NaNoWriMo is back, and for the fourth time I’m doing it! Now, I have the benefit of 3 previous years of experience, and I thought I would do a quick post with tips that helped me previously.
1. NaNoWriMo is a marathon, not a sprint
The easiest part of NaNoWriMo is the beginning. There’s the excitation of the challenge, the motivation for the new project, and the massive support online. You might be tempted to burn your energy very quickly, and then you’ll find yourself running out of stamina in the following weeks.
One month is long. Very long. True, at the beginning you might be able to write more than the daily 1667 words, and it is healthy to be a little ahead, but don’t burn yourself because of it. Think “sustainable” and stick to it.
2. Don’t neglect your health
It’s easy to forget to sleep or eat properly when there’s a massive amount of words to write every day. But once again, this challenge lasts a whole month. Thirty days of short nights and bad food will run you down to the ground. I see many writers catch various illnesses towards the end of the month, and they can’t complete their novel because of it.
Instead, plan your days. Make sure you allow enough time for sleep (8 hours is a good start, some people need more, some people need less). Plan your meals, and make sure they are healthy. I know it’s a pain to cook while you should be writing, but if you plan correctly you can cook in batch! I know some people who, during NaNoWriMo, do all their cooking on Sundays for the whole week. Whatever works for you!
3. Don’t neglect your family and friends
I admit, this is the hardest part! It’s tempting to cancel every social event and to shut down your family, but you will need them when you are struggling to finish. NaNoWriMo can make you feel really isolated and miserable, and it is worse if you can’t have your usual support system.
Instead, tell everyone you know that you are doing the challenge. Hopefully that will mean that they will understand that you are less available, and also that sometimes you need a pep talk! Make sure you spend time with other people, even if it is just for a quick coffee.
4. Be aware of the natural rhythm of NaNoWriMo
It is something that most people don’t talk about, but for me every November is very similar. The first week is awesome: you are super motivated, you love the project, and you write quickly. Then comes the dreaded week 2, when the struggles start. My least favourite one, because by the end of it (around 20K), I’ve usually completely lost faith in the book. That’s when most people quit. Then comes week 3, where you get really really tired, but you start liking your project again. Then week 4 and the end, where you feel like your sanity only hangs by a thread.
These are normal ups and downs for such a challenge. Yours might be slightly different, but I have found that most people go through the same thing. Be aware of it! When you start to get discouraged, know that it is temporary. Seek advice and reassurance, and don’t stop writing!
5. Use all the resources that you can find
NaNoWriMo is so popular that there are plenty of help everywhere! Don’t stay alone with your book, use what has worked for many other people, especially when you start losing faith.
I follow the Twitter account NaNoWordSprint and I do a lot of the sprints whenever I can. It’s the quickest way to reach the word count. There’s also a sprint tool on the NaNoWriMo website and many Facebook groups organise their own.
Use the NaNoWriMo forum and read the pep talks that they send regularly. Talk to other writers online. Participate to Discord chats. Read advice online. Go to write-ins. Anything that can help you. But of course, don’t let it distract you from the actual writing!
6. Don’t feel guilty
50’000 words written in a month is a crazy challenge, and it might happen that you can’t make it. Perhaps you only manage 10K or 20K, and it might make you feel bad about yourself.
Don’t be! Any word written during the challenge is there because you gave it a shot! They are important and precious, and it’s a proof that you are a writer! Don’t let other people rain on your parade if you don’t win. It’s a challenge for yourself, and nobody else. If you can barely write normally, and then you manage 25K, that is extraordinary! So if during the month you are late and know you can’t catch up, don’t make yourself sick because of it. Celebrate the words that you have written and just do your best.
Even after 3 wins I don’t know if I can do it again. Every years I feel the same doubt, and I know that I might not be able to reach the 50K. That’s OK!
7. Write, don’t edit.
Don’t let your inner editor get the best of you. Yes, some days you might write crap. But crap is better than nothing! Don’t edit (or even read) what you have written previously. Just get the words on the page. Have fun with it. Give yourself the freedom to be surprised!
8. Backup. Backup. BACKUP!
Seriously, do it.