We’re down to a month until NaNoWriMo, and Preptober has officially begun! As we officially enter NaNo mode, I’d like to share a handful of tips and tricks that have helped me achieve NaNoWriMo success and will hopefully help you, whether it’s your first time or your fifteenth.
1. Make Sure Your Project is NaNoWriMo Compatible
All writing projects are not equal when it comes to NaNoWriMo. Some writing projects are significantly better suited to being written quickly than others, as I’ve learned the hard way over the past couple of years. In my experience, a NaNoWriMo project should fit the following criteria:
1. Fully novel length
Unless it’s your specific intention, you don’t want to end up writing a novella for NaNoWriMo and undershooting the word count. Make sure your idea is big enough to become a full novel, or have a plan for filling in the last few thousand words (again, unless your intention is to shoot for a lower word count in November).
2. Fun to write/A story you’re passionate about
If you’re not excited about your project, it’s not going to be easy to write quickly. You want a story that’s fun or that you’re really passionate about telling; one that you really want to write and not one that you just want to finish.
3. Not super heavy
This will vary from person to person, but generally you don’t want to write too heavy a story during NaNoWriMo because they generally take longer to write. Deep issues need to be focused on and thought about, so they’re generally not written quickly. Again, it will depend on the person what is “heavy” and how their specific writing process works, but this has been my experience.
2. Use Rewards
These can be little rewards like “Once I meet my word count for today I can read for an hour,” big rewards like “Once I hit 25k I’m going to bake myself cookies,” or both. Developing some sort of incentive to reach your goals can be super helpful in motivating you to actually achieve them.
Two years ago, my goal was 100k (I don’t know what I was thinking), and I arranged that if I hit 25k I would bake myself peanut butter cookies, at 50k I’d buy myself a NaNoWriMo winner t-shirt, at 75k I’d bake myself pumpkin bread, and at 100k I’d buy the book I was super excited to read (Echoes by Miranda Marie).
Think about what rewards would be both practical and effective for you.
3. Participate in Word Wars
I can’t tell you how helpful these have been for me every year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo. If you’re competitive, especially, and/or if you love cheering on others, these are a great option. Word wars are where you decide a certain amount of time that you and a friend (or multiple friends) are going to write (usually about 10-20 minutes, but I’ve also participated in half hour and hour-long word wars) and at the end of it you figure out which of you got the higher word count in that time frame. Personally, I’m competitive, so these get me writing like crazy; but I also love cheering on others, so I love encouraging/congratulating the other person/people, as well.
Generally, if you’re part of a writing group, word wars are easy to find or start. Just post asking if anyone’s up for a word war, and work together to sort out a time.
Another option is myWriteClub, which is a tool for tracking writing projects that also has a section for word sprints. There’s a global sprint, if you can’t find anyone else to word war with, but it also allows you to set up a custom sprint that you can invite specific people to via link. One thing I like about myWriteClub’s sprints is that you can see your opponents’ progress in more-or-less real-time, which can be really motivating for getting your writing speed up.
4. Use Fighter’s Block
This is another sprinting tool for when you don’t have anyone to word war with or just want to go, go, go on your own time. You select a character, set a word count to beat, and hit start. You type directly into the site, and as long as you’re typing you’re lowering your opponent’s health points, he can’t hit you, and you build up your own HP. If you stop typing, though, your HP starts to deteriorate. Fighter’s Block has settings for monster speed (how quickly your HP fades if you stop), monster strength (how much HP disappears at a time if you stop), and the look of the word processor (font, size, background color, etc.). It’s a really handy tool, and it’s helped me out a lot over the years since I discovered it.
5. Share Snippets
This is a personal preference thing, I know some people are cautious about sharing their writing, but it can be fun and helpful to share short pieces of your writing with friends as you go. Positive feedback can be great fuel for motivation, and, depending on your writing process, sharing your writing can also be a great opportunity to get constructive critique and improve your writing as you go. (Not editing what you’ve already written, because that slows you down and that’s not something we want during NaNoWriMo, but learning your strengths and weaknesses so you can build on that knowledge moving forward through the month.)
If you’re not sure about sharing your writing publicly in a writing group, try finding just one or two friends who will read your writing and encourage you through the month.
6. Hype Yourself Up Beforehand
Use this month to get yourself excited for your project. Build a story playlist, participate in Preptober Prompts, fill out Pinterest boards, write snippets to get yourself into the mindsets of your characters… Whatever gets you excited for a project, do it. The more excited you are for your project, the easier it will be to write.
How about you? If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before, what tips and tricks have worked for you? If this is your first time, what tricks are you excited to try? Let’s help each other get pumped up and ready!