jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo: Logic)
Since it's now less than a week before November 1st, I thought I'd do a post with my tips about how to get ready to win NaNoWriMo. There's certainly no turn-key method that'll guarantee you succeed - the only way to ensure that is to wage an epic battle between procrastination and stubbornness within your own soul, and come out on top. But there are a few things that can maximize your chances.

This is a post for people who have some seriousness about their writing. If you just want to write something down and don't have any ambition to publish the novel at some point in the future, that's great! This post may not be for you, though.

1. Prepare your plot

Many people sit down on November 1st with little idea of what they're doing. Maybe they have a general idea of the plot, maybe a few characters rattling around in their brain, and some clue of the ending. When they get stuck, they go to the forums and get a prompt, maybe add ninjas, and just keep writing something whether it makes sense or not.

If that's what works for you, then great. It certainly doesn't work for me, and I think if you want to really maximize your chances of getting to 50,000 words (and having something coherent and possibly one day publishable at the end) I really recommend doing some legwork up front.

Before November 1st, I like to have an outline. It doesn't have to be exhaustive. What I like to have is a list of all of the scenes I expect to have in the novel, with just a couple of sentences to remind me of the important things that need to happen in that scene to further the plot.

The outline isn't a rigid cage that constrains your writing from then on. What it is, is a roadmap - just a series of signposts that will get you from the beginning to the end. You may get to the end of a scene and realize that you need another scene in between there and the next one to get where you're going, or you may end up completely reworking the whole thing on November 15th because you just had a fantastic idea that completely changes the ending, but that's okay.

To me, having these guideposts is vital. Rather than wasting time trying to think of where you need to go next, you have a clear map to follow, which has gotten me through some difficult writing nights. It also allows you to skip ahead (something I've never done, but I hear many people do) if you hit a difficult spot and need to come back to it later.

2. Create your mental space

There's nothing more difficult than trying to focus on some intensive writing in a location that is rife with distractions. If you can't get away from your roommates and find a quiet corner, consider going to a coffee shop or library for a couple of hours to get in your words.

Write-ins are great, as well. Though not completely free of distractions, everyone there generally does want to get writing done, and the energy at an event like that can give your productivity a real boost. It's really worth getting on the mailing list for your area and trying to get out to a write-in or two if you can, or finding a buddy to write with.

Turn off the internet, turn on some music, and focus on writing. If you have to set a timer for 15 minutes at a time to get yourself that focus, do it. The more you can create the conditions to maximize your ability to write without distractions or other pressures, the more words you can pump out in a shorter period of time, making it easier for you to get your words in before the world intrudes.

3. Carve out time

It can often be hard to set aside a couple of hours each night, with all the pressures of life trying to get in the way. Try writing for fifteen minutes before work, and spend part of your lunch break getting some words out as well. If you get home from work or school with 500 words under your belt, it's a great boost to know that you only need another thousand or so that day!

Everyone's schedule is different, so look at where you can fit in a few extra short writing stints here and there in your own life. It's not as hard as you might think when you really sit down to think about it. If there's a time of day when you write best, that doesn't mean you can't get a few words here and there, at other times.

Bring a notebook with you wherever you go so you can take advantage of any unexpected time you might have during the day, too. Got a doctor's appointment? Don't read a magazine or play on your phone while in the waiting room, jot down some words.

4. Do more than you have to

The biggest thing that has helped me in the past has been front-loading the words. On November 1st, you've turned off your phone, your family knows to leave you alone, and you're excited and fresh. Don't waste that energy! There will be days, maybe even whole weeks, when you aren't able to write at all, or can only get in a few words. If you know that you've got more words than you need, those bad days are less of a hit to your confidence.

I always start with the goal of writing a minimum 2000 words a day, not 1667, which is the bare minimum you need to reach 50,000 words. I highly recommend doing the same.

I'd love to hear any other tips you guys might have.

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Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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