October 18, 2019 by Sarra Cannon
I’m starting to get so excited for National Novel Writing Month coming up in November. Since I’ve participated for eleven years now with some wins and some losses, I thought I’d share my top three tips for how to win NaNo WriMo.
Watch Today’s Video on NaNo WriMo Tips
It’s important to create a game plan going into this event, but that can often mean more than just planning out your story. It can also really help to plan out the logistics of your writing experience.
Where will you write? At home? Out at coffee shops?
When will you write? Early in the morning before school? Or late at night fueled by coffee and oreos?
How will you write? Are you going to write everything in Google Docs from your laptop? Or will you mostly be at home on your desktop computer writing in Scrivener?
All of these things can help you be so much more successful if you figure them out before November begins.
Another thing that will help is if you take a look at the November calendar and calculate how many days you’ll be writing in the month. You technically have 30 days to write, which means you’ll need 1,667 words per day to hit that magic 50,000 word goal.
However, most of us won’t actually be writing all 30 days. There’s the Thanksgiving holidays, school events, and things like migraines to contend with, so if you plan to write the minimum each day, all it takes is one missed day to put you so far behind, you can’t catch up.
Instead, plan ahead by crossing off the days you likely won’t be writing. Now look at how many days you have left. Let’s say you crossed off 5 days and are down to 25. I like to actually create a small buffer for myself, so subtract 2 extra days for illness or just couldn’t get to it.
Now, you have a more realistic number of days when you’ll actually write. Let’s take that 50,000 word goal and divide it by the 23 days we’ll most likely be writing. That gives you a daily word count goal of 2,174 words. If you follow this as your minimum, you’re much more likely to find success, even if you have days you don’t write during the month.
And okay, yes, it’s also really important to plan your story! Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, it’s good to at least have your main characters decided, know something about them, and the basic premise of your story worked out. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll have it all mapped out on index cards that are color coded :P.
Do as much prep work on your story as you need to do to feel ready, but don’t ignore the other aspects of planning I mentioned above.
One of the best things about NaNo WriMo is the amazing community. After all, that’s what sets November apart from simply writing 50,000 words in any old month.
To get the most out of NaNo, get involved in the community. There are amazing forums on the NaNo website, and most areas have regional groups. Mine here in Charleston is the Lowcountry Wrimos group, and they are amazing! In fact, we like each other so much, we meet up ever Wednesday throughout the entire year.
The friends I have made through NaNo WriMo are some of my closest friends, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The first year I did NaNo, though, I was too nervous to step out and really introduce myself. That was a big mistake, because there was honestly nothing to be afraid of.
These are your people! The more you get involved in the community of writers – whether in person or online – the better chance you’ll have at succeeding. Why? Because accountability and encouragement and community are invaluable when it comes to making yourself sit down and get those words in every day.
My final tip is a huge one. Just let go!
This is not a time for worrying about perfectly polished words that will instantly make you eligible for the Nobel Prize in literature.
NaNo WriMo is about exploring your story, having fun, and just getting those words down on the page. It’s about proving to yourself that you’re capable of actually finishing a book. (Or at least 50,000 words of it.)
Don’t worry whether the words suck, because it’s pretty much inevitable that some parts of your book will totally suck. You can edit it later. That’s what December and January are for!
The key here is just getting the words down. Breaking through those barriers you’ve built up like fear and perfectionism and procrastination.
In the month of November, I encourage you to really just let go. Write and have fun. Show yourself what you’re capable of.
You’ve got this!
I created some free word count trackers for you to use during NaNo if you’d like! Sign up for my mailing list below, and I’ll send them straight to you. You can unsubscribe at any time!
These trackers might be a little tricky to figure out until you watch my video on how to use them! You can find that here and forward it to about 20 minutes in for the walk through.
I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.