Writing 50,000 words in November's 30 days sounds daunting, especially for those who celebrate Thanksgiving (and would like to take a break from their computers/notebooks for at least a day). Thousands win (achieve 50k) every year, and you can too if you commit yourself to getting it done.
There are countless strategies and even more helpful tips to get you to that finish line. Here are 7 pieces of advice that will get you started on your journey toward winning NaNoWriMo.
1. Make a plan. Then make a backup plan.
Even if you're a pantser, having a general outline is only going to help you. Hell, even if you stray from the outline, it's still going to help you. You'll always have that original plan for if your story turns back around to its original idea. Or, if you get stuck in a rut, you'll have a backup idea you might be able to fall back on or steer your characters toward..
Keep a page of writing prompts nearby for when you have time to write but the words aren't coming. A prompt can trigger your thoughts, and it'll help get your writer's brain back in the game. You don't have to finish the prompt, but if you're a completest, you can always go back to it later.
Another part of your plan needs to be taking care of yourself. Ensure you keep hydrated and get enough sleep and are eating fulfilling snacks rather than junk food just to wire your brain temporarily. Using your noggin burns more calories than you think. Even chess players can burn up to 6,000 calories per day. Food powers more than just your body, so eat well. You'll focus better and stay focused better.
Part of your plan needs to be taking care of yourself.
2. Don't edit. Just write.
Easier said than done, right? If you are going to progress with your story, you must force yourself to leave the typos for later. That isn't what November is for when it comes to NaNo. Truthfully, even if you're writing outside of NaNo, you should limit how much you self-edit as you write. It can inhibit your flow, and you won't get everything into your story like you had planned. You don't want to forget a detail because you should have—but didn't—have time to put it into your story.
Handwriting instead of typing when you write is a good way to keep your eyes on the future and not on the squiggly red lines under words that Word or Google Docs doesn't like. Although, when I write quickly by hand, my words tend to lose their legibility, so be sure you're writing clearly and in a script you'll be able to read later.
Airplane mode is your friend. Use it. Unless you need to do a bit of research online, there's no reason to give yourself the opportunity to be distracted with social media. If you have time allotted and dedicated to your NaNo word goal, use it for just that.
You don't want to go into the next day with a blank slate.
4. End writing sessions when you know what will be next.
You're on a roll. Just a few more sentences, and you can get this idea out and start fresh during the next session. While it's good to use every opportune moment to write when it comes to writing 50k in 30 days, you also don't want to go into the next day with a blank slate.
If you've been good about keeping to your daily word goals, take a quick note so you know where to pick it up next. As long as you have something to work with when you start your next writing session, you lessen your chances of dreading its arrival. You also minimize running into writer's block if you go into it with content ready to write.
5. Write even if it's not a planned writing session.
It helps to set aside time you can devote to your 50k, but if you find yourself with a spare half hour, use it. Squeeze some words in. Little chunks of writing will add up too. If you stop in the middle of a scene, leave yourself a note. It's better, as previously mentioned, to have an idea of what to hammer into when you get back to your next writing session anyway.
I prefer to work in Google Docs for NaNoWriMo because I can access it from anywhere and it auto saves. I'm less likely to lose what I wrote (can you tell I'm horrible at remembering to save?) and if I get stuck somewhere unexpectedly, I can pull it up and either take more notes or get a few more words in. Just don't forget to update your word counts every day on your NaNo profile. They give badges for that!
Don't forget to update your word counts every day on your NaNo profile.
6. Reward yourself.
Set goals and don't forget to pat yourself on the back when you achieve them. Rewards can be quite motivating, especially when you follow though with what you had planned. The rewards don't have to be expensive or complicated (unless you want them to be) but something that helps you celebrate your little victories.
If you set a goal, achieve it, and get something for it, your more likely to keep trucking toward the next goal. On my free printable NaNo word tracker sheets (at the bottom of this page), they have space at the bottom so you can assign yourself a treat every 10,000 words. Is that a hard rule? Absolutely not. But it's a good place to start.
7. Remember that even if you win, it's only the beginning.
You won NaNoWriMo! Now you have at least 50,000 (probably) amazing words that (theoretically) form a story. So it's time to slap a cover on that baby and upload it to retailers, right? Hah. Not quite yet. However, it is an amazing place to start when it comes to publishing your (next) book. November was just for the words. The months that follow are for cleaning the debris out of it.
Here's a checklist you can start with:
~ Read through it, taking notes of plot holes or things you forgot to come back around to.
~ Take notes of things you mention toward the end but need to be mentioned in the beginning, then add those bits.
~ Contact alpha/beta reader(s) to give you feedback on content.
~ Get on the schedule of your editor.
~ Self-edit typos, etc. (Here's a helpful place to begin self-editing as well as what to avoid in your prose.)
~ Address feedback from alpha/beta reader(s).
~ Get it to an editor for edits and proofreading.
That's it! Cheers to 50k, and happy writing!
You can totally do this thing!