NaNoWriMo has proven that anyone can write a novel in a month, but how do you get 50,000 words from your head to the page when you've got a lot of stuff going on in November? Here's a handy guide on how to win NaNoWriMo if you're super busy, and believe me, it's easier than you think.
Regardless of what masterclasses and self-help books would have you believe, there's no big secret to writing. You just have to show up. Lamenting about how hard writing is — and, yes, it can be really, really hard — won't find you an agent. Hoarding writing prompts won't get you a publishing contract. And waiting until your writing is "good enough" won't land you on a bestseller list.
You know what will? Work.
I know you're busy. I didn't get a chance to participate in NaNoWriMo until I was 25, which made me kind of an old on writing message boards filled with gumptious 16-year-olds. It was the first time I actually committed to writing 50,000 words in a month, and guess what? I did it. I finished one novella and wrote another on my first time out. IT CAN BE DONE, Y'ALL.
Here are my best tips and tricks on how to win NaNoWriMo if you're super busy in November.
1. Plan as Much as You Can before Nov. 1
If you've got a hectic schedule this November, you probably can't plan out everything you'd like to do with your novel manuscript. Nor should you. Over-planning can cause your writing ethic to dwindle if you get off-track, and NaNoWriMo is all about churning out words with as few stops as possible.
However, because your writing time will be precious this month, you need to have a loose idea of what you're going to write about. Every writer knows how it feels to stare at a blank screen or notebook page, trying to come up with something to fill it.
Make sure you start NaNoWriMo off right by having at least one thing you want to put in your novel. It could be a character, a setting, or a writing prompt, but please make sure it comes into play early on in your novel, for your own sake. That way, you're ready to write at midnight on Nov. 1 without any stalls.
2. Schedule Your Writing Time and Stick to It
Even if you know you're going to be super busy during NaNoWriMo, you probably have some idea as to what your day-to-day schedule looks like. If you don't already have one, download a good calendar app to your phone or tablet, and plug in your engagements. Be sure to include normal activities, too, such as work, grocery shopping, or going to the gym. Chunks of free time should start to appear. Mark these as designated writing hours — or minutes — and commit to making each and every one.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Change Things Up
Sometimes planning goes awry, but it doesn't have to derail your progress. As Wool author Hugh Howey says, "[i]t’s the not missing a day that gets you," but a sustained period of not writing. If the schedule you've planned doesn't work out, make up a new one that does.
NaNoWriMo tasks you with writing 50,000 words in November: about 1,667 words per day. If you can't write on weekends, you need to put out 2,272 words each day. If your schedule is even weirder than that, you might want to find a different writing plan. Some plans start off with high targets — 5,000 to 10,000 words — for the first few days, then slowly taper off as the month wears on. Search online, find what works for you, and stick with it until the month is done.
4. Keep Your Manuscript in More than One Place
If you're going to be travelling a lot during November, you might not always have your laptop or writing notebook with you. And trust me, the day you leave it behind will be the day of your biggest plot breakthrough.
If you're writing on a computer, be sure you have your work backed up on a flash drive, memory card, Google Drive, or some form of cloud storage, so that you can continue working on any device. To make writing in a queue or car more convenient, you'll also want a reliable pen or pencil and a paper notebook of some sort. If you have a lot of driving to do, consider investing in a digital recorder, or busting your old TalkBoy out of your mom's attic storage.
Whenever you think you might change to your notebook, make a habit of jotting down the last line you wrote at the top of your page, because there's nothing worse wanting to work on your project, but having no idea where you left off.
5. Get Your Friends and Family Involved
Going to be around a lot of people in November? Don't want to be rude by shuttering yourself off from them while you NaNoWriMo it out? Get them involved!
Most people have probably thought about writing a book at least once in their lives, but few ever actually finish what they start. Encourage your family and friends to get involved by spreading the word about NaNoWriMo. Even if they don't decide to participate, they're more likely to be understanding of your writing needs if they know what you've committed to do.
6. Write as Much as You Can, Whenever You Can
This is the big one, y'all. Writing like you're running out of time is the key to winning NaNoWriMo under ordinary circumstances, but the fact that you have lots of plans for the next 30 days makes it that much more important.
Got some down time between laundry and dishes? Write. Stuck in traffic on your way home from work? Write. Just put the baby down for a nap? Write. Write even if you didn't schedule it, even if you have already hit your word goal for the day, even if you're going to write all day tomorrow.
What are you still doing here? GO WRITE.
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