Halloween decorations are coming down, goodbyes are being said, and writers everywhere are locking themselves away for a month. Yes, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is upon us.
Unfortunately, I exaggerated my introduction. Not all of us can lock ourselves away all month to write. School and/or work take up time, and people around us become distractions. They don’t mean to of course, they just don’t know any better.
But the good news is, it’s still possible to make it through the month successful, whether you make it to 50k or not. I’m exactly a seasoned Wrimo, but I have picked up some good tips along the way, tips that might help you complete your novel.
Word Wars and @NaNoWordSprints
On Valorpen, we have a Word Wars thread that helps a lot with motivation. Two or more people decide