NaNoWriMo fever is well under way! It's day five. In this article I have outlined several writing tips and including some writing advice that should be beneficial towards pushing you to the 50,000 word finish line.
For those of you unaware, National Novel Writing Month, often abbreviated as NaNoWriMo, spans the duration of November. It’s a month where thousands of writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. The idea is to churn out your novel, quantity over quality, and refine it later. NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, but for writers who have trouble writing a full novel or writers who just want some extra motivation, NaNoWriMo may push you to finish a novel in only a month. Below are ten tips to help you get the most out of National Novel Writing Month.
Plan and Outline Your Novel
Planning, plotting, and outlining your novel is essential for structuring your novel, keeping organized, and making process and meeting your goals. This is something you should have done in late October; if you're just getting started now, you're behind the game! You're already a solid 8,000 words behind if you haven't started writing - get grindin' and catch up! It's not too late to start.
Make sure you have a plan. Plot your novel out, get a mental picture of it as a whole. This doesn't apply if you have a free-writing writing style where you shape the novel completely as you go along, but it helps to at least structure the basics of your book, your characters, and what you plan to do with your story.
Commit to Your Goal
Committing is truly half the battle. If you don’t commit to actually completing NaNoWriMo, you’re just half-assing it and wasting your time. Actually decide to write 50,000 words in a month, and you’re well on your way.
Commitment is a conscious decision. This is something I discovered a few years ago, and something many people don't realize. If you choose to go all-in, you become invested. Consciously choosing to go all-in and commit to writing a novel in a month is the singlemost factor that will ensure your success.
Schedule Time to Write
Scheduling time to write is a great technique to help yourself commit and to put in the time to churn out words on words on words. Set aside - for example - an hour each day, the same time every day, to work on your novel. You'll be glad you did.
By specifically scheduling writing time, you ensure you have enough time to write. You are also telling yourself that working on your novel is not just important, but it's important enough to schedule time in advance every day. This can go a long way to mentally motivating yourself to write.
Set Small Goal Along the Way, and Try to Exceed Them
Set a daily goal and goals throughout the month. While you need to average 1667 words a day to meet the goal of 50,000 words, try setting a goal other than just 1500-2000 words a day. Perhaps set a time goal; write for at least two hours a day. Perhaps make yourself write 3,000 words a day for a week to get ahead of your goals.
By setting goals and sub-goals, you put yourself on the path towards completion. Meeting and exceeding these goals will propel you to work even harder by boosting your confidence. If you set goals slightly higher than the word count target you need, you ensure that you won't be in a crunch to complete it later. Who knows, you might exceed 50,000 words well before Novembers out. 75,000 words, anyone?
Make Yourself Accountable - Get a Writing Accountability Partner
This goes hand in hand with choosing to commit. If you struggle to commit or fulfill your commitment, keeping yourself accountable may be imperative. Find a way to hold yourself accountable. If you can't do that, find someone else who's also participating in NaNoWriMo and hold each other accountable.
You can hold yourself accountable by creating some kind of reward system; if you don’t meet your goals then punish yourself, if you do meet your goals reward yourself. This is classic conditioning, but it works.
Alternatively, you can find a writing accountability partner who’s also doing NaNoWriMo. Stay in communication, read each others work, and at the very least hold each other accountable for each others progress. If someone falls behind, motivate them to get back on track. You can find a "writing buddy" or writing accountability partner on the official NaNoWriMo support forums or our on-site NaNoWriMo sub-forum. It's not difficult to find someone else who'd love some accountability in this venture. This leads me to the next tip:
Utilize NaNoWriMo.org and WritingForums.org's NaNoWriMo Support Forum
Visit NaNoWriMo.org, the official website, and sign up for National Novel Writing Month. This is the official website of NaNoWriMo, and they explain exactly what NaNoWriMo is, offer advice, and have a lot of community support in their discussion forums. The official site allows you to plan your novel and track your word count progress.
Our website, WritingForums.org, also has a sub-forum in The Lounge for NaNoWriMo discussion. This is an alternative to discuss NaNoWriMo, track your progress, get tips, support, motivation, and accountability. Here you can get support for NaNoWriMo from other WF forum members who are participating.
Focus on Quantity (but Don't Throw Quality Out the Window)
Generally speaking, National Novel Writing Month is more about quantity than quality. The idea is to just write it, to finish it, to reach that 50,000 word goal. Many people suggest focusing only on quality. To an extent, this is good advice - your #1 priority should be to just finish your 50,000 word novel. That is what NaNoWriMo is all about. You can edit it, refine it, and polish your novel after November.
That said, don't throw quality completely out the window, as this can be discouraging. Try to find a balance of quality and quantity. Try to write a high word count novel with decent quality, and save the polishing for later.
Save Editing For Later
This ties in with the above point - you should save editing for later. It'll be tempting to edit your chapters and your entire novel. Try to refrain. If you can do this and still meet your goal, it's okay, but keep in mind there will be plenty of time to edit your novel in December and January. Editing can be a distraction, and once you get started, an editing session may turn into a session where you polish your novel until it's perfect. There's nothing wrong with this, but there is something wrong with spending hours editing when you should be writing.
Keep a Word Count and Track Your Progress
This one's a no-brainer. Keep track of how many words you've written, as this shows well you're progressing towards reaching you goal. Also keep track of how many days you have left. You need a base metric of some kind, and word count is that metric. How many words have you completed? How many words do you have remaining? If you measure this, you can ensure you stay on task and on target towards your goal.
When you see progress, it will motivate you to continue. When you fall behind, it will motivate you to dig in deep and catch up. Since NaNoWriMo is about reaching a word count goal, you should focusing on doing exactly that - measuring and tracking word count towards your goal.
Use Writing Software to Organize Your Novel
Some writers may debate this one, but for many people, using a writing software application such as Scrivener is a great way to keep track of your progress and keep your novel organized.
Scrivener allows you to include chapters in a nested format (see screenshot above, left), as well as keep documents for Characters, Places, Research, and more. This is beneficial because it allows you to organize your novel and easily see all documents; additionally, you can quickly jump between relevant elements. You can even try Scrivener for free for NaNoWriMo, for 30 days.
Overall it's a great tool for writing your novel, but more than anything, it helps keep your organized.
Disclaimer: The above links are affiliate links, which means that WritingForums.org earns a commission on sale of Scrivener. That said, we believe using software like Scrivener can be an asset to writing and organizing your novel.
Some of our forum members have also recommend Q10, a writing program that turns your entire screen into a word document with a live word count. While I haven't used this personally, it may be an alternative worth investigating.
National Novel Writing Month is a unique event in the writing world. It's not for everyone, but it can help motivate you to complete your first novel, and, at the very least, is a fun, learning experience.
The above tips won't guarantee your success, but most of the above writing tips are a great start towards making progress and committing to your NaNoWriMo goals. If you're participating, we encourage you to get support and accountability in our NaNoWriMo forum.
If you want to participate in National Novel Writing Month, it's not too late, but you need you get started now. Sign up! You're already 8,000+ words behind. Crank them out and put the pen to the paper.
Have your own writing tips and advice for NaNoWriMo? Share them in the comments below or in our NaNoWriMo hints & tips thread. Good luck!