NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and refers to a group of over 300,000 writers who engage in a yearly writing endeavor, the goal of which is to write 50,000 words in a month. Although the word count is the flashiest thing about NaNo, it’s really a way to celebrate stories and writing, and help guide people towards producing a final project. Here are a few tips for NaNo success.
1. Don’t worry so much about word count
This may come as a shock, I know, but the truth is that NaNo’s word count goal simply doesn’t work for everyone. For some people, it’s a great motivator. This is particularly true of those who like to throw all propriety and dignity to the wind and sprint through a first draft, then come back and do heavy revisions later.
Not everyone writes that way, however. Some people take their time, even on a first draft, to choose each word carefully. Many others are somewhere in-between.
If the 50,000 word goal doesn’t work for you, take heart! There is still a lot to be gained from participating in NaNoWriMo. Particularly if you…
2. Write every day
The heart of NaNo is not to stress out writers, but to celebrate writing, particularly the process and craft. It’s a way to teach writers discipline, while also showing them they’re capable of making something out of nothing. Even if you don’t reach 50,000 words, if you sit down to write every day of November, you’ve started a habit that can make a writing career happen. And I promise, if you write once a day for those thirty days, you’ll have something to be proud of at the end of it.
Not everyone writes fast and messy. Some people pay careful attention to their prose the first time around. This means they write slower, but revise less. Both methods (all methods, as long as they involve words eventually reaching the paper) are valid and effective. While NaNo is a great exercise for some, it can push other writers into doubting the process that works best for them.
4. Keep track of what you’ve accomplished (not just word count)
Another great thing about NaNo is that it gives you a goal, and a way to track it. This is a great motivator, as well as a way to become a more professional and productive writer. 50,000 words in a month may not work for everyone, but everyone can set a goal that fits their life and process.
The emphasis on word count, however, can give the illusion that writing is just putting words down on paper. That’s why I like to keep track of everything I do, every day, through November. If you’re editing a chapter, or making an outline, or describing a character arc, it absolutely counts. Make reasonable goals that you can meet, and write down what you’ve accomplished every day in addition to that word count.
5. Make friends
NaNo is a wonderful opportunity to meet other writers. The forums on the NaNoWriMo website are a great place to chat with other people who totally ‘get it,’ and can commiserate with your setbacks and celebrate your successes. In addition, NaNo hosts local events in many places, which are wonderful for finding writers near you.
Whether you strive for the word count or just use the positive energy of the writing community to boost your productivity, NaNo is a great opportunity to get together, do some wordsmithing, and make some friends.
Featured image by MarkBuckawicki (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Cat image by EvanLovely from Portland, OR, USA (Computer Using Cat Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Paper image by Jonathan Joseph Bondhus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons