Eleven tips for a glorious (yet painful) NaNoWriMo victory

The NaNoWriMo site is doing its annual relaunch today (or so says Twitter). Yay! I’m a planner so I start thinking about NaNo in August, and by the time October rolls around I’m all aflutter and abuzz and awhatnot. For me, relaunch day has always been the official kickoff of NaNo season rather than the actual first of November.

This will be my tenth NaNo. I think my worst year I stopped at 15k. Last year I got to 100k. Of the nine I’ve done, I’ve won six and lost three, which means I know how to do both!

Your mileage may vary, but I can only think from my own head, so these are my top eleven tips for making it to the 50k mark and beyond:

  1. No matter how great you do during week one, you will want to quit during week two. Everyone does. The trick is: don’t.
  2. Take some time in October to make a plan with your own word count targets for each day. The standard 1,667 is all well and good if you can actually write 1,667 words every day. But look at your calendar. You’ve got all the things and all the stuff. Some days it’s just not realistic to think you can write more than 500 words, which means you’ll need another day where you can write 2,834. Get out your calculator, make honest assessments of your time, and figure out exactly where that 50k is going to come from.
  3. Never get more than 5k off your goal if you can help it. Making up five thousand words is doable. Ten is in forget-it-I’m-just-gonna-go-watch-TV territory.
  4. You may have a lovely vision of two free hours with the door locked and the phone off and the tea hot and the scented candles lit. That’s a nice dream. Now let it go. If you’ve only got seven minutes, write for seven minutes.
  5. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser doesn’t matter. What matters is that you go into November feeling as ready as you need to be. Make a list of things you can do in October to make it easier on yourself, and see how many of them you can knock out. (My list.)
  6. If you’re having trouble getting the words flowing, try changing POV from third to first or vice versa, or from character to character. It’s okay that it’s sloppy. That’s December’s problem.
  7. Things like continuity and logic and whether you called that character Barry in one chapter and Toby in another are also December’s problem. Just keep going.
  8. The week two slump is such a pivotal moment it deserves two spots on the list. The importance of sticking out week two, by any means necessary, cannot be overstated. If you make it through that, you’ll finish.
  9. Think about what, specifically, you want to get out of this. Maybe you want to get into the habit of writing daily; maybe you want a complete first draft; maybe you just want to see what happens when an angry clown falls in love with a kindergarten teacher only to find that his intended is actually a zombie from the planet Corn. Those are goals, so write them down. Then define success according to them. It might mean more than fifty thousand words, or it might mean the word count actually doesn’t matter that much to you, or it might mean you’ll be happy as long as you come away with a deeper understanding of planet Corn. Whatever it is that you want, know it going in, because NaNo is precisely as useful (or as silly, or as fun) as you make it.
  10. Make no mistake, it’s going to be painful. No matter what you do. It’s okay that it sometimes makes you want to just rip out your eyeballs, strap them to your keyboard, and burn it all while playing the angry mob from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the background. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun!
  11. Yay, you did it! Now what you’ve got here? Is a draft. If you’ve written it in hopes of a wider audience than just yourself, it’s going to need love and care and rewrites. So don’t celebrate so much that you go drunk-dialing agents, ‘k?

4 words on the street

  1. Great list! I love round numbers like eleven. #9 is best. And #8. And 10. #5 is too important to forget, which I will. 3, 6, 7 … Good ideas. Anything with the word “planning” in it makes my brain curl into a ball but I can coax it out again. Booze and loud music usually do the trick.

  2. Three cheers for the beginning of Okay-Now-I’m-Officially-Planning-NaNo month! I’m glad I’m not the only one who spends the last couple of days in September eagerly awaiting the relaunch!

    Even more cheers for points number 4, 6, 10, and 11. No cheers at all for points 1 and 8, because now I’m too busy pre-emptively beating myself with a foam noodle to push myself into week three.

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