How To "Win" NaNoWriMo, Even If You Don't Finish Your Novel In 30 Days
Every year on Nov. 1, writers around the world band together for National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. Founded in 1999, the concept behind NaNoWriMo is simple: Writing is hard, but you don't have to do it alone. During NaNoWriMo, writers attempt to write 50,000 words of a first draft of a new novel. The official website allows writers to track their progress, mark their milestones, get tips from authors who have successfully published NaNo manuscripts, and, most importantly, connect with other people who are also drafting their manuscripts.
But even with all of those resources, writers are often on the hunt for more NaNoWriMo tips and tricks that will help them smash their goals and get through the month with their creativity intact. The goal is to "win" NaNoWriMo — or finish 50,000 words and enter December with a working manuscript. But I'm here to tell you that there's no one way to "win" NaNoWriMo, so don't be discouraged if that seems like an impossible goal.
If you have decided you want to attempt NaNoWriMo, I've got a few ideas to help you through the month. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone, but with these slightly unconventional tips, you'll fly through the challenge in style:
Make A Writing Schedule — But Include Ample Breaks, Too
A month can fly by, especially during this busy time of the year. With the holidays ramping up and the end of the year fast approaching, NaNo can sometimes feel like an additional burden on an already tight schedule. That's why it's super important to plan out your month ahead of time — especially because there is no way you'll get through the challenge without taking some ample breaks.
Take out your calendar and put in everything you know you have to do this month: work days, meetings, appointments, errands, and, of course, writing. Now include time for fun and relaxation, too: dinner with friends, a workout class, a marathon Netflix session. Instead of committing to writing a certain amount every day, adjust your writing time to fit around your obligations and breaks. Write for an extra hour on a lazy Sunday to make up for the hour you'll miss on a busy Tuesday.
Not forcing your schedule will make writing that much more enjoyable.
If You Want To Stay Inspired, You Have To Keep Reading
Many people will warn you not to read anything while you're writing your draft. I'm here to tell you that I personally think that advice is wrong. OK, it's probably not be the best idea to read a rom-com set in a small town if you are currently writing a rom-com set in a small town; I agree with others who say that there is a high chance that you will start to emulate the author you're reading rather than stay in your own voice.
Choose something from another genre: If you're writing a YA fantasy, dive into literary fiction, or pick up a memoir or a book about writing. If you can't deal with anything book-length, use the month to get through some of those longform articles you've had open in your Google Chrome tabs for weeks.
Immersing yourself in the world of words is the best way to keep you pumped for sharing your own.
Log On To Social Media, And Do It Often
OK, stay with me here. Social media is one of the biggest time sucks ever devised by humankind. The idea of logging on to Twitter during NaNoWriMo probably seems incredibly counterintuitive, especially when you have a large and looming deadline to contend with. In fact, many writers will take a strict social media hiatus this month, so they can really focus on their draft.
But one of the major perks of writing during NaNo (as opposed to any other month of the year) is connecting with a community of writers who are just like you. NaNo's website is a great resource for forums, but there is nothing like Twitter for finding participants to commiserate with. Plus, Twitter is where you'll find blog posts with writing tips and author interviews, as well as writing sprints that will help you knock out words on particularly busy days.
If you're worried that staying logged on will distract you more than assist you, give yourself a daily timetable and stick to it. Or make a private new Twitter account to use just for NaNo purposes. Only follow people who are also participating in NaNo with you, so your attention won't be divided between writing prompts and breaking news.
Change Up Your Writing Location
Much of writing is about routine. Having one set writing location — your desk at home, a certain coffee shop, the office — will help trigger the part of your brain that knows its time to write. But, routines can be impossible to build, let alone maintain, during a challenge as fast-paced and high-stress as NaNoWriMo.
If the idea of writing in one place makes you claustrophobic, embrace the messiness and chaos that comes with writing 50,000 words in 30 days and treat your writing time as something of an adventure. If you're usually an indoors writer, try bundling up for an hour of typing at your favorite local park. Instead of going to the café down the street, go to the library a few blocks over or the juice bar you've been meaning to try.
If you're someone who gets bogged down by the chore-like feeling of writing every day, turning that time into a fun outing can make it more exciting — and motivate you to set aside the time.
Remember That "Winning" NaNo Isn't The Most Important Thing
So much emphasis is placed on "winning" NaNo by completing the entire 50,000 word manuscript. But the truth is that attempting NaNoWriMo can change your writing for the better, even if you don't finish your draft in a month.
Instead, use this month to focus on learning more about yourself, your book, and your writing process. It's a healthier (and less stressful) goal than a perfect finished book.
And if you have to take a few more weeks to get those last 10,000 or 20,000 words written? As long as you finish with a few lessons learned and the motivation to keep writing, you've definitely "won" NaNoWriMo.