Friday, November 3, 2017

Surviving NaNoWriMo! (Here's How!)

Take it from me, NaNoWriMo is an epic challenge! I've written a lot of books in my day, and although I don't actively participate in this event anymore (I literally do NaNoWriMo all year long), I have a lot of tips and tricks to offer to the budding writer hoping to tackle a 50,000 word manuscript during this month of whirlwind creativity. 

Most of my advice is rooted in pain. Seriously. I have learned the hard way what to do and what not to do, physically, emotionally, and creatively. When you've set a crazy deadline for yourself and nobody is holding you accountable except for YOU, things can look pretty bleak about halfway into the month, or 25,000 words in. Here are some surefire methods I personally use all year long (I write and publish several books a year), and that I have found to be fantastic tricks for surviving an event like NaNoWriMo. 

Don't be discouraged. The key to surviving National Novel Writing Month (or anything that overwhelms you), is to break it up into day-by-day pieces. If you look at the whole enchilada, you'll end up overwhelmed and paralyzed. I mean, come on people. The Death Star wasn't built in a day (oops, I've got Star Wars on the brain!). Let's take my week, for example: I had something going on almost every morning, afternoon, and evening. Sunday night, I started worrying about all the things I had to get done, and I was seriously stressing. It was then that my husband reminded me of what I periodically forget: "Just take one day at a time." He's right! If you look at everything all at once, there's NO WAY you can possibly tackle it all without dying inside. You have to break it up, focus on one task at a time. Before you know it, you'll be halfway there, and then rushing across the finish line! The average word count per day to stay on track for NaNoWriMo is around 1,600 words, which can seem overwhelming. Just remember: worry about 1,600 words ONLY. Once a day. Don't think about the full 50,000. Make it smaller. Make it work for YOU. 

Plan. So you're a pantser, I get it. You don't like to plan, you like to let it flow. I have some news for you: If you've never successfully completed NaNoWriMo before, being a pantser is probably why. Sorry to tell ya, but somebody has to! Pooping out in the middle of writing a manuscript is something I like to call "Middle Book Fatigue." The initial burst of creativity has worn out and suddenly, you're not sure where to take the story and honestly, you just don't care anymore because hey, you have a million other things to do and The Voice is on TV and you're pretty sure you need to vacuum your house. You can avoid this situation by having a plot plan in place before you write. I'm not saying you have to plan out every scene or piece of dialogue. I'm saying have an idea of how your book will be structured and how it will end so that you have a clear goal in mind. When you pull onto the road, you usually have a destination in mind. Why? Because otherwise, you would drive aimlessly about and eventually run out of gas, stranded on the side of the road somewhere. It's good to know where you're going, even if it's just a rough idea. 

Stay healthy. I have learned the hard way (and I keep learning, even after all this time), that one of the best things you can do to stay focused and productive is to take care of your body. Staying well-fed, hydrated, and rested will go a long way in helping you to tackle your daily goals and conquer NaNoWriMo. I have a bad habit of starting work early and remaining glued to my office desk until mid-afternoon, never pausing for so much as a snack. I hydrate with coffee only and then wonder why I don't feel good. Don't be me: take care of yourself! I've started to take a more serious approach to nourishing my body with things that are good for me by eating clean, cutting out processed foods/fried foods and sugars (buh-bye sodas and candy!), and trying to limit my overwhelming caffeine intake. I notice a huge difference in the way I feel about myself and the quality of work I put out when I'm exercising and eating correctly. 

Surround yourself with positive vibes. When you're trying to accomplish something big and difficult, you can only let good things inside your world. I have also learned the hard way to stop letting toxic people and situations affect my life. I had to take control of my world and say "NO MORE." I noticed that every time I was consumed with some trifling drama or dragged into a negative mindset, I found it more difficult to create and write. I was so consumed with my own jumbled emotions that I couldn't focus. SO NOT ACCEPTABLE. You have to learn to push the white noise away and focus on what's important. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you. People who constantly attack you or pick on you or tell you all the things you're doing wrong - constantly - are poisonous. I'm telling you: drop em' like it's hot. That kind of influence is permanently scarring. Drink in positive vibes. Do not, for a single second, allow self-doubt, negativity, or the idiotic and skewed judgement of others to impact your life in any way. You are YOU. You are in charge of your life, how you feel about yourself, and your journey is exclusively your own. Kick haters to the curb. Walk into a room and know that nothing that anybody says to you can change the way you feel about yourself and your dreams. Believe that you can, and you will. I'm serious. Be a go-getter. 

Finish. Right, this one sounds stupid. A no-brainer, right? But hey, all of the above advice is useless if you don't actually reach the finish line. Even if you don't reach your goal in the timeline that you set for yourself, getting up and trying again and again is literally the sign of a champion. Failure breeds experience, and experience paves the road to success. It comes down to you, my friend. Are you going to finish what you started or not? I encourage you to buckle down and do it - whether it's NaNoWriMo or anything else. You are the only person standing in your way. In the end, there is nobody to blame for giving up...except for yourself. I believe in you, and so should you! Life is a rollercoaster ride, and you have to ride it with your hands in the air and a smile on your face. Kick butt. Go into your mission with the mindset of I CAN DO THIS, and no matter what, you will not fail. You can't. Not when you've got a mindset like that! 

I've got a lot of advice about writing. Over the years, I've cataloged so much of it here on Writing Belle, that I was inspired to write a book about the art of storytelling and writing a hit book. I'll be releasing this compilation of my own writing journey and offering tips and tricks to any and all writers, young and old. Look for it in Spring of 2018! 

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