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Tips for Winning/Surviving NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)!

Writers, start your word processors!

Writers, get ready to challenge yourselves with unrealistic expectations and friends of writers, be prepared to drag them outside every once in a while! It’s National Novel Writing Month!

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As explained by the nonprofit organization:

“National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand new novel.”

National Novel Writing Month 501(c)(3) nonprofit

It’s a wonderful way to write that book you’ve been meaning to write. But it can also lead to a month of hand cramps, social isolation, and burnout. So, here are the eight of the best ways to make it through the rest of the month (and hopefully enjoy it)!

1. Understand your actual goal

NaNoWriMo is an excellent exercise in discipline and working toward a goal. However, it can also lead to writers making unrealistic expectations of themselves. While there are many authors who write 1667+ words every day, they got there from years of practice and discipline. Therefore, focus on what you want to accomplish and forgive yourself for letting other aspects fall by the wayside.

If you want to focus on making sure you write every day, I suggest focusing on meeting a smaller daily word count than the expected 1667 words of NaNoWriMo. If you want to focus on writing as much as possible, I suggest joining a discord writing server or downloading a writer bot. You can organize “writing sprints” where you can race with fellow writers (or compete against yourself) to see who can write the most in a given amount of time. It can also help you keep track of your progress.

One example of this is “Just Write November” which is more about getting people into the habit of writing every day rather than finishing a whole novel.

2. Find what method works best for you

Tom Holland on Kimmel
Via Jimmy Kimmel/ABC

Some people work best when writing without breaks for hours at a time. Some people can only write for short periods before needing to take breaks (or only have time to do so between other tasks). Both are acceptable ways of doing it. The important part is finding what works best for you.

3. Resist the urge to edit while you write

Editing while you write may lead to clearer or better-quality writing overall, but if you’re looking to write quickly or in large quantities, then it’s best to let those misspellings and out-of-place commas stay until after you’ve hit your desired word count. When you do finish, most writers advise going through an extensive editing process before sending the novel to query anyway. Remember, the first draft’s only job is to be complete.

4. Reduce distractions

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but for some, the hardest part about writing is trying to avoid getting distracted by a host of other things, such as the general availability of the internet. Working on paper or on a laptop/browser without internet access can help prevent certain distractions.

Of course, other people need different things and some people with ADHD use browsers that provide stimuli to help them focus. Again, what matters is that it works for you.

5. Keep yourself motivated/take breaks

Burnout is a real danger many authors face and while it can feel awful to take a break during a moment of inspiration, it also is essential to reward yourself for your progress. Don’t forget to take walks or change up scenery if you feel yourself getting tired of sitting in the same spot day after day. Make yourself a snack or go get a nice treat when you’ve finished for the day. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

6. Remember to save your work

Nothing is more horrifying than having a long stretch of writing, only for it to not save and all that progress to be lost to the void. I would suggest using programs that auto-save your work, like Google Docs, and/or sharing your work to multiple servers and keeping a hard drive with a copy of your work, just in case.

7. Work on it with friends

Turning NaNoWriMo into a social gathering with friends might also abate the loneliness that can come from spending long stretches of time writing. It can also help counteract writer’s block if you bounce ideas off of one or more people. At the end of it all, you can also read your work aloud or act as BETA readers for each other!

8. Ask a friend to check up on you

If you’re a person who can disappear for days or weeks at a time when working on a new project, maybe ask a friend or family member to check in on you every few days to make sure you aren’t letting yourself slip into a bad headspace. Remember, above all else, this is supposed to be fun.

(featured image: Pexels)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.