How to Win NaNoWriMo This Year
Three strategies to build your daily writing habit and reach the end of your story
I think we could all use a win right about now.
With a year full of overwhelming confusion, it might feel like writing 50K words of a new novel is the last thing you want to do. But, it might also be the best thing you do all year.
If you’re on the fence about NaNo or you’re in need of that win, here’s how you can build your daily writing habit and finish this year off with a W.
On building a daily writing habit
To reach your finish line, you have to find a way to knock out 1,667 words every day of the month. If that’s not something you do on a daily basis, that can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to beat that inner critic telling you it’s impossible.
Below is an article about how you can find a way to write every day. Consider this: it’s only one month. For thirty days, you can find a way to write these words and cut out the unnecessary bits in your life. Here’s the breakdown of that article:
- set a schedule of when you’ll write and stick to that time. Bonus: keep that time consistent every day so your mind gets used to writing during that time.
- understand your why of writing. Why are you sitting down to NaNo? An escape? A break from crazy? For fun? It doesn’t matter, but keep that answer close to your heart for the days where you don’t really feel like writing.
- make goals out of it. We already have a built in daily word count, but why don’t you add incentives to that? Give rewards every 10K words (or less, if you need it). Create a habit tracker and do your best not to have any blank boxes. Make a game out of it.
- write all the things in all the places. You don’t have to write only on your computer. Keep a Google Doc open on your phone, take notes, and find little moments in your day to add to the word count.
- go in with a plan, or pants the night away. If you struggle with momentum, going into NaNo with an outline (plan) is a great option to make sure you always know what to write. Or, consider pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants) and let the story progression dictate where things end.
How to Write Every Day
Establishing a daily writing habit, even when you don’t want to write
To write with pants or no pants
Pantsing — a famous term in the writing community referring to a story that is written without an outline. The writer dives in with no idea where the story will go and just lets the flow of words take them wherever it needs to go.
For some writers, especially the ones who are unaccustomed to writing daily, this is a dangerous game. There’s always the chance that momentum won’t carry over into the next writing session. While one missed day of writing, or writing shy of 1,667 words a day, won’t kill the vibe, those shortcomings do add up eventually.
If you’re considering outlining this year, or are new to the process, try this simple process:
- grab a sheet of notebook paper and write out the numbers 1–30 in the margin.
- each number will represent a chapter.
- in each line, write a short sentence or two of what should happen in the scene. Think high-level sentences like “Ryder attends a party but things might not end well when he loses control of his powers. To his surprise, his enemy Kiya distracts him and saves the day.”
- in the end, you’ll have 30 chapters. Ideally, chapter 30 will be your final scene. If you can hit 1,667 words in each chapter, you’ve reached your goal.
You can follow tips and plot breakdowns based on any of the plot methods (find a list here on the NaNoWriMo site). Use the percentages as a baseline for how many chapters you should dedicate to that part of the novel. In my example above, that scene will kick off the ‘acceptance of adventure’, or the third step according to the 9-step plot dot. It’s also the 20% mark, according to the Beat Sheet, for Ryder who has been putting off learning about his powers and finally makes his decision. That means this scene should be happening around the 6th chapter, give or take.
On the scariest two-letter word
All writers, no matter where they are in the journey, are faced with the constant pull of distractions. Friends fight for your attention. The lull of social media demands we fall into the endless scrolling nightmare. It’s everywhere, and it always looks so much better than sitting down to write for an hour or more.
Writers need to practice the scariest two-letter word: no.
It’s hard to say, because we all want to say yes to everything — one more scroll, one more brunch, one more trip… but the more we say yes to things that take away from writing, the less time we have to actually write.
For one month, make writing your priority. Practice saying no to those last-minute plans. Politely decline a round of drinks after work. Tell your phone ‘no more notifications’, or, better yet, delete the apps for a month.
It’s only for thirty days. Then, you can go back to being a social butterfly.
Set the expectation of writing. Demand it of yourself and inform others that you’re busy during November. Make the time to write.
In the end, you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. Say no, so by the end of the month, you can celebrate.
Are you ready to win this year?