Everyone has different life circumstances, are in different places in their writing journey, and have different skills. Some people stay up late while others get up early. There are writers who have kids running around and puppies and school and life events.
These strategies are still for you.
It can be overwhelming to see other people with word counts higher than yours (hence my introduction). Everyone writes at their own pace, so focus less on their numbers and more on your progress. If you need a reminder of other things to celebrate during NaNo besides word count, check out this piece.
This is my third NaNo project. I write fiction full(ish)-time. I’m also a self-published author who will finish this year with 15 published titles. I’m telling you this because when I share my word count, you should understand the life circumstances that allowed this to happen.
As of writing this post, I finished 50K in 9 days and I’m sitting at 55K total on the book.
That didn’t only happen because of my life circumstances or the fact that I have the first half of this novel planned extensively (yeah, once I reach the middle I need to figure out where I’m going). I actually have a few strategies that I use during November to help keep me on track and flying through the month.
No matter where you are in your writing journey or how many times you’ve participated in NaNo, these strategies can boost your progress without sucking the life out of you.
DO NOT PRESS THE BACKSPACE KEY
Yeah, I’m putting that one in all caps.
It’s so tempting to go back and try to make your first sentence perfect on the first try. You might want to go back and fix that small little comma error you have. You might think of a new or better word than the one you just used.
Don’t press the backspace key. Don’t let that word go to waste. Just keep swimming, like a writer who wrote 1000 words before finding her first sentence. Those 1000 words still count.
November is NOT National Editing Month. Keep writing.
Keep typing, even if you have no idea what you’re writing .
Something I do only in November (to pad my word count at the very least) is to not let my fingers stop moving for writing sprints. I keep typing, even if that means I start jumbling my stream of consciousness onto the page. It might just be a quick paragraph of what you might want to happen in the future. Just don’t stop.
Keep momentum and take advantage of it if you have it. Think of it like morning pages, where you can’t let your fingers stop typing. Even if it’s garbled mess, there are still words on your screen. They still count toward your final goal. And the more you keep typing, the better those words will start flowing, getting you closer to the finish line.
Make notes, not changes
Have you stumbled onto a plot hole? Discovered that you made a character’s eyes blue when they started as green?
MAKE A NOTE. Sticky note by your computer, comment on your word document, leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
Don’t pause and go back to fix the previous chapter. That takes time away from writing and it messes with your flow. Leave yourself a note and worry later.
I have a minimum of ten notes already to go back and add certain elements or change descriptions. I’m not upset I ‘missed’ them at first, but I just discovered things in my story that needed to happen differently.
Move forward as if you’ve made that change
Move forward as if you’ve made that change — That plot hole you just found? Yeah, it never existed… at least for your future word count.
Pretend as if you solved it from the beginning of your novel and keep writing as if it has always been that way. Leave a note (bold, highlight, brackets) and fix it after November.
So much time is wasted scrolling your document to find the small little sentence that you need to change. And if you have a massive change, it can be tempting to try to fix everything and make it fit just right in the manuscript. Fight the urge and just pretend it already exists. You can change it after you reach your 50K words.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Believe me. I spent last year’s NaNo trying to write the perfect conclusion to my trilogy. I slaved over words, trying to make each sentence absolutely beautiful. I researched my old books making sure I covered everything. Getting 50K was the hardest word count I’ve ever worked for. I HATED THAT BOOK FOR A MONTH.
But then I rewrote it during Camp the following April and tossed perfection out the window. It might be my favorite book written to date.
Please please remember that this month is not about making a perfect manuscript on the first try. It’s about getting something onto the page so you can edit it later (or just throw away if that’s what you want).
No one has to ever see the first draft. You can keep your little secretly misspelled words like ‘fish’ to yourself (true story, I wrote ‘firch’ at least five times before I noticed). The first draft is for you and you alone. Write the story for yourself. Share it later.
I know people have kids and dogs and work and meetings and all sorts of crazy stuff going on. I have my own obstacles this year too, as I’ve had in the past. But NaNoWriMo is possible.
Who cares if you follow a few different plot bunnies or write yourself into the same plot hole three separate times from three different beginnings (also a true story)? Write your story and have fun with it.
If you’re participating in NaNo this year, let me know how it’s going for you! Newbie or veteran, I’m so excited to be joining you in the fun. Feel free to add me as a buddy on the NaNo site.
I’m sharing my NaNo novel rough draft as I write it! You can read it for free on Wattpad. Leave a comment and vote for my story to tell me what you think!
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.