It’s that time again – NaNoWriMo, when writers everywhere scramble to write thousands upon thousands of painstaking words as part of a community effort to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be. If you’re participating, you know it’s not always easy to keep up with the pace and it’s nearly impossible to force your words to flow. Here are the top 10 tips you can utilize to make your NaNoWriMo experience easier, and more fun!
10. Write Longhand
It’s an archaic practice, but the art of writing longhand is actually a misplaced gem in this digital day and age. You may find that you’re actually more prolific if you write longhand (and then type the writing out later), even though the process itself is slower. There’s some magic to writing a story out on paper, free from the analytic mess that sometimes is the ability to edit things as you type in a word processor.
9. Go on the Road
No, you don’t have to plan a big vacation for your NaNoWriMo efforts (but if you can, go for it!), but you may find that a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered. Take your writing with you when you go someplace different, like a coffee shop, a diner, a park, etc. Changing from your normal writing environment, such as at a desk, to someplace completely different, can actually give you new-found inspiration.
8. Don’t Be Yourself
When it comes to writing, authenticity and being true to yourself is usually best. But the method by which you arrive at such writing doesn’t have to be conventional. Dress up in a costume or do something silly to take yourself out of, well, yourself, and place you in a new frame of mind. If you’re normally very casual, try dressing up. If you’re very low key, try dressing loudly. Shake off the cobwebs, be daring, and see what happens!
7. A Rest is OK
It’s often the case in such deadline-driven activities that you work and work in all your spare time with no breaks, and risk burnout. There’s nothing that encourages writer’s block better than burning out due to too much time spent laboring over words. So, allow yourself regular resting periods to do something totally unrelated to writing, research, or anything else you engage in for NaNoWriMo. Go for a walk. Take a hot bath. Go out to lunch. Go to the movies. Do something to take your mind off your writing, just for a little while. If you maintain a healthy pace when writing by giving yourself breaks to avoid fatigue, you’ll actually get things done faster than if you plug through and slow down due to wear and tear.
6. Eliminate Distractions
We like to think of ourselves as prime multi-taskers, able to write while listening to the radio, watching TV, playing a game, or talking on the phone. In actuality, these are not compatible activities with writing and you’ll occupy the part of your mind that would otherwise be churning out great words with non-essential and non-productive junk. Turn off the TV, close the solitaire window, dial down the radio, and turn off your phone. These things will still be there when you’re done with your writing for the day.
5. Prep Your Environment
Shake things up a little by preparing your environment for writing in ways that are conducive to concentration, comfort, and inspiration. Have some photographs that get your juices flowing? Tack them up near your desk for the duration of NaNoWriMo. Working at night? Try dimming the lights and lighting scented candles (just make sure you’re not straining your eyes). Find cold distracting? Make sure the heat is at a comfortable temperature or write bundled in a blanket. These little touches make a big difference.
4. Write Without Editing
This is absolutely vital. There’s a reason writers have first, second, even third or more drafts. If you stop to edit yourself constantly while you’re writing you’ll disrupt your flow and stymy yourself. You’ll also become hyper-critical which is not conducive to creativity. Write effortlessly and without stopping to edit for your first draft. Then, begin the proofreading process – gently – after you’ve slept on your entire finished first draft for at least a night or two. Allow yourself multiple drafts – it’s not a competition to see who can write most perfectly in the fewest number of tries!
3. Write Every Day
Even if it’s just for ten minutes on a really busy day, plan a time to write every single day for the duration of NaNoWriMo. It’s so easy to fall out of practice when you stop writing even for a day or two, and steady pace prevails in NaNoWriMo efforts. Take a notepad and pen with you and steal moments to write whenever you can, such as during a commute on the bus or train, or your lunch break. Just don’t cram so much in that you forget to take a rest now and again, too.
2. Research First
If you happen to be writing something that requires research or fact-checking, do the bulk of your homework before you start writing. You may find that you have moments when you must do some additional research in the middle of writing, but the majority of your studying on the subject at hand should be done in advance of digging into your first draft. This ensures that you’re not disrupting the flow or having to take days for nothing but research while in the process of writing. A few days for research before you get going really counts.
1. Make an Outline
An outline is simply critical to writing a cohesive story that gels and flows, and is easiest to write. You should take time to carefully plan your tale as you foresee it unfolding, and if you occasionally deviate from the outline, be sure to update it to reflect your changes. We’re not omniscient and stories sometimes take on a life of their own, but you can steer yourself in the right direction by adhering as closely as possible to your original vision as laid out in the outline. Without an outline you may find yourself unable to think clearly or remember where you were headed when you embark on your creative journey.