Top tips for National Novel Writing Month

Lia Zneimer  //  Nov 4, 2013

Top tips for National Novel Writing Month

It's hard to believe it's already November! That means it's officially time for hot apple cider, cozy sweaters, and, of course, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for short).

Started in 1999 as a way to encourage anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel to simply take the first step and get their thoughts on paper, NaNoWriMo is now a popular challenge. In 2012 alone, 341,375 participants walked away novelists. (Why sign up? Great answer here.)

I've toyed around with the idea of signing up for NaNoWriMo for the past few years, but have always chickened out at the last minute. It's so easy to make excuses: I don't have enough time. I don't have a good idea for a book. It's too hard to write 50,000 in just 30 days. But this year, I decided to just bite the bullet and go for it. What do I have to lose?

Fellow OOMer Morgan has participated in NaNoWriMo in years past, so I went to her for some advice. I found her top five tips to be super helpful, and wanted to share them here:

  1. Don't save all your writing for weekends. Do a little bit each day so you're not scrambling to finish at the end of the month. If you make writing a regular part of your routine and go "bird by bird" as author Anne Lamott suggests, the task will seem much more manageable.
  2. Check your perfectionism at the door. Many writers -- myself included -- are super critical of their own work and like to treat each sentence carefully, making edits as they go. Unfortunately, that's not the best strategy during NaNoWriMo, when the goal is quantity, not quality. (Don't get me wrong--quality's obviously important. But if you stop to contemplate every single sentence, you'll wind up frustrated.)
  3. Baby steps are ok. If you want to participate but aren't sure that you want to commit to writing 50,000 words, it's okay to challenge yourself on a smaller scale. Start by telling yourself you'll write 20,000 words or 25,000. So long as you're getting your thoughts down on paper (or screen), it's still more than you'd have written if you chose not to participate at all.
  4. Take advantage of the forums, pep talks, Twitter chats, and other resources that NaNoWriMo offers. It's much easier to write when you know you're not alone! Turn to your fellow writers for support, and remember to offer the same in return. It's a great way to build your social network and strengthen your online presence. (Be sure to use #NaNoWriMo when tweeting!)

Though I'm only four days in (and a few hundred words behind where I should be), I wanted to add to Morgan's awesome advice. Suggestions from a NaNoWriMo newbie:

  1. Keep motivation at your fingertips. I'm going into NaNoWriMo knowing that writer's block will inevitably strike, and wanted to have an arsenal of inspiration at the ready for when it does. So, like any true fanatic, I turned to Pinterest. Looking at a board full of reassurance from the writers I admire certainly makes me feel better than staring at my cursor blinking in Microsoft Word.
  2. Squeeze in writing time whenever and wherever you can. In an ideal world, I'd write my entire novel in a quaint little coffee shop; unfortunately, that's not exactly realistic. I've learned that inspiration can strike anywhere, so I keep a Moleskin notebook and pen in my bag at all times. (I also rely heavily on my phone for note-taking on the go. If I happen to overhear a snippet of conversation that triggers a thought, it's more stealth to go that route than to whip out my notebook.)
  3. Carve out writing time for yourself. It's tempting to prioritize others (especially if it's a means by which to procrastinate...) but if you don't make the time for it, who will? I like to treat my writing sessions as if they're a set plan with friends. I literally block off my calendar, hoping that will make it something I'm more likely to adhere to.
  4. Tell other people that you're participating in NaNoWriMo. Not everybody, of course. No need to burden your parents AND your roommate AND your coworkers AND the barista at Starbucks. But formally saying the words "I'm writing a novel" aloud make it much more real, and then you begin to feel held accountable. Same goes for sharing on social media: no need to post your daily word counts on Facebook, but the occasional #NaNoWriMo tweet doesn't hurt.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? We'd love to hear your thoughts in terms of what does and does not work for you when settling into a writing routine. Best of luck with your novel!

Image via qrevolution