You might not like to hear this.
But NaNoWriMo can often take a toll on you mentally and even creatively.
It might not make sense to you now, but you’ll understand just how much NaNoWriMo can affect you in a little bit.
First, let’s talk about what makes NaNoWriMo unique and special.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.
It’s an event that takes place over the course of November where writers from all over commit to writing 50,000 words during the month. That’s the main goal and if you accomplish this, that’s how you WIN NaNoWriMo.
So unfortunately, no, NaNoWriMo not some sort of nanobot that you can implant in your mind to write your book for you.
The entire point is to help writers have a month of very high productivity so they can get the first draft out of the way in order to pave the way for editing, rewriting, and overall polishing.
What can take writers months to accomplish (50,000 words) only needs to take one so the book gets finished faster.
Here are your daily, weekly, and total goals for NaNoWriMo. If you’re someone who likes to work on a weekly basis instead of a daily, this will help you.
How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo
One of the best things you can do if you want to win NaNoWriMo is to prepare properly. There’s a reason those who participate dub October as Preptober.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re ready when NaNoWriMo comes to town.
#1 – Download your survival guide!
When it comes to making it through NaNoWriMo, you might need help. It’ll be a tough month and that’s why we put together this survival guide for you to follow.
It covers expanded preparation steps as well as resources to help you get through the month.
Make sure to download this if you want to win NaNoWriMo this year!
#2 – Pick a story
If you haven’t already, you have to decide which story you’re going to write. If you’re anything like me, you might have tons of book ideas bouncing around inside your head.
So how do you choose which to write and which to save for later?
Here are a few questions I like to ask myself when deciding which story to try first:
- Which do you think about the most?
- Which is developed the most?
- Which one is a book you’d be most likely to pick up and read yourself?
- Which one have you been thinking of as you read these questions?
Chances are, there’s one idea that stands out to you above all the rest. Even if the others are good, the story you’re most connected to and think about the most is the one you’ll actually enjoy writing the most.
And since you’ll be spending a great deal of time on this book over the next month, actually enjoying it is very important.
Pick the one that has your passion and run with it.
#3 – OUTLINE
I’m a personal advocate of outlining. My outlines are very detailed and I want to basically have an instruction manual for my book.
That being said, it’s understandable that not everyone works well with an outline. Maybe it’s not for you.
However, going into NaNoWriMo completely blind is a mistake.
You at least want to have an overview of the plot and the major plot points figured out so you have a direction in which to write.
For those of you who need outlining, make sure it’s done before November starts!
That clear, step-by-step overview of your book will be extremely helpful for saving time. You’ll be able to sit down and get to writing instead of spending so much time trying to figure out where your story is going.
#4 – Join support groups
Going through something as arduous as NaNoWriMo requires some backup…preferably in the form of friends or just other people participating as well.
You all know that it’s going to be hard and therefore, you can count on support groups to help propel you through the tough times.
Support groups are your best bet to stay motivated throughout the entire month. Plus, anyone who’s a part of those groups is usually more than willing to help when you get stuck on your story, too.
So where do you find groups like these?
You can follow specific hashtags or accounts on Twitter, or you can join Facebook groups dedicated to NaNoWriMo.
Here are a few Facebook groups you can join right now to help you make it through:
#5 – Get in the right mindset
The reason NaNoWriMo is so difficult isn’t because of the fact that you’re writing a book; it’s because you’re writing so much of your book in such a short amount of time. It’s scary.
And that can be intimidating to a number of people – most of us, I’d wager to bet.
That means one of your biggest obstacles isn’t plotting your novel or making sure you’re physically prepared, it’s making sure you’re mentally ready to complete such a tough goal.
That means focusing on your inspiration, motivation, and staying positive!
You can find other methods of maintaining the right mindset in our NaNoWriMo survival guide.
#6 – Schedule your writing time
This is one of the absolute best ways to ensure you actually make it through NaNoWriMo in one piece – and even win!
It’s as simple as making a schedule for yourself and then sticking to it.
Anyone can mark their days to write on a calendar but it takes a special kind of writer to sit down daily and hit those word count goals.
We actually put together a progress tracking and planning spreadsheet that calculates your percentage completed in our NaNoWriMo survival guide! You can find what that looks like below.
You can use this all year round, not just in November. Give it a download if you want to make some real progress this month.
Being able to win NaNoWriMo is the entire goal of entering. You want to complete 50,000 words in a single month. But that’s much easier said than done.
I decided to pull out the big guns and ask for some help from my personal Twitter followers since I know many of them participate in this yearly.
I tweeted out asking for help, and they did NOT disappoint.
Whether you won or have not yet completed it, I still want your help!
