7 NaNoWriMo Tips
Aaaaaand . . . Commence NaNoWriMo! Good luck to everyone doing it.
I’ve won two years straight and here’s what I can tell you. Both years were hard because I did it wrong, and I swore I’d never do it again, not until I was a full-time, living-off-my-writing writer. Except I didn’t stick to that promise. Throughout this year I’ve done NaNo goals several times on my own with the same constraints, but it’s been easier despite even more chaos in my life. Here are 7 tips for NaNoWriMo that may help you succeed:
- NaNo is NOT about getting large chunks of time to write. Life happens, family, friends, etc. are important and you cannot/should not neglect them. You will almost always fail the NaNo challenge if your plan is dependent on large chunks of writing time. Interruptions can be one of your biggest problems. Learn to deal with interruptions kindly and firmly instead of using them as an excuse.
- It’s about letting go. Having the courage to defy the blank page–even if the words look like a rambling, California valley girl. Stop caring about the quality for now. Just get words on the page. Do your job.
- Take every chance, no matter how small, to write. 15 minutes here or there . . . seriously, in the past couple of months I’ve made it a point, “No excuses, period.” Even now, I’m writing with one hand because of recent surgery and I’ve been writing since the day after major shoulder surgery, despite pain, drugs, etc.. “No excuses, period.” Now, it may not seem like it, but sometimes even that short 5 minutes you think will be pointless–“grooveless writing”–can be more productive than an hour. Let go. Seriously, “No excuses, period.”
- Endure. If you can’t get 50,000 words, don’t surrender, keep writing. 25,000 words is much better than 11,669 words, stopping and succumbing to discouragement early in the month. Create momentum even if life rips you down and drives stakes into your hands and feet. So your blessed aunt dies, take your laptop to the funeral. Write in the car. Have your spouse/family tell others you’re “under a deadline.” If you do, they may think you’re nuts, that your priorities are out of balance, but they will start to treat you like a serious writer and probably get curious about what’s so important.And always remember, “deadlines” you set for yourself matter. Shakespeare’s right, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Keep them as though getting paid was at stake . . . and eventually that will be the case. “No excuses, period.”
- If you feel stressed, ornery, or tired, realize it’s outside pressure. Push back with inside determination and a childlike blindness to how the day has gone. Step back. Go for a walk if you have to. Play with your kids, pets, Legos, (whatever). Breathe. And if the walk’s taking too long . . . put your butt in the chair. Use the emotion you have–if you have to–for another scene you need, even if it’s not in the right order. Remember, “No excuses, period” even if you’re not in the mood and see #2 and #3 if you’re concerned about the quality of writing you’ll put out. Get creative about overcoming obstacles.
- 1,667 words a day can feel daunting, especially as it adds up if you get behind, but break the dam. Let the water flow to the paths of least resistance and paddle with current. If there’s a slow; step back and hop over to another flowing path. Take risks, you never know what fun you might find.
- In the end you’ll have a pile of shit. (Sorry, I’m a farm boy, that’s what we call it.) If you’re expecting a novel . . . get over yourself. The point is you’ll have shit and settling water (momentum) after it’s over. These are ideal things for a GOOD seedbed to thrive. I know the Chapter President, Bryce Evans, has wisely planned a revision class for everyone. Revision is how the seeds are transplanted into rows–where the story becomes alive–it’s the real adventure.
As far as this year, in case you’re wondering. My goal this month isn’t pounding out 50,000 words, it’s revising two novels. (So, I’m cheering for all of you from the sidelines.) Again best wishes. You can do it!
MICHAEL GORDON is a stay-at-home, ride giving, child entertaining, jungle gym of a father by day. When he is not changing diapers, making meals or shepherding his children, he writes. He is a story chaser, writing in and learning any genre that best fits his stories and characters. He is supported by the love of his life, his wife, and together they have four children. His other interests include composing music, researching, watching Asian Movies (bless Netflix), cartography, woodworking, and porch philosophizing to name a few.
He is also a Past President of Utah Valley Writers.