5 Tips You Need To Know Before #NaNoWriMo

Friday is the first day of #NaNoWriMo, which means this is the last entry in the National Novel Writing Month blog series of tips & tricks! So far, you’ve learned about outlining plot, character design, and immersive setting.

This week, with NaNo lurking just around the corner, I’m sticking to general tips for achieving that sweet, sweet 50,000 word count goal.

But first, some quick updates.

If you missed last week’s post, I’m officially doing a series of book giveaways! The current giveaway is a SIGNED copy of NINTH HOUSE by the inimitable Leigh Bardugo. It’s her first adult novel, so if heavy themes like sexual assault, institutional power dynamics, and violent magic aren’t your cup of tea, NINTH HOUSE might not be for you. If that does sound right up your alley, just head over to my Twitter to follow/retweet for a chance to win the spooky Yale book.

The next giveaway will be GUMIHO: WICKED FOX by Kat Cho, so subscribe now to be the first to know when I launch the giveaway!

Last week, in addition to the giveaway, I updated the progress on my debut YA fantasy, THE FIRE BREATHES. If you like dragons, teenagers, teenagers who turn into dragons, best friends who won’t admit they’re head-over-heels, deathless cults, elemental magic, sarcastic protagonists, and good old-fashioned prophecies, I have good news for you.

I’ve officially finished the main round of revisions on THE FIRE BREATHES!

It’s currently in the hands of 7 trusted beta readers while I weep quietly on to my laptop, unsure of what to do with my Darth Vader USB drive now. (Yes, that’s where I’ve stored the novel since its inception.)

Keep your eyes peeled for updates as I proceed toward final revisions, copyright, cover & map art, and ultimately—can you hear me breathing into a paper bag?—self-publication. I can hardly wait to share Kasai San’s story with the world. The prologue is available exclusively on my blog here if you’re interested in a sneak peek!

With all that housekeeping out of the way, let’s proceed to this week’s final #NaNoWriMo tips!

Tip #1: Join the Online #NaNoWriMo Community

If this is your first time attempting NaNo, you might not know that there’s a vast online community entering the literary trenches together. If you’re under 18, like I was when I started THE FIRE BREATHES, you can join the Young Writers Program for free.

As a member of the Young Writers Program, you’ll have access to tons of helpful writing tools.

These include:

  • A built-in word processor with sections for character notes, brainstorming, and more
  • A countdown until the end of #NaNoWriMo
  • Forums for venting your panic
  • Digital badges rewarding your progress
  • Ability to join writing sprints

That last bullet point leads me to the next tip.

Tip #2: Writing Sprints

If you thought “writing sprints” meant “doing laps while frantically drafting,” you’d be… well, you’d be wrong (although I would pay to see that.)

A writing sprint is an attempt to write as many words as possible in a short, defined time frame.

When you’re racing the clock, time snapping at your heels, motivation is no longer in short supply. If you want to turn up the heat even further, turn your sprint into a race by competing against another #NaNoWriMo participant for most words written. You can also race against your previous record if your friends are unavailable to join.

The Winged Pen has several helpful tips for making the most of your sprints. Try aiming for the end of a scene, using sprints on days when you have less time to write, or taking notes for future revisions after the timer goes off. Inevitably, there will be plenty of paragraphs in need of editing when November is over.

But you won’t have anything to improve if you don’t get words on the page.

Tip #3: Write or Die

For this tip, you’ll need a friend, a lethal weapon, and an agreed upon word count goal. (I’m kidding—I promise. I might pay to see that, too, though.)

Write or Die is a free online software, also available on iOS, that starts deleting your writing if you stop typing. If that isn’t the scariest concept you’ve heard this Halloween, I’m sorry for whatever murder you witnessed.

Write or Die allows you to set a time limit, a “grace period” before your words start disappearing, background noise for focus, and more. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but if the threat of lost progress makes your fingers start aggressively typing, this might be exactly what your NaNo novel needs.

If Write or Die sounds a little too intense, there’s a whole host of alternatives worth checking out.

Tip #4: Be Prepared to Play Catch-Up

A month is not a long time, and a novel is a long project. If you’re braving #NaNoWriMo at all, I already know you have courage, grit, passion, and a story to tell—but life will happen, and you will fall behind. It’s not a personal failure, but you ought to be prepared.

Samantha Proctor, a previous NaNo survivor, offers 7 helpful suggestions for playing catch-up on your word count goal. Turn off your Internet, your phone, your everything. Huddle up in a private location for hardcore writing progress.

Write whenever, wherever you can.

Waiting in line at the coffee shop? Write. Ten minutes left in your lunch hour? Write. Can’t sleep? You get the picture.

All Freelance Writing has another unique idea. If you’re a verbal/auditory processer and speak faster than you type, try voice-to-text through Google Docs, Dragon, Scrivener, or your software of choice. You’ll crash through your word count goal in no time.

Tip #5: You Are Not Your Productivity

This might seem out-of-place as a #NaNoWriMo tip, but hear me out.

When things are going well, it’s terribly easy to base your self-esteem on your productivity—but when your productivity staggers, and it will, your sense of personal worth will collapse.

Your productivity does not define you.

Your book, whether or not you finish drafting this November, does not define you. You matter, so don’t neglect sleep, drink water, see your friends, and eat healthy meals. Maybe that will prevent your “winning” #NaNoWriMo, but I’ll be even more proud of you for taking care of you.

In addition, studies have shown that working more, working harder, or working just to say you worked decreases your total productivity. Stopping to eat dinner might actually improve the subsequent word sprint, since you’ll be thinking about the story instead of your stomach.

Erica Layne writes, “I’m coming to believe that my worth isn’t based on my productivity. My worth just is. It’s inherent.” So is yours.

For better or worse, for “winning” or not, it’s time for #NaNoWriMo, and you’re here. You’re doing it. That counts for something.

And that concludes the #NaNoWriMo blog tips series! If the advice has been helpful to you, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your NaNo novel so I can cheer from the sidelines.

Next week—actually, I have no idea what I’m writing next week. Leave a comment if you have an idea for the next blog! I’ll see you then.