I have made one or two half-hearted attempts at participating in National Novel Writing Month, but have given up two weeks in with only a few thousand words written. Even with preparation in October, writing 50,000 words in 30 days has always seemed too close to impossible. This time, however, I have a writing community, and these are the tips that have me much more confident than any previous year:
Keep the purpose of NaNo in mind.
While the obvious goal of NaNoWriMo is to complete a 50,000 word manuscript, the ultimate purpose of the event is to hone your focus. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the event. Set your own personal goals, give yourself regular mental health check-ups, and remember you come first, then your story and its wonderful nuances, then and only then comes the ultimate goal.
Forget about the word count.
Going along with that, don’t consider yourself a failure if you don’t reach 50k by the 30th. A writing friend and I were talking last week about how she would consider anything above 30k a personal win. Mine is 20k. I suggest setting goals in tiers. Level 1 could be 15k, and if you reach that, shoot for Level 2 of, say, 25k and keep going until you hit that glorious 50k.
Sometimes your steps to success are smaller than others, and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter if so-and-so’s strides are larger than yours. Small steps upwards are still progress. If you try to widen your own to match someone else’s, you might pull a hamstring or topple over. So keep your eye on your own work and praise yourself for your very worthy achievements.
And I’m not saying you aren’t worthy of big goals, justgive yourself, your circumstances, and your abilities some well-deserved grace. Your worth as a writer is not determined by your daily word count. So if you’re falling behind, try your best to forget about it. Winning is nice, but not worth triggering discouragement or debilitating anxiety.
The secret is balance.
Remember what I said about the ultimate purpose of NaNo? Take it from me when I say stressing about something does nothing but get in the way of progress. Reduce distractions, but maintain a healthy balance between writing, self care, and personal responsibility. Sometimes you’ll neglect one or the other and that’s okay. If you don’t meet your daily goals, try to make up for it later.
Personally, I have very few opportunities to just sit down and turn my focus to my manuscript. I am a mother of three little kids! That means at any given moment, my pitiful brain is being pulled in at least three different directions. So I have made a personal decision to not only sign out of ALL my social media accounts for the month of November, I’m also uninstalling the apps from my phone so I’m not tempted to waste precious time doomscrolling at the commencement of arguably the worst US Presidential election in history.
The secret is also word sprints.
To finish 50,000 words in 30 days, you will need to write 1,666 words per day. For some people, that is a completely reasonable daily goal.
I am not those people 😅
I consider 800 words to be a huge success. But then I decided to give writing sprints a try and folks! Not to be dramatic, or anything, but this is life changing! Devoting 15-30 minutes to distraction-free writing can produce quite remarkable results. I have written at least 200-500 words during a half-hour sprint (don’t be tempted to look up synonyms or wander over to Decsriptionari, because that’s how any writer gets distracted— don’t deny it! 😅). If you do anywhere between two and five 30 minute sprints a day, you will meet your 1600 word target. I think. You can check my math. Please do, actually.
It’s also fun and motivating to do these sprints with friends. Twitter, NaNo’s community page, and Discord have some lovely groups where you can find buddies. Let me know in the comments if you need help navigating the jungles of the virtual writing community.
That’s it for me, but if you want more helpful tips, hop over to Alexa Donne’s YouTube channel. Her debut novel was a NaNo project.
The rest is a quick run-through of the last three months for anyone interested.
It’s been a while since we’ve given an update, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of motivation to write any blog posts. Query trenches induced imposter syndrome is real, friends! More than I care to admit, I’ve wondered who would care to hear advice from someone who only has experience with form rejections. In spite of my insecurities, we have had some small yet worthy triumphs since August. Hopefully something grand grows from these seeds. In the meantime, we are focusing on falling in love with a new story.
Here is what we have been up to since the end of summer break:
- Matti got a job! He is a full-stack developer for an IT company and working from home, thankfully.
- We got a cat! It was a spontaneous decision and the evening spent acquiring her was quite the miserable adventure, but she is such a wonderful addition to our family. She is playful and fierce and cuddly and oh so curious. Her name is Ronja (rhymes with Tanya), named after the Scandinavian fairytale of Ronja Daughter of Thieves.
- Autumn means a mental health relapse (Seasonal depression). Yeah, this one isn’t good news, but it’s real life. The months between January and the end of August were the healthiest I have felt mentally in over six years. Fortunately, this time was spent discovering ways to cope with and manage my feelings. Hopefully this will keep me from spiraling into that place I never want to go to again.
What keeps me going is recognizing that the bully in my thoughts is not coming from a place of logic or reality. And it needs to be spoken to the same way any other bully needs to be spoken too. Also, kitty snuggles. Lots and lots of kitty snuggles.
Best of luck next month and may the proverbial ink run ever in your favor! If you want to be NaNo buddies, send me a request!