Thursday, November 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo: Surviving 30 Days of Insane Writing Without Losing Your Mind!

It's November. Somewhere in the midst of a busy year that has all but blurred together for me, it is nearly the end of 2018, and today - November 1st - heralds the first day of NaNoWriMo for many writers (National Novel Writing Month). 

I participated in this event every year until about two years ago. I'm actually working on two different books right now, so while I won't be an active participant in the great word race of the month, I do have some advice that I like to offer every year to help you survive 30 days of intense storytelling. 

Few people make it all the way to the end of the event. Two holiday weekends break up the month of November - and then there's this pesky little thing called LIFE that usually gets in the way of writing time. But hey, if you really want to come out of November with a completed manuscript, YOU CAN DO IT. You are capable, my friend! Here are some tips and tricks I apply to my writing life, and that I think you will find extremely useful when it comes to making NaNoWriMo a triumph for you this year. 

  • Write an outline. Friend, I'm going to be honest with you. You may be a "pantser" when it comes to weaving a plot, but if you're going for the insanity of writing an entire 50,000 word novel in just 30 days, you're going to want to seriously consider coming up with an outline. Why? Because if you know what your end game is, it's easier to chart a course to get there. So many writers burn out at around the third week of NaNoWriMo, merely because they've lost the direction of their story. Plan ahead. Make an outline. Know where you're headed. It will save you not only time, but a massive creative headache. I do this with every book and it keeps me on track - it's a method that hasn't failed me yet! 
  • Don't be afraid to skip around, pal. Here's the thing: even with an outline, it's easy to sometimes get hung up on a scene or a chapter that's really killing your creative buzz. This happens to me quite frequently, actually. Guess what I do? I skip that scene! I glide right over the element that's driving me crazy and stopping my progress. I continue with the story beyond that and then come back to that troubling plot point later, when I can see the manuscript with more clarity. It helps me to not get frozen on one frustrating element of my story and continue to make progress with the rest of it. If there's one thing you don't want in NaNoWriMo, it's stagnation. You want to keep moving forward, because face it: you've got only a very limited amount of time to finish your manuscript! 
  • Make writing time FUN. It's November! Write at the end of the day with your laptop and a cup of hot cocoa. Curl up and enjoy the anticipation of the holidays by writing a wonderful story that captures your imagination. Make writing time YOU time. Make it something special to enjoy. You're not doing this to compete against other people. You, my friend, are doing this so that you can say with certainty and pride, "I wrote a book this fall." How many people can say that? Not many! 
  • Find your groove. When I say this, I mean find the writing space that works for you. Some people work better creatively by taking their writing to Starbucks or a restaurant, feeling stimulated by the steady hum of activity swirling around them. As for me? I work best in quiet environments, cocooned in my office or perched on the balcony of a hotel by the sea. You may find that you work better surrounded by people, and if that's the case, don't fight it! Do what you need to do in order to get in the zone and get your writing groove on. 
  • Plug into your local NaNo writing group. Sign up for your local writer's group. If you're a part of the NaNoWriMo community (sign up at NaNoWriMo.Org), different counties and zones all over the country have writing groups who meet at college libraries, coffee shops, and bookstores to talk about their manuscripts and just to have fun. I did this a couple of times and had a lot of fun with it. You get to connect with other aspiring authors in your area and just revel in the joy of creating a story and being able to use it as an additional excuse to order another cup of coffee. 
  • Yes, adhere to a daily word count. If you want to make it to 50,000 words in 30 days, you'll need to write around 1650 words per day (at that rate, you'll be only 500 words short of your goal on the 30th day). It seems like a small number of words until you're staring a blank screen, void of all ideas and suddenly possessed with an intense desire to watch Family Feud. But remember: this is only for one month! Get your word count done and THEN watch TV. I've written 22 bestselling books in the last (almost) 6 years because I've been willing to put my word count goals ahead of my personal desires, and if you can do this for just 30 days, you'll win NaNoWriMo, no problem. 
  • Connect with the online community. If you need encouragement with your writing, NaNo is EVERYWHERE. Instagram, Twitter, name it. Lots of other writers are also participating in the event. Check them out! There are also virtual write-ins that are streamed from the NaNo Headquarters. Find that here. Also, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter if you're interested in setting hourly or even minute-by-minute word goals for yourself. 

Remember to stay positive! You can do this. NaNoWriMo is an epic challenge, but it's also so much fun! My first NaNoWriMo manuscript ended up becoming my first bestselling novel, State of Emergency, so I'm living proof that you can create some really great stuff by participating in this competition. Find what inspires you and cling to it. Drink plenty of coffee (or tea, if that's your jam), and remember...HAVE FUN. That's really what this is all about. 


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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!