How to survive NaNoWriMo

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01 November 2020
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Reach your 50,000 target wordcount by the end of November with our NaNoWriMo writers' survival guide

1) Break it down.

You’ve signed up to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s a manageable 1,667 words a day. Rather than see your self-set NaNoWriMo writing challenge as a massive block of words, break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks. It’s only for a month. It’s not forever. It’s very doable.

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2) Set targets.

1,667 words a day. Just under 12,000 words a week. Substantial, but sustainable and achievable. Make a chart if it helps. Cross off each day’s target as you hit it. Watching the word count building up and the daily targets being crossed off is very satisfying.

3) Get in the habit.

Showing up on the first few days is key. Ring-fence a period of NaNo writing time and stick to it – if you do that at the start, turning up and writing will quickly become a habit. It’s up to you when you do it, but whatever time you set yourself, make it part of your daily routine to turn up and write. Discipline is everything when you have a substantial amount of text to produce, and as any freelance writer will tell you, whatever else is going on, you have to show up and produce words.

4) Pace yourself.

Once your daily target is achieved, walk away. Job done. Time for a reward – a coffee, a walk, a biscuit, a dance round the living room, a bit of downtime with a favourite app. Keeping to a steady pace will build up your wordcount more effectively than a splurge followed by burnout. Try to achieve your daily wordcount – if you start playing bargaining games like, I’ll do 500 words today and an extra 1,500 tomorrow, it’s potentially a slippery slope that will leave you in arrears. At that point, the risk is that you’ll be fed up with yourself for missing your self-set target, and throw in the towel.

5) Abandon perfectionism.

Your NaNoWriMo 50,000 doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be there. It’s meant to be messy. Bash it out and get it on the page. Once you’ve got a draft down and your target completed, you can have a second (and third, and however many you want) pass at it and polish it up.

6) Don’t beat yourself up about it.

If it feels like torture, pack it in. It should be a pleasure, not a punishment. NaNoWriMo is meant to be a fun way of producing a rough draft. Give it a go, and the best possible chance, and see how you get on.

7) Enjoy the whole process.

Remember, you signed up for this. You wanted to do it. You love writing. It’s an out-of-the-ordinary writing experience. It’s good for writers to go out of their comfort zone. It’s a chance to see if one of your ideas has got legs. At the end of it you’ll have a draft of something that you might be able to turn into the best thing you’ve ever written. What’s not to like?

Read how one Writing Magazine writer doubled her NaNoWriMo writing target - and met it!