We're just over three weeks into National Novel Writing month and I'm just now crossing the 75,000-word threshold. I was looking around, thinking about how I got to this point two years in a row at about the same time and I thought I'd bring some of that advice to you.
So, without further ado, here are 10 tips to staying on top of your NaNo...
- Know Where You're Going - Have, at the very least, a general road map of where your story is heading. I don't always have the most detailed outline to work from, but I do have a sense of where the book is heading and in what general direction I'd need to take to get to the end. And every time I feel like I might get stuck, I spend some time working in my notebook, asking myself questions about where the next day's writing could go. I also think about things I could include that would make that next day's writing exciting.
- Don't revise - This is one of those bits of writing advice that I think is pretty universal for any first draft, but don't go back and revise. Don't even go back and look at the beginning of the book if you can help it. That's a trap that will make it so that you stop your forward progress.
- Build momentum - It's a lot easier to write almost 4k words a day if you do it every day. Soon that pace feels like it's normal. 4k words a day is more doable the more often you do it. And the faster the story builds in your mind, the faster it builds in your draft.
- Make the time - For me, my key writing time, every day, rain or shine, weekday or weekend, is first thing in the morning. I get up at about five no matter what and head straight to the coffee shop or my office and my butt is parked there until I have to either go to work or I need to go eat lunch. There is no in between, there is no excuse. That time is for writing.
- Shut off the Internet - That is simply a black hole. When I'm working in November, there is only one website I leave open, and that's the official NaNo page so I can update my word count. While I'm writing I'm not on Facebook, Twitter, email, or anything else. I can't be. Otherwise, that's where my attention gets shunted to.
- Be Competitive About It - I'm not a competitive person by nature. At all. But NaNo helps give you the tools to look at the word counts of others, people you admire, friends who are participating, etc. Pick one of them and make sure you stay ahead of them all the time. For me, I just like to be at the top of the pack, writing as much as I can about this book.
- Consume media - Don't forget to read and watch movies and ingest stories, fictional and otherwise. It will help inform what you're doing, even if you don't realize it.
- Don't give yourself an option - Say what you will about self-imposed deadlines and goals, but not giving yourself an option is incredibly helpful. I don't give myself an option. I have to meet my word count (though I don't usually focus on word count as much outside of November.) But holding yourself accountable is important.
- Don't stress if you're behind - 50,000 words is doable in a month. It's even doable in a week if you have to. But if you fall behind your goal, don't stress about it. Just keep getting words down. Moving forward is better than losing momentum completely.
- STAY IN THE HABIT - I think this is one of the most important things. Don't drop out of writing when it's no longer November. I'm on day 505 of my current writing streak and this is my second NaNo in a row that I've connected with a full year of writing in the off-season. Stay in that habit. It'll make the next year that much easier.
I think that's more than enough to help get you through the last week. And if you want to add me as a buddy and try to catch up to me, just look up Swankmotron on the NaNo website.
As for my writing, I've had a few pieces come out.
The first piece to come out was my new short story on Patreon: Zero Jeopardy. You can still get in and read it by contributing a single dollar per short story.
The second was this piece about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them for HowStuffWorks.
Then I had a playlist about this guide to Wookiees in Star Wars.
I've written a boatload, too, so there will definitely be more coming out.
As a reminder: Please join my short story Patreon here. Your contributions to the Patreon help me write more like this.
The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page.
Also! here's the full list of "rules and guidelines" I've been collecting over my years of studying writing advice and process.
As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you.