8 Resources NaNoWriMo Veterans Swear By

by Emma Cueto

Finishing a novel is a monumental feat; trying to finish a novel in 30 days seems downright impossible. But if you're doing NaNoWriMo, you don't have to do it alone. There are lots of resources to help you get through NaNoWriMo and finish your novel. Because, as someone who's won NaNoWriMo numerous times in the past, I can tell you from personal experience that we all need a little help to get through. Coffee only gets you so far.

For me, NaNo always feels great at the beginning — you have a new story idea, and it's lovely and full of promise, the creative energy is working, and the words just flow. And then, sometime in the first week something happens. Maybe you find a plot hole, or a character that seemed great in your head isn't coming out right on the page, or the writing is taking you in a direction you weren't prepared for when you did all your careful planning. Maybe you're just running out of creative energy — after all, it's hard to sustain that for 30 days in a row. Whatever it is, something happens and NaNo starts to feel, well, hard.

Fortunately, there are all sorts of resources available for when that happens. Here are eight things to help you get through NaNoWriMo and finish your novel. Because I know you can.

1. Pep Talks

This one is kind of obvious since the site sends you pep talks right to your email. But you can't really understate the value of having successful authors share their wisdom with you. Maybe not every pep talk will resonate with you — I know I've felt like some just didn't speak to me — but plenty will, and the best part is that all of the pep talks from past years, all the way back to 2007, are still available online. Chances are one of your favorite authors has written one at some point.

2. Write or Die

Pep talks are the nice way of trying to motivate yourself. If that doesn't work, try the mean way. Write or Die is an online service that allows you to set a word-count goal and a time frame — anything from one minute to an hour — and comes with all types of settings. But the one that makes it famous is kamikaze mode: If you stop writing for too long, it starts to delete what you've written. Permanently. There's nothing that will get your fingers flying faster than seeing your hard work vanishing before your very eyes.

3. Forums

If your problem isn't with buckling down and writing but rather with trying to figure out your story, NaNo has all kinds of forums that can help. Forums range from "Writing 101" to "Plot Doctoring" to "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul" to genre-specific forums where people can share problems and solutions. Go celebrate your success, get advice on your story, help someone else with their problems, pick up a dare or two, or just bask in the glory that is thousands of word nerds all freaking out together over the same challenge.

4. Join a Region

If motivating yourself is hard, you can always try using the glory of your hometown. If you sign up for a region on the NaNoWriMo website, your word-count totals are added together with everyone else from your city or state, and since regions are ranked relative to one another, you're not just writing for you — you're doing it for the team.

5. Freedom

If distraction is your problem, you can always try shutting your Internet off on your computer, but the trouble with that is that it's so easy to turn it right back on again. Freedom takes care of that problem for you. It costs $10, but it works on both Mac and Windows. Once you download it, you can use it to turn your Internet off for a set amount of time, and nothing you do will get it back short of restarting your computer. So there are no distractions, and nothing for you to do but write.

6. Dictation

Sadly, the rest of the world doesn't stop during NaNo and it can be hard to find time to write in between all your other responsibilities — and there are only so many nights in a row that you can skimp on sleep before your words turn to gibberish. So if you're in a rush, you can try using dictation instead. Both Android and iPhones have speech-to-text capabilities — and even can do some basic formatting so that things don't wind up in one big paragraph.

7. Word Sprints

NaNo is a marathon, but sometimes it's easier to treat it like a sprint. NaNo has an official word sprint Twitter account, @NaNoWordSprints that runs sprints all day every day in November. Sprints can last anywhere from one minute to half an hour and everyone is welcome to participate. So if you have any free time, check out their Twitter feed (it's the only time being on Twitter is good for you during NaNo), get writing, and share your word count when you're done to keep yourself honest. Then take a break and go again when the next sprint rolls around. You could write a whole novel that way.

8. Back Up Your Novel

This isn't technically a resource, but it's important enough that it should be mentioned everywhere. Back up your novel. Back it up more than once. You are working hard getting all those words down, and you want them all to still be there to put into the official word counter at the end of the month. You don't want them to be a casualty of some computer catastrophe, so back them up.

So best of luck and happy writing, fellow WriMos! I'll see you all come December — if we're all still in one piece.

Images: Giphy (8)