Have a PlanEven if you are not typically an outliner, you need to have at least a loose outline when you are doing NaNo. Otherwise, your project will stall when you run out of the part of the story that is already in your head. Having a direction will help your muse engage and write every single day. This is a must for your November novel to be successful.
Choose the Write SoftwareNo, that is not a spelling mistake. There are often some great software options out there for NaNoWriMo, and many are on sale. Whether you use Scrivener (one of my favorites) or the new StoryShop, or you are using a mind mapping program for your outline and pacing, choose the software early, and practice with it before you start NaNo. The first week of November is a horrible time to be learning software or troubleshooting rather than writing. You need to focus on one thing during NaNo. I’ve written a lot about Scrivener and even taught classes on how to use it to write quickly, so if you need help, check out some of my articles here.
Set a Schedule and Stick to ItOne of the keys to NaNoWriMo is time management. Here is the key: make writing appointments with yourself and keep them no matter what. Let your friends, family, relatives, and anyone else know that you are doing NaNo, and that you have set aside time where you will be writing and not available to anyone. This type of strict time management does a couple of things. First it teaches your muse to show up on command at a certain time, and secondly it helps you establish habits that will last well beyond NaNoWriMo and can propel your writing to new heights.
Have a Place to WriteWhether this is your bedroom, dining room table, office, or a local coffee shop, have a place to write and go there every single day. Why? Part of training your brain, besides having a set time to write, is to teach it that when you sit down at this place with your laptop open it is time to write. It is a mind trick, but one pro writers know well and use all the time.
Have Accountability PartnersOne of the big advantages of NaNoWriMo is the huge writing community that is involved from amateurs to pros. There are special events, write-ins (mentioned above, where you join others in specific locations to write), and online forums including word tracking. Want to get some weekly encouragement from me this month? Subscribe to my writer’s list, and I will send you an email every week with some motivational messages and even some special offers. (I won’t sell your email or spam you, I promise)
Don’t Give UpMissing one day is not the end of the world, although you should try not to do it. You can make up words if you work a little harder on some days than others. Sometimes life gets in the way, so forgive yourself and keep going. Even if you don’t make your NaNo goals, keep the novel you are working on and finish it. Use a different month if November doesn’t work. Sometimes January is easier, and there are NaNoWriMo camps and events year-round. The idea is to develop writing habits that last all year long and propel you forward as a writer. NaNoWriMo should be a beginning not an ending. It is just the first step. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo because I am working on different projects, but that does not mean I won’t be writing a whole bunch of words. You should be too. So get planning. You only have a couple of days to get ready. I’ll be cheering for you.
Also published on Medium.