Five Tips from a NaNoWriMo Veteran by Michael D. Young

NaNoWriMo is an excellent idea for any serious author. So much of the time, we drag our feet, only needing a little prod to get us going. NaNoWriMo does just that. I’ve done it every year for the past three years and have pulled off over 50,000 words every time. This year, I set the challenge to write 50,000 words every month for a whole year. I’m on track to meet my goal.

Here are some tips that will help you reach your own writing goals and feel the thrill of hitting that 50,000 word mark.

1.    Plan and Plan Well. 

 Imagine you are on a road trip and you are running late. If you drive very fast, you might just make it on time. Would you rather bring a folded map with you or a GPS? With a map, you'd have to stop periodically and make sure you knew which direction to take next. If you program your GPS, however, you will have directions for your entire journey, letting you keep your foot on the gas. Outlining before November is upon you is like taking your GPS along. You are going to have to work hard to reach your goal in time and so you can't afford the potential delays you will encounter if you run into writer's block. You will also be much happier with your final product. The rules of NaNoWrMo say that outlining is fair game. So why not give yourself the greatest chance of success?

2.    Tune Out Distractions. Facebook, email, blogs, etc…

These are all good things, but they are the death knell of NaNoWriMo. During this month, take the plunge and minimize distractions at any costs. That may include setting a time aside every day that is going to be the least hectic. This might entail getting up early or staying up later than normal in order to make this happen. I even downloaded a free program from the Internet called “Cold Turkey” which allows you to block certain distracting websites for a set period.

3.    Get ahead early on the month.

November is not typically a month that gets less busy as time goes on. The end of the month is replete with distractions, including Thanksgiving festivities, Black Friday sales and an approaching holiday season. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you'll make up for lost time near the end of the month. Instead, push the envelope of 1,666 words per day during the first two weeks of November. This will give you some breathing room just in case you can't take your eyes off the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

4.    Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. 

 As writers, it is easy to sweat the small stuff. When MS word underlines you prose with red and green, you figure you must be doing something wrong. You'll want to go back and tidy up, but I encourage you that, for the month of November at least that you choose to be colorblind. NaNoWriMo is about speed, not typos. Any time you go back to revise is time you will not be chipping away at your word count. There will be plenty of time to revise in December and the new year (unless the world really does end as the Mayan calendar suggests, in which case, I'll be glad that I spent my last full month on earth doing something that I love.) There is only one direction. In the words of a well-known hymn goes: “Onward, ever onward…forward, pressing forward…”

5.    Have Others Cheer You On.

The best way to stay motivated is to have other people who are excited for you. Let your family know what you are doing and give them reports on your progress. Do it together with your writing group or find new friends to collaborate with using the NaNoWriMo website.  This is a big undertaking and deserves to be shared with others. Their enthusiasm and excitement for you will help fuel your creativity day in and day out through the month of November.

Above all, have fun with it. Good luck, fellow writers! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Michael D. Young is the author of the novels The Canticle Kingdom and The Last Archangel. His inspirational non-fiction includes Sing We Now of Christmas and Portrait of a Mother. Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in German Teaching and a minor in Music. He puts his German to good use by working to build online German courses for High School students. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the hand bell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Learn more about Michael on his website.

Would you like to comment?

Christine Tyler said...

Oooh, I like the Cold Turkey suggestion. I will have to check that out!

Unknown said...

Thanks for having me on your blog!