— Bella Rose Pope (@BellaRosePope) October 15, 2018
Here are some of the tips I received on the thread of this tweet along with some extended tips to help you make the most of NaNoWriMo this month.
#1 – Pick a daily word count and focus on hitting that only
When you think about the overall goal of writing 50,000, you might begin to sweat, get anxious, and even feel discouraged.
Because it is a lot of words to write in a single month.
But one of the biggest tips experienced NaNoWriMo-ers have for anyone venturing to accomplish such an audacious goal is to only focus on hitting your daily goal.
So instead of thinking about it as 50,000 words a month, think of it as 1667 words a day.
This helps your mind process the amount better so you don’t get so overwhelmed.
#2 – Put together writing playlists
Inspiration doesn’t just exactly come around whenever you want it to. Sometimes it hides away like you might when winter comes around (just me?).
But the thing is, if every writer waited for inspiration to find them in order to write, hardly any of us would get our books done and we’d definitely not make it through NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words accomplished.
So instead, you might have to coax inspiration from the outskirts of your mind and one way many writers do this is through music.
Create a playlist that fits with the style of your story and turn it on whenever you sit down to write. It can serve as inspiration and a mental cue for your mind to get ready to work.
#3 – Have writing motivation and inspiration handy
Just like I mentioned above, you won’t always want to write but in order to hit your goal for November, you need to write daily (unless you want to sit and write huge chunks of words a couple days a week).
When you keep visuals, quotes, and even other novels that have inspired your own writing journey handy, it’s much easier to get in the mood to crank out some high-quality words.
#4 – Commit to NOT editing at all
This is one of the hardest parts for many who’ve done NaNoWriMo before.
They can get the words down, but only if they don’t stop to edit as they go.
Your first draft is better done than perfect, which is the entire point of NaNoWriMo in the first place. So put the editor part of your mind on hold and let your writer-brain take full ownership over the next month.
#5 – Ask friends/family to leave you alone
I realize this might sound harsh but NaNoWriMo is a commitment. You can’t have friends and family bugging you when it’s your designated writing time.
In order to succeed with NaNoWriMo, it’s best to make it clear to everyone around you that you’ll be unreachable for a specific amount of time whenever you write.
If you set that expectation early on and be stern about it, it’ll be easier to avoid this type of distraction throughout the month.
#6 – Recruit a close accountability partner
If writing groups don’t work for you because your posts get lost in the mix, pairing up with someone for one-on-one accountability might be a better option for you.
You can check-in daily and give each other support and encouragement when it gets tough.
And trust me, by the second week, you’ll need someone there to push you along and remind you why you started this lofty task in the first place.
#7 – Use a distraction-free writing app
There are a ton of writing software and apps out there designed to help you write – and write faster.
One of the best to use is an app called Freedom.
What this app does is cut off access to certain websites or apps for a determined amount of time. Whenever you try to visit those sites (like Twitter) during the time you have scheduled to write, you’ll receive this message:
This prevents you from procrastinating or getting too distracted, which hinders your word count progress.
The idea here is that this app “frees” you from the addiction and distraction of sites you know you get sucked into easily.
#8 – Turn your notifications off
This is for your phone, social media, email, and any other notifications that might pop up during your writing time.
If you use the app mentioned above, this will be a little easier, but you also have to manually keep your phone far away from you so even text messages won’t break through your concentration.
Just me, those messages will still be there by the time you’re done with writing.
#9 – Never guilt-shame yourself
This will be very hard if, for whatever reason, you don’t end up hitting your word count goal daily. You’ll start to shame yourself, even if only internally.
This isn’t productive in any way, shape, or form and it’ll only slow you down further.
Instead, you should recognize when you’re behind, and then schedule the time to catch up if hitting that 50,000 words is truly important to you.
And if you need a little bit more to help you out with this one, just remember that no matter what, you’re making progress on your book and that alone is a major accomplishment.
#10 – Just write
NaNoWriMo is all about just making progress. That progress doesn’t have to be the best version of what you can do, it just has to be progress.
You can forget all about making your manuscript all shiny and perfect. Instead, just focus on pumping out those words.
Write to the best of your ability given the time you have to hit those words.
After all, the large majority of us tend to write best once we get into the groove of just writing anyway. And that means if you shut off the self-critical part of your brain for a while, you can make some major strides.
#11 – Go easy on yourself
Cut yourself some slack. You’re not perfect and writing can be very difficult.
If something comes up and you’re not able to write for a day, just forget about it and get back on track the next.
There’s no point in driving yourself crazy over missing a few thousand words because like I said above, you’re still making progress on your book and that’s the entire point of NaNoWriMo in the first place.