.
If you aren’t already writing during lunch breaks, now’s a good time to start. If you’re like me and don’t take your two fifteen minute breaks during the day, why not begin taking them?
By writing on all your breaks during the workday, that’s 1 – 1 ½ hours of extra writing each day. Who wouldn’t want an extra 5 – 7 ½ hours of writing when they’re trying to rack up 50,000 words during November?
The time is right there if you use it.
3. Let everybody know. Let family, friends, co-workers…anybody who will listen know what you’re doing. Explain to the people close to you that you’re going to probably be a bit distant for the month. Give people permission to ask about your progress; if everybody around you is asking if you’re hitting 1,667 words a day, you’re more likely to reach that daily goal.
When you’re done, don’t forget to thank everybody for their patience come December. Don’t just say, “Thanks” — send thank you cards at the very least to the people closest to you who put up with the most.
4. Don’t edit! I know this goes without saying, but the goal is to get 50,000 words done during November — nothing more. Those words don’t have to be pretty, they just need to go down on paper or a computer monitor.
Resist the urge to edit as you go along. A couple hours editing over a week is a couple thousand words further from your goal. Over a month, that’s enough to put you at 40,000 words, instead of 50,000.
There will be plenty of time to edit after November — use the month to do nothing else but write!
5. Disconnect. Resist the urge to go online to say, “Just wrote 250 words!” on Facebook, Twitter, and the NaNoWriMo forums.You know the moment you do, you’re going to spend more time online than you planned.
Don’t check e-mail, blogs, or anything until you’ve hit your daily goal, or at least half your daily goal. Stay away from the TV, videogames, and anything else you can be doing instead of writing…even cleaning or exercising.
Disconnect from all distractions until you’ve hit your 1,667 words.
Then shout it from the rooftop!
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I wish everybody setting out to tackle NaNoWriMo the best of luck! Even if you don’t hit the 50,000 word mark, it’s safe to say you will still walk away from the challenge with so much more than you had going in.
And if you find yourself falling behind, here’s a quote from a very successful writer (whose latest book is great so far!) to make you feel better:
“There’s no reason you should write any novel quickly.”
– John Irvin
Good luck to everybody writing — no matter what the speed — in November!