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  • Jordan Keller

Surviving NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month isn’t scary. It’s just you and 50k words and 30 days. Okay, it can be a little scary. I’ve been NaNo-ing for 4+ years and am here to share my tricks and tips on how to make the most of your journey.

Let me first say, I’ve only “won” NaNoWriMo once. The 53k manuscript I maddeningly finished in 30 days was, in my opinion, garbage and it hasn’t seen the light of day since I typed The End. For me, writing at that caliber wasn’t healthy, and I found myself hating the story because I was forcing things to happen without having the time to think it out. But, that’s the beautiful thing about NaNoWriMo—it’s your month.

I love NaNoWriMo because of the community. For me, it’s easier to stay on task knowing ten thousand other people are being creative and working toward their goals. Seeing my “buddies” word counts increase each day is inspiring and pushes me to write every day—Which is my goal each November and brings us to our first trick.

1) If 1,666 words a day isn’t for you, then don’t fret over it. I still encourage you to participate in NaNoWriMo and adjust the goal to your needs.

Whether that be a word count (I’m a fan of 900 words a day), writing every day (one year I set aside an hour every day after work and stuck with it, building a routine that I -mostly- use today), editing instead of writing (another year I spent the month rewriting a Vampire/werewolf college love story that I will get back to one day), or declaring a number of chapters/scenes you want to complete. As long as you’re doing something that you enjoy and better your craft, you’re a winner in my mind.

2) Have a plan going in.

I’m a panster (writing by the seat of my pants) by nature, so my outlines are usually a bullet point list of things to not forget. But if you want to write a full novel in a month, you will need a game plan and probably a backup plan. Your outline doesn’t have to be pages long, but you should know where you’re starting, where you’re ending, and a few points in between. Using an outline guide can be helpful and I am fans of the 27 Chapter Method and the Hero’s Journey for jumping-off points.

3) Build your routine.

Having a dedicated writing ritual will help jump-start your creativity when it comes time to write. Your brain will associate certain elements with writing and get you in the mindset faster. I like writing in the same place, lighting the same candle, and having a dedicated playlist for the project, but you can add anything you like. A favorite drink or snack, maybe a special hoodie. There are limitless possibilities.

4) Take care of yourself.

You will be pushing yourself during NaNoWriMo and that’s okay. It’s like a marathon. Stay hydrated. Eat Well. Rest. Take breaks to stretch your body. You’ll be amazed what a 15-minute walk between writing sprints can do to reset your creativity.

5) Get a buddy.

As I mentioned earlier, seeing everyone’s daily word count increase is super inspiring, but so is having a friend cheering you on. I am lucky that most of my writing group participates in NaNoWriMo and at the end of each day, we text about our success or ask for advice. Having that accountability with people you’re close with is unmatched in events like this. You may give yourself a few days off, but your group won’t let you quit.

6) Accept that failure is okay.

You may not write 50k words in a month. You may miss a day of writing. You may fall short of a chapter count. All of that is okay. Writing is nothing you should punish yourself with. Love yourself, and love your story—things will work themselves out so long as you don’t give up.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo next week? Let me know what you’re working on. I’m going to start a new fantasy story about dark magic, a bread maker, and twin princes. Wish me luck!

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