how to win at NaNoWriMo

Nano…What?

Over the last few blogs I’ve been writing about routines and habits, which should hopefully help with your approach to this month and Nanowrimo if you’re doing it.
For those that don’t know, Nanowrimo is a writing challenge for the month of November. The challenge is to write 50000 words.
Yup, you read that right –  50k words in one month.
For some people that sounds easy, and for others it sounds like an impossible mountain. Both are right, and both are wrong.
And believe me, because I have done Nano several times, during the month of Nano, you will feel all the emotions that are possible to feel around the idea of writing 50 thousand words.
All the emotions. (you know, like in the film Inside Out, except MORE emotions)
This is something that gets missed in all the ‘prepare for nano’ advice which usually revolves around plots, pens, computers, copious supplies of coffee and chocolate etc. Which is all true, but they fail to mention the highs and lows, the fury, the tears, the laughter, the joy at an easy day, followed by the doom laden angst whenyou can barely get 5 words on the screen. My pre-Nano advice was – make sure you have chocolate, coffee, paper, pens, your computer is functioning and not likely to run out of battery/blow up (it happens!) in the middle. Which wouldn’t matter to you anyway because you have a hard drive to back up to. DON”T YOU?
Please for the love of all the cute puppies and kittens – Don’t forget to back up! All you need is a USB stick.
But also – warn your loved ones, your friends and co workers to expect emotions from you. Anger, grumpiness, laughter, joy, singing, crying, despair….possibly all within one day, or even one hour.

So if you are doing Nano this year you are already one week in.
How are you doing?
Feeling good? On track?
Great!

Or maybe you’re already starting to feel a bit lost, little voices are whispering to you that it’s all pointless, you can’t do this, why did you ever think you could do this? Give up and go and eat cake…go on it’s all you’re good for….

Nano has this effect on people, it’s a weird, wonderful thing to do, and one that can have profound impacts on your life both personally and as a writer.
It can also be hell. Which leads me to –

Nano…..Why?

People do it for the same reasons that other people run marathons, or ‘tough mudder’ type obstacle races. Non runners are either in awe or completely baffled as to why anyone would do that.
We writers get the same responses. Either ‘Well done’, or ‘Why?’

So, firstly, don’t try to explain to the people that say ‘why’, just ignore them for the month of November, in fact try not to see them during this period. Surround yourself with positive vibes, people that will help you, even if they think you’re a bit nuts to try this, they will support you in some way.
There a a ton of reasons why you might be doing NaNo – It is a challenge; you might want to finally get a decent amount of words down; you might just be curious about this thing you keep hearing about; or you might enjoy pain.
I don’t know your reasons. MY reasons for doing it were to get the words out my head and to see if I could actually write over 1500 words every day. I had always set myself goals of 500 words a day in the past and not really stuck to it, so it was a case of go bigger or go home.

Since we are a week in, you will already be seeing results. You might be feeling pretty good if you’ve stuck to the words count. You’ve got this, its actually easy!
But, be prepared for the next 2 weeks, when the slump can happen. Life starts to get in the way. One week was easy to reschedule, avoid or ignore things. But week 2 and week 3 things get harder. This is the challenge, not the words per day. Of course you can sit and write 1600 words a day. If you give yourself the time and space to do it.
Also, and this is key – DO NOT THINK ABOUT QUALITY.
Nano is NOT about writing the best ever novel, or even a good novel. It is about the idea of a novel, the roughest of rough drafts. I thought of it as draft 0. Not even first draft. Just a story that was in my head and getting it out of my head and on to the screen. So that it could then be worked in to a first draft.
If you approach it with that attitude then you won’t stop to question what you are writing, because it doesn’t matter if you are writing a book about a jilted lover and it morphs into a zombie story you didn’t even know you wanted to write. ONE of those ideas will be your novel, or maybe a zombie chick lit will be the result. Who knows. That is the key if Nano, it is an adventure into the unknown. You may plan and plot your idea but that may not be the one you write and that is fine.

Top 10 Tips for Surviving NaNo –

Top ten tips for Nanowrimo
1. Don’t expect to write a good novel. Just be happy if there are glimmers within the pile of slush.
2. Do use it to tell yourself the story, don’t worry about quality or plot making sense. That’s for the next draft.
3. Do write more than if you are having a good day and give yourself space for the bad days.
4. Do Celebrate milestones. Chocolate, booze, cake, green smoothie….whatever feels like a reward to you.
5. Don’t sweat falling behind. You can catch up. The online tracker at ‘Write track’ shows you how many words you still need to do per day (it does the sum for you so youdon’t need to tax your frazzled writer brain)
6. Do attend the meet ups in person or online to meet other Nano folk and get some support. There are groups all over the world. See them on the Nano website
7. Do plan your time. Set aside writing time in your day. How fast can you type? Do you need 30 minutes to write 1600 words or hours? If you want to get faster,  Chris Fox’s book on 5000 words per hour has useful strategies .Divide up your time if that is easier for you. So you could write 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at lunchtime, 20 minutes in the evening. You may have to forgo lunch with friends, tv programmes and so on. But that is what catch up tv and binge watching in December will be for!
8. Do avoid the naysayers and let people know this is important to you, and you need support.
9. Do BACKUP! Invest in a second backup, something like this one
10. Breathe! Since I am all about wellbeing for creativity, I can’t forget the self care. Make sure you take some time away from the desk, to breathe, to stretch to jump about, whatever. It helps the creative flow, honest!

*Some of the links in this are affiliate links, which means I get a few pence if you buy through them. I only recommend things I use myself and they are only suggestions, other products are available.

Next week, more Nano chat and what my own experience taught me.

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