As writers gear up for another exciting year of NaNoWriMo, they are also in search of ways to protect their writing space. This year especially has been full of distractions and uncertainty. While some writers have flourished, others have struggled to find their creative spark.
But NaNo represents a new opportunity as writers from all over the world join in and attempt to write their own 50K word novel in just thirty days. It’s a crazy challenge, but one full of fun.
For those of you who are struggling to find the time or have yet to find the perfect balance of schedule, protecting your writing space during November needs to be top of your priority if you want to make it through the month. Here are some great ways to help make your NaNo month more productive.
Schedule your writing time
It’s easy to get lost in the day and crawl under the covers at night only to realize you didn’t actually get your writing done. Scheduling your writing time is a sure fire way to get into your brain that you need to be writing during that time. Pick an hour or two during the day where you can minimize distractions and actually be in the creative flow. If you’re not a morning person, telling yourself you’ll write at 4AM isn’t going to work. Instead, figure out your best time and put it on your calendar.
Protect your writing time
This is where many writers fail without realizing it. They schedule their time only to sit at their computer and waste the hour scrolling for ideas or doing research on their project.
Writing time is for writing, and you need to protect that space. That means you need to protect it from outside distractions like texts, notifications, social, and even writing distractions. How many times do you sit down and get halfway through a chapter only to realize you forgot to name a character? If you’re in your writing time, don’t let yourself fall into the pit of Wikipedia or baby name generators. Make a note or highlight where you need to fill in research, and keep moving. At the end of the session, that is, outside of the writing time, feel free to do as much research as you want.
You might also have to protect writing time from yourself. There are tons of times where I’d like to be doing literally anything except writing. Consider incentivizing yourself so you actually get your work done. Have you written your daily 1,667 words? No? Well, I guess you’re not watching The Mandalorian until you do… That’s a real motivating factor right there.
How many of your immediate people know about your writing month? That is, who knows not to distract you during your writing time?
Let others know about your plan to participate, but also tell them when your writing time is. That minimizes the chances they’ll interrupt during that time. And, worst case, tell them it’s only for a month. Maybe you’ll miss weekly brunch, but in a month, you’ll have plenty of great stories to tell when you meet again.
You can also involve others to keep you accountable. Maybe they’ll join in and you can share your word counts or motivate each other every morning that you said you’d wake up at 4AM to write. Or maybe they’ll just be the motivating factor so you get your work done. Give them your Disney+ password and make them change it weekly. They won’t give you the password to watch The Mandalorian until you prove you’ve reached your word count.
If you have a significant other or someone close to you, make sure you’re communicating your strategy for the month. I had a conversation with my husband about my expectations for the month, what I’d like to do on weekends and how he can support that, and also what my plans are if I finish early or start a new book during the month. He clearly knows what I’m going to be doing, when, and how he can best communicate with me during those times.
Create your space
Protecting your space also means you create a space that works for you. If you work best in silence, make sure you’ve set yourself up for that kind of writing environment. The less immediate distractions in your peripheral, the less likely you’ll try to do anything but write. Clean your desk beforehand, move any fidgety items away from your reach, and minimize the desktop clutter so you can go straight to your writing document and not get distracted.
Snacks and drinks are great to have close by as well, just in case you need a little fuel. The less you leave your writing space during your writing time, the more likely you’ll make it to the end.
Have some notes to follow
Even if you’re a veteran, there’s a high chance you’ll reach a day and not have anything to write. Maybe you don’t know what happens next or you’re just having a bit of a hard time getting started. It’s always helpful to have a few ‘knockout’ scenes prepped beforehand so you have something to turn to. That might be a scene you’ve thought out beforehand, a note you’ve left yourself to circle back to a comment you made on a previous chapter, or maybe just a few notes left from the previous chapter about where you saw the next chapter going.
If you have a list of a few easier scenes to write, you can always use them as momentum to write a harder chapter. For example, I have a ‘prologue’ scene that I have fleshed out but that won’t be the first chapter I write. If I reach a chapter that just isn’t going my way, I’ll use that prologue as a way to reach my word count and keep my writing streak up but also as a resource. Once I start writing, I can use that momentum to continue.
How are you protecting your space during the month? Do you have a nook that you’ve designated as your creative space? Are you having people incentivize you to finish? Let me know in the comments!
Laura Winter is the author of the Soul Series and Warrior Series in addition to several short stories and standalones. You can find all her relevant links here.