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I’ve “lost” NaNo many more times than I’ve “won”, but I never tire of trying. Along the way, I have picked up some tricks that really help me — with my writing in general but especially when you have a goal like 50,000 words in a short amount of time.

Things to remember:

  1. It is doable. It seems overwhelming at first — and many times during the month of November. But there are lots of writers all around the world with the same crazy idea and we are here to help and encourage other writers — including you!
  2. This is a first draft. It will be crap. That’s okay. In fact, that’s better than ok. All first drafts are bad and that’s why they need revising. Ironically, when you go back and look at your manuscript, you will find it’s not so bad after all.
  3. You are allowed to do this. Give yourself permission to write. This might sound weird, but I had to learn this the hard way and it’s something I still struggle with sometimes. The laundry can wait. The lawn can grow longer. You can lose a half hour of sleep. It’s ok — this is important. As Chris Baty says, “The world needs your story.”

Specific things that helped me win:

  1. Get a new notebook. It can be leatherbound and handmade by a long lost abbey of monks, or in the discount bin at the dollar store. This is yours. It’s fresh, clean and waiting for your words. All that you think of for this story will be bound in the pages and waiting for you.
  2. Stock up on rewards. I really like Milano cookies. They are a special treat so when I hit a small goal — a word count, a scene — I get to eat a cookie. The trick is, at no other time do I get to enjoy them.
  3. Find your power shirt. This will probably sound silly, but I have a “lucky” shirt that I like to write in. It’s from the Crossroads Writers Conference. It reminds me of some fantastic people who really inspired me to get writing. I also have a black NaNoWriMo hoodie for when the November evenings get chilly.
  4. Recruit a buddy. That’s what the NaNo community is all about. Find someone to challenge to friendly word count sprints. Check in at the end of the day to make sure they did their writing. Be encouraging. 
  5. Outline. Not the way a cranky teacher said to in middle school. But my most successful year of NaNo was when I had an idea for a story and I wrote down about fifteen scene ideas. Then five more. Soon I had a few pages filled with a (very) rough sketch of my novel. It made things so much easier when I felt stuck and didn’t know what to write. I allowed myself to leave off and pick a different scene to work on.
  6. Have fun. It is fun. I promise. Even when you second-guess yourself and wonder, “What the heck did I sign up for?”, I promise it will be fun. The challenge makes the rewards all that much sweeter.

Now get writing!


 

5 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks for Winning NaNoWriMo”

  1. All great suggestions! I’ve only done Nano twice, and while I won both times, the second year was way better than the first. In the first year, I fell victim to all the posts about using every free second of your time to write, not seeing your friends for a month, etc etc. And I got burnt out multiple times over the course of the 30 days and was sprinting to finish on day 30. So when last year rolled around, I knew I needed a different approach. On days when I had nothing planned, I would write for an hour and then take a break, and so on and so on. But on other days, I would write some, go have coffee with a friend, write some more, go visit my family, etc etc. This method worked far better for me! I ended up reaching 50,000 words on November 19th! So that’s my advice. Don’t cram so much writing into your life that you continuously burn out. Get out of the house and recharge your creativity!

    1. All great ideas. I also tried to write just a few words extra each day, so that by Thanksgiving I could “afford” to take the day off to visit and eat and nap. I ended up writing a little bit while the folks were napping but only a couple hundred words. But I didn’t have any guilt about it because I had stored up that buffer.

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