The most wonderful time of the year is right around the corner: National Novel Writing Month! Every November, writers from around the globe commit to the ambitious goal of writing 50,000 words in one month.
We love NaNoWriMo around here. Anything that brings writers together gets a gold star from us, not to mention that the challenge of a daily writing goal can be an excellent motivator.
If you are planning on participating this year, here are some things you can do that will set you up for success:
1. Decide whether you are going to plan or pants your novel.
There are, broadly speaking, two categories of writers: those who plan their writing in advance (“planners”), and those who write by the seat of their pants (“pantsers). Some are pure planners or pantsers, many fall in between. Any method is valid, the important thing is that you do what works for you.
While the official “rules” of NaNoWriMo state that you need to start on November 1st with a totally blank page, this restriction is for prose only. You have free rein to create whatever outlines, character sheets, and worldbuilding notes you want beforehand. This means that if you are a planner, September and October are prime months for you to start working. Start planning that story! (P.S. We’ve designed a fillable NOVEL PLANNER spreadsheet to help you with this. It’s got a beat sheet, character tracker, inspiration for character personalities, and tabs for all the extra worldbuilding notes you’ll need while writing. Download it by joining our Patreon for less than a coffee a month!).
If you are a pantser who prefers to discover your story as you go along, you may not want to do any extensive prep. Some pantsers like to have major events planned out. If that’s you then have at it! Or you may just spend the next few weeks daydreaming about your story, hyping yourself up to get started.
NaNo can be a great time to experiment and change things up. If you’re usually a planner, this may be the time to try writing blind and see what happens. Pansters, you might want to try creating an outline. Sometimes shaking up your methodology can be the best thing for your creativity.
2. Think of ways to keep yourself motivated during the slog.
The first week of NaNo is usually the easiest. You’re fully on board the creative train and racing full speed ahead! But then…. it starts to get hard. Writing is work! Being creative every day can be draining. If you want to reach the finish line, you’ll need to find ways to stay motivated once the initial shine wears off.
Consider making your NaNo participation public. Announce it to your social media followers, tell your friends and family, shout it from the rooftops. Having people around you to ask “How’s your novel coming?” is a great motivator to stay on track. Last year I committed to posting one sentence from my writing on Twitter every day, which helped force me to write even when I didn’t feel like it.
You may want to give yourself a gold star sticker every day you hit your word count, or promise yourself a new book once you cross that 50,000 threshold. Figure out whatever motivates you, and build that into your NaNo plan.
3. Get a writing hat.
Yes, I mean a literal hat. Go to the thrift store and find a fedora, tophat, or baseball cap with an embroidered fish on it, and designate it your “writing hat.” This is the hat that you will don every time you sit down to write, the hat that signals that you’re putting words to paper. You’d be amazed at how a physical change can affect your mental state.
P.S. Your writing hat doesn’t have to be a hat. It can be a jacket, a pair of socks, a set of spectacles, or whatever you want! Just get yourself something that physically sets “writing mode” apart from the rest of your daily life.
4. Find a community!
There are a ton of writing communities around NaNoWriMo. There’s the official event website itself, there’s a subreddit, there’s a hashtag on Twitter (#NaNoWriMo). Maybe you have writing friends who are going to participate with you.
One of the best things about NaNo is the communal aspect. It’s amazing to participate in this event with so many other writers, all trying to achieve that same goal. Who else is going to understand the trials and tribulations of NaNo better than other people participating in it? Writing 50,000 words in a month is a daunting task, but it gets a little easier when you have people supporting you.
If you’re looking for a community to join, you don’t need to look any further than right here! Mythos & Ink has a writer’s discord channel where we talk about writing all year round; and have some special stuff planned for November. If you’re looking to connect, head on over, we’d love to have you!