It’s only two days until National Novel Writing Month kicks off around the globe. By now you’ve done everything you can to prepare, haven’t you? And you’ve created a story outline or maybe just noodled around with your characters and some plot points to get an idea of what will happen in your novel.
If you haven’t done these tasks yet, what are you waiting for? NaNoWriMo lurks just past that creepy guy with the chainsaw. You know, the one chasing all the fairy princesses and pirates through the cemetery.
If you have finished your prep work, let’s take a look at what you can do to make sure you finish your 50,000 words in November.
1. Keep telling yourself this is only a first draft.
Don’t get bogged down in research, editing, or rewriting for the next thirty days. You need to get those words on the page as fast as you can.
What you are putting on the page is not the novel you will publish. It is only the bones of what you will flesh out through half a dozen edits and rewrites in the next several months.
Keep telling yourself “First drafts are supposed to be long, ugly, and unwieldy.”
Now say it again, louder. Then get back to writing.
2. Fuel your physical engine to keep your mental engine firing.
Writers do not live on words alone. They need vast quantities of all forms of caffeine, all shades of chocolate, and anything that crunches when chewed and leaves showers of crumbs on whatever the writer touches.
But beyond massive amounts of junk food, the writer needs real food to feed creativity.
That means making a point to stop at least a couple of times each day and fill up on protein, vegetables, and fruit. Not only will your body and mind function better with real food, it will keep you going longer.
Think how disappointed you’d be if you were within sight of the finish line of the Boston marathon and your arms and legs went limp from hunger because you didn’t carb load. Well, this is your marathon of words. When you dig deep for that extra push, make sure there’s something there to fuel that effort.
3. Take a mental break every two hours.
Give your brain a chance to relax and expand. Set an alarm to let you know it’s time to think about something outside your story. Give yourself ten to fifteen minutes and walk away from everything you’re working on.
Set your timer and just chill.
Sit back and solve a cross-word puzzle, read a chapter in your favorite author’s current book, or think about where you want to go on vacation. Take a catnap.
Your brain will work twice as fast and be twice as creative when you get back to your manuscript. Your story will unfold, clear and complete if you allow your brain to occasional rest periods.
4. Take a physical break twice a day.
You’ll be spending hours on end hunched over the keyboard day after day, night after night. And your body is going to let you know it’s not happy about that. Once each morning and afternoon give your muscles a break.
Step away from that keyboard! Get up from your chair, shake a leg, or shake your booty.
Do something that gets the blood flowing. Your mental processes will be sharper, and your muscles will relax. When your body is happy you’ll be able to work longer.
5. Share your journey with writer friends.
Don’t forget that you are part of a massive group of writers experiencing the same fears and triumphs this month.
November may be the best month of the year for getting support and understanding from hundreds of thousands of fellow writers.
If you feel you’re wandering through your writing with no purpose or goal, form a buddy group of writers with like interests. You can search on NaNoWriMo for other writers in your region, or check out which writers are working on romance or zombie novels, or whatever genre you’re writing. Get in touch with them and encourage each other.
Be smart about the amount of time you talk about writing with your writing buddies and the amount of time you actually spend writing.
6. Give yourself credit for what you complete.
So you only wrote two hundred words yesterday. Or maybe you had a family emergency and you didn’t write a single word for a week.
Give yourself credit for what you do write and forget what you don’t manage to accomplish.
Each day is a new day. Reset your intention and start again.
Remind yourself that you’re doing something only a few thousand people complete each year. That’s a few thousand out of the 7.5 billion inhabitants of this earth. That’s pretty impressive any way you look at it. And you deserve to feel good about that. In fact, I give you permission to feel fantastic about every single word you place on your pages.
Feel free to share your NaNoWriMo experiences with us in the comments. We want to cheer you on!