NaNoWriMo

One piece of oft-spoken writing advice is to write every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Perfecting the craft of grand wordsmithery is not unlike anything else. If you want to master a skill, you have to practice. Period.

Doesn’t matter if it’s decorative pastry art, weight lifting, or transanal endoscopic microsurgery. The first cake looks like crap. The 897th looks fantastic.

Why should writing be any different?

Trick rhetorical question! It isn’t.

There’s a weird psychology amongst us writerly types. We have this weird tendency to procrastinate the thing we love to do. Some of it is with the bleeps and blips of the modern age. Some of it is a twisted fear of failure– if I don’t try, I won’t fail. Some of it is because this writing thing is actually kinda hard. Most of it is about discipline.

The discipline to master a craft is a commitment and one we’re highly motivated to undertake. To form the habit of writing every day is the one true way forward.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Of course, ‘writing every day’ looks different for everyone. It can literally be just that: write 500 words every day. Or it can be every second day. Or only on weekday mornings. Or it can be a weekly target of 2000 words. It doesn’t matter what the regimen is– so long as there is one you can adhere to.

To me, the habit forming of daily writing is the heart and soul of what NaNoWriMo is about.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Glad you asked.

NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month.

Each November, participants are challenged to write 50000 words on a novel between the 1st and the 30th. Everyone who meets the goal is a deemed a winner.

That’s about it. Sign up here. It’s free. No strings. It works like this:

  1. Signup.
  2. Write all November.
  3. Upload it to the official word count machine.
  4. Bask in the glow of the win.
  5. Spend the rest of the winter editing.
  6. Some more steps.
  7. Profit!

Plotting or Pantsing for NaNo?

Ha! You thought I’d tell you what to do here, didn’t you?

Welp, there are benefits and pitfalls to both seat-of-the-pants writing and outlining.

If you’re a pantser and you’re in the zone, you can crank out word count pretty quickly. But when you get stuck, boys-o-boys, you are stuck. Do something unexpected (and possibly mean) to your characters and write your way forward.

If you’re a plotter, then you’ll always have a roadmap for what to write next. If you get stuck, it’s probably because you’re bored or don’t like the section you’re writing. I bet your readers likely won’t like it either. Take a moment and course-correct. This is supposed to be fun.

Regardless, the more thinking, dreaming and sketching you do ahead of time, the more likely you’ll hit the deadline. #jussayin

How to Win

I’ve won NaNo a few times now. I’ve lost as well. In the end, I have more words now than I did before. So even just entering is a win.

Some uber-competitive folks treat NaNo like a sprint and cram out thousands of words a day to see how fast they can hit 50,000. If that’s you, go for it.

For the rest of us, it’s a marathon.

  • You can do the quick math and budget 1667 words a day or commit to 2500 words per weekday and recharge on the weekends. Some aim for 12500 a week. There is no right or wrong.
  • Personally, I prefer a daily word count goal and use weekly milestones to know if I have to speed up or slow down.
  • Because life is busy and writing every day isn’t possible, grab a calendar and put all the ‘life-interruptions’ on it. Slot in the daily word counts around them.
  • Forgive yourself for missing a day. Each day is a new day to write.
  • Breaking the writing sessions into 500-word sprints helps. That’s about an hour’s writing for most peeps. Write before breakfast, at lunch and in the evening. Voila! You’ve met pretty much met your word count.
  • Use a timer. Write for 20 minutes and take a 10-minute break. Write for 40, take 20. Whatever works for you, just take breaks.
  • If you’re on Twitter, check out @NaNoWordSprints.
  • If you get stuck, check out the NaNo forums.
  • On Reddit? The /r/writing and /r/nanowrimo are great.

In the end, remember: have fun and every word you write is more than you had before.


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