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A couple of days ago, I searched for NaNoWriMo tips from people who’ve done it before. I especially looked for lessons that people discovered by contrasting their own failures versus successes with NaNoWriMo. I compiled a short list of the most interesting tips as reminders for myself, so I thought I’d share this list with you in today’s post.
I’m sure you can generalize some of these ideas to improve your ability to succeed with other short-term challenges as well.
Just write. Don’t do editing, and don’t even fix typos as you go.
This was among the most common tips. Many people failed NaNoWriMo by getting sucked into editing their work after writing it, which doesn’t advance the goal of writing at least 50,000 words of the first draft.
Do write-ins and word crawls.
These are social writing sessions with other people, in-person or virtual. Social support was often leveraged to get past low-motivation slumps instead of going it alone every day.
Write every day – no zero days!
Advance the word count every single day of NaNoWriMo. Having even one zero-word day along the way can hurt or kill momentum. Even if you only add 100 words one day, it’s better than zero. It’s motivating to see your word count increase every single day.
Get ahead on the daily word quota during the first 10 days, and then stay ahead.
To write 50K words in 30 days, you must average 1667 words per day. It’s wise to aim for more during the first 10 days, like 2000 per day. Get ahead and then stay ahead.
When you’re ahead on your word count, don’t reduce the daily quota below 1667. It’s better to maintain momentum and finish strong instead of dropping down to 1500 or 1200 words per day, even if that’s technically enough to hit your 50K.
Pick an idea you love.
If you only semi-like your idea when you begin, you’ll want to give up when the going gets tough. You need an idea that inspires you enough to sustain you to 50K words, so you’d better love it from the start.
Write the fun and exciting parts of your novel first.
Some people found that to maintain momentum, it was best to give themselves permission to skip over difficult or tedious-to-write scenes, so they could keep advancing the word count.
Others by contrast found that it was better to write in mostly linear order scene by scene, as long as they could maintain their word count.
At the end of each writing session, make a note about what comes next.
This makes it easier to get into the flow of writing the next day since you don’t have to waste time figuring out where to begin. You have an immediate task to dive into right away.
Reviewing and lightly editing the previous day’s work can be a nice way to begin each day’s writing session.
Some people found that a small amount of re-reading was a nice way to glide into the day’s writing. It gets the mind thinking in the direction of the story flow. Others found this risky, tempting them into premature editing.
Try the trick of writing in Comic Sans.
There are multiple articles about the writer’s trick of switching the font to Comic Sans, especially while writing a first draft. Many report that they find this font disarmingly casual, making the act of writing feel less formal and more relaxed, chill, and playful.
People like that this simple trick helps them find their authentic voice by reducing self-censoring, so the words flow more easily.
Beware the rabbit hole of research during the first draft phase.
Necessary research can be done later, after the first draft (or most of it) is written. Unnecessary research can be really engaging, but it isn’t writing and doesn’t advance the word count.
When the words aren’t coming for a given scene, write a short summary of the scene instead, and move on to the next scene.
Sometimes you’re inspired to write a particular scene, and sometimes you aren’t. If you’re getting stuck, it’s fine to write a placeholder description and then come back to hash it out later. Do what it takes to keep progressing.
Just write anything. Start filling the blank page with random words to get started if necessary.
To get started each day, just write. Write notes to yourself. Write deliberate nonsense. Put your fingers on the keys, and push down.
If you start typing like a monkey, sooner or later the ideas will start flowing.
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt with your word count.
Many NaNoWriMo writers suggest being generous in calculating your word count for the challenge, especially if it helps you claim victory. Some will include deleted scenes or other scene notes in their word counts, even if they know those words won’t make it into the final text.
Try sprints of 15-25 min, both for writing and brainstorming.
Some found it easier to work in several short bursts instead of one longer daily writing session. Crank out 300-600 words per sprint. Do several of those each day, and you’ve met your quota.