Hello, all you readers out there! Happy last day of October! Also, for those who have decided to participate in November’s National Novel Writing Month, happy writing season :)!
Tomorrow marks the start of my fourth year doing NaNo. It’s certainly an experience every time and I’m always learning new ways to tackle it better the next year. Here are a few tips I have learned over my time doing NaNoWriMo that I wanted to share with you:
1) The [Mad Libs] Technique
Every writer has felt the struggle when the word you’re looking for won’t come to you. NaNo is a race to write 50,000 words in one short month – there isn’t time to spend digging for the perfect word. The Mad Libs technique helps me a lot when I’m power writing. If I have a sentence that needs a good description, but I don’t have the words for it right now, I instead write: [adjective]. I’ve used it before in instances where a minor character comes up and I don’t want to get distracted digging for the right name [First Name], or [Last Name] works well. [Noun], [Career], [Location], etc. It saves a lot of time when power writing your first draft and allows you to save the polishing for when you revise and edit later on.
2) Utilize your smartphone
If you’re riding on the bus, sitting in the store waiting for someone, waiting in line at a fast food place, you name it, pull out your phone and get a few more words put down. You might surprise yourself by how much you can actually write during those times. Even on busy days, you can chip away at your word count right from your cell phone. I have a Google Docs app that allows me to write offline, which is very handy for writing on the go.
3) Power Writing
Whether life is busy, or you just can’t concentrate – it helps to power write. Sometimes we can’t always afford the time to sit and write away to our heart’s content. It helps to break up your housework, to do list, or workload, and fit in extra words when possible.
Last year NaNoWriMo fell smack dab in the middle of when I was moving. I was hesitant to even participate in NaNo, but tackled it by writing 500 words, packing, writing 500 more, packing, etc.
4) If you have a slow day, take advantage of it by writing beyond your goal
Attempting to write a novel in a month is stressful enough as it is. Add on the fact that you never know when something is going to come up that takes you away from writing for a day. But, if you’ve prepared and are ahead of your goal, then you won’t have to feel the unnecessary stress of falling behind. The goal during NaNoWriMo is to write 1667 words a day, but banking extra words during the month by writing say, 2000 words every once in awhile, will help in the long run.
5) If you get behind – don’t sweat it
For me, this is hard advice to live by.
My first time doing NaNo I had time on my hands and I managed to stay afloat the whole way through without falling behind. I was even able to pull far ahead throughout the month. My second year doing NaNo was the complete opposite. I was very busy and fell behind many times. The stress was overwhelming. I made the mistake of thinking that falling 1,667 words behind meant that the next day I would have to write 3334 words. If that didn’t happen…. the words needed would grow and grow!
A light bulb went off in my head last year. I realized I had trapped myself in a mental box the year before. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I only figured this out last year because I feel like it’s something I should have known all along. However, I have a confession to make. Last year I found the key to my box of anxiety. Just because you miss one day of writing, doesn’t mean you have to fully catch up the next day. Maybe you are 1667 words behind, but try writing 2000 words every day until you catch up. Slow and steady wins the race. Writing groups are extremely helpful during those times of doubt and stress. Whether in person or online, these groups can be very encouraging!
Also, try not to compare your word count to other people (I’m speaking to myself as well as you). Every writer is different when it comes to how quickly they can put their words down on paper or on a screen. If you fall a little behind, don’t be ashamed or feel like you aren’t good enough. You can do this!
NaNoWriMo can feel daunting at times, especially if this is your first time. I wish you the best during the month of November! Remember, no matter how many words you put down during the month, you are that many words ahead from where you started and that is a success in and of itself!