National Novel Writing Month

Hey everyone! Happy Halloween and happy fall! I hope you’re all enjoying your sweater weather, hot cocoas, school year stress, and spooky movies. And the upcoming chaos that is November.

If you don’t know what that means, let me explain. November is known as National Novel Writing Month, in which many authors challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or almost 1,700 words per day. That’s a lot of goddamn words.

If you, like me, would love to do NaNoWriMo but are thinking. “How in the hell am I supposed to write 50,000 words in 30 days?” you have come to the right place. Whether it’s because you already have a jam-packed schedule for the day or because you just don’t think that daily word count is doable without pushing yourself too far, I’ve got some tips for you.

  1. Plan ahead of time! My first couple of NaNos, I put off actually planning my book until Nov. 1st. Then, not only did I have to write the 50,000 words, I had to figure out what the hell I was writing them about. Let me tell you, that is not a good idea. So even if you’re a pantser, it’s good to have a general idea of where you’re starting, where you’re going, and who’s going to get you there before November 1st rolls around.
  2. Write in small chunksIf you’re super busy or just not good at sitting down and writing for a long, uninterrupted period of time, this advice is for you. Don’t feel like you need to sit down and then not get up until you’ve written your 1,667 words for the day. If you’ve got a moment of downtime in class, write a couple sentences. If you managed to wrangle your brain into concentrating for just a moment, use that moment! Even if you can only write a sentence at a time, once you’ve got enough sentences, you’ve got yourself a book. And making them cohesive is what revision is for. As a matter of fact, that brings me to my next point:
  3. Write garbage! Your NaNoWriMo project is not going to be ready for submission on December 1st. It’s not. And that means that you can give yourself permission to write absolute garbage. You’re going to be going back and revising it anyways; if you need to cut a couple thousand words, those word brought you closer to your word count goal while you were writing them. And for the month of November, that’s what counts.
  4. Skip things if you have to. If you’re getting blocked on a scene, or you struggle with writing description, or there’s something that you just really, really don’t like to write, skip it! I usually just type up a brief description of what the scene is going to be once it’s written (for my own reference in the future) and put it in parentheses. In my 2015 NaNo project, I skipped literally the entire middle of my book. Coincidentally, and by that I mean by no coincidence whatsoever, 2015 was the only year where I finished NaNoWriMo. (But I don’t really count 2016, because… election.) So don’t be afraid to just skip something, say you’ll come back to it in December or January or whenever you revise the book, and move on.
  5. Take advantage of chances to binge-writeIf you end up in the zone or just have a whole bunch of free time, try to get a little bit ahead of schedule! It’ll give you a bit of a buffer for those days where you have more trouble meeting your word count goal. On the other hand,
  6. Don’t get discouraged if you fall behind! You’re going to have days where you don’t hit your word count. Whether it’s because you didn’t have time to write or because you were blocked or stuck, you’re almost definitely going to fall behind at some point. And that’s okay. Again, if you have the chance to binge-write a little, take full advantage of it, and if not, see if you can up your word count goal a little for the next couple days to make up your loss. And finally,
  7. If you don’t hit 50,000 words, that’s okay. Like I said earlier, I’ve only won NaNoWriMo once, and I’ve done it so many times that I honestly can’t remember them all. However much you write in November, whether it’s 50,000 words or 30,000 or 100,000 or 100, you are that many words closer to having finished this book. And that is totally awesome! Don’t let not hitting an arbitrary goal discourage you. You are amazing, your writing is amazing, and just remember that in no world would George R. R. Martin ever finish NaNoWriMo, but he’s still doing pretty well for himself. Write at your pace, write your best, and forgive yourself if you don’t hit your word count.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I wish you the best of luck. We writers gotta stick together, and we’ll eventually end up on top. (Or, at least, somewhere in the middle. The middle is a pretty great place to be, too.) And remember, whether it’s 50,000 words or 10, just keep writing!

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