October 28, 2013

9 Tips for #NaNoWriMo

So, I'll be honest, the title for this post preceded the post itself. In writing it, I had no idea whether I'll make it to 9 tips, but it seemed like a fun number to go with, so when I reached 9, I stopped.  Please feel free to contribute your own tips in the comments!

  • Tip #1: Get some sleep!
    • Okay, granted, I'm sorely lacking in this department lately, which is probably the reason this is my first tip. At the same time, NaNo word count goals will either keep you up late or have you setting an extra early alarm, so it's a good idea to rest up before November starts.  It's also important to take advantage of days when your writing miraculously flow from your fingers, both to get ahead on your word count and to rest up for bouts of writer's block.
  • Tip #2: Get involved in your region
    • Many writers are solitary creatures, true, but networking is important, both for encouragement along the NaNo path and in the future, when we try to break into the publishing world.  So make sure to look up your region and attend at least one write-in (virtual or not).
    • If none are scheduled at convenient times for you, offer to organize one yourself! All that means is that you choose a time & place, commit to being there for a couple hours, and get some writing done, surrounded by some other local writers trying this crazy thing.
  • Tip #3: Don't be afraid to change course
    • Even if you're the type of person who plans out every detail, down to your characters' favorite colors and childhood pets, or who eats what for breakfast every day throughout your book, don't be afraid to go off on a detour, or many.  Give up control to your story if that's what it demands—the sights you see may turn out infinitely better than those you had previously plotted on your route.
  • Tip #4: Don't get bogged down in the details
    • For instance, one of the hardest things for me, personally, is to name things, be they places or characters.  I've learned that sometimes it's worth it to say "PoliceOfficer1" or "NameOfHospital" and figure that out later.  The same can be done for moments of necessary research that you might not feel like stopping for right that instant.  Insert a reminder to yourself to look it up later, and keep writing!
      • If you consistently use the same placeholder name for the same character/place, it's super easy to find & replace all of them later and stay consistent.
  • Tip #5: Don't be your own slavedriver...
    • If it's just not working today (but other days you've been meeting or exceeding your word count goals), leave it alone! Go for a walk, take a hot shower to loosen up those stiff muscles, call a friend for drinks—sometimes, inspiration shouldn't be forced.
  • Tip #6: ...but don't let yourself slack off, either
    • Tip #5 is important, but only if you're not using it as an excuse not to sit your butt down with a computer/notepad and write. Sometimes inspiration shouldn't be forced; often, it may need to be bribed or even cajoled, and once you start getting those words down, you'll write some of your best scenes.
  • Tip #7: Back everything up, at least once a day! 
    • My suggestion is to switch where you back things up—Dropbox one day, Google docs another, flash drive day 3, attached to an email draft (unsent) day 4, on an external backup drive day 5, etc. This way, your backups aren't all lost at once, and if one of these backup options fails, you'll still have some previous versions saved via one of the other methods, which you can then reference to see: "What in the world was I thinking there originally?"
      • If you're writing by hand, the equivalent would be something like keeping your pages in a fire-proof box, or possibly scanning them into a computer file, or both!
  • Tip #8: Don't erase scenes or paragraphs!
    • Yes, we sometimes erase a sentence or phrase as we reword something in the moment, but if you find yourself wanting to get rid of a paragraph or to rewrite an entire scene, don't delete it! For NaNo, what counts are the words you wrote in your novel—if you write one scene 5 different ways, from scratch, all of those words count!  My suggestion is to use the strike-through feature for pieces you think you won't actually want to keep.
    • Another option I've seen suggested is to cut the words out and collect them in a separate document, then add them to the end of your manuscript when pasting it in the word count validator at the end of November.
  • Tip #9: Celebrate your success!
    • Take time every so often to note how far you've come, and how amazing that is.  My region has a fantastic half-way party, and it's wonderful to take a social breather and acknowledge the thousands of words already written.  
    • And at the end of the month, even if you make it only to, say, 20K words, that's still 20,000 brand new words in a story which didn't exist before. If a full novel in your genre is 80K words, that means you can get a draft done in 4 months, and that's not too shabby, either!  Wherever you are at the end of November, celebrate the fact that you took on this challenge that pushed you a few major steps further on your path to publication.


  1. All of your tips sound very helpful for people participating in the event. Happy writing ^_^

  2. Thanks! Just think about all those books for you to read, being seated this month ;-)

  3. So many books and so little time. LOL