Writing a novel in a month isn't easy. Let me share what worked for me in 2021.
This is the first year I’ve actually done NaNoWriMo “successfully.” No, I didn’t write a book, but I set myself two goals: 1) to write five days a week for the entire month, and 2) to write 10,000 words. What was the outcome? Out of 22 days, I wrote on 18 of them, and my final word count was 18,586. Here’s how I made it through the month.
1) Don’t be in the same room as your phone.
I’m putting this tip first because I’d say my success is 80 percent down to this tactic alone. So easily distracted! My aim was to write for one hour first thing in the morning with my cup of tea. My family lives eight time zones behind me so I get all the WhatsApp messages in the middle of the night. Of course the first thing I do every day is grab the phone. That starts the spiral. In November, I stopped picking it up and left it in the kitchen. Try it!
2) Find a time and space.
By getting up an hour earlier than usual (I was a bit of a zombie), I gifted myself quiet time to focus and write. The writer in me needs solitude and if I don’t create it, I never write (note: please see the last ten years of my life). Some days I challenged myself to write right after lunch, when I’m the most sleepy. It helped my brain learn that I can write at any time!
3) Tell people you’re writing, and then keep telling them.
I didn’t join a NaNoWriMo group, even though that was secretly one of my goals. Since that didn’t work out, every day I told people on Twitter my word count. People cheered me on and doing this helped me find people to cheer on.
4) Stop bowing to social pressure.
Modern-day social pressure makes me feel bad for not doing enough of everything at the speed that everyone else seems to be doing things. I didn’t write a book, but I did start writing every day, which is all that I really wanted, and people were excited for me. I set realistic goals so I wouldn’t burnout. And here I am, still writing every day.
5) Take a day (or two) off.
I only write on weekdays. My mind is most creative when I’m not trying to force words out. Many authors say they write every day, including holidays and Sundays. Great! That’s fantastic. That doesn’t work for me, so I’m not going to worry about that. Do I think I can get published even if I never write on Saturdays and Sundays? Yes, I do.
Bonus tip: Prep in a way that works for you.
I decided on Oct 31 to start NaNoWriMo on Nov 1. I had no plan, no plot, no program. But I did have a stack of books I wanted to write about. On day 1, I started by typing my notes about those books. That got my fingers moving and the ideas flowing. At the end of the first day, I grabbed the stack of books I wanted to write about and kept them in a pile on my desk. Suddenly, I had nearly two weeks’ worth of writing ideas. Having that meant that every morning, I had ideas at the ready, which jump started my writing and prevented writer’s block and dilly-dallying.
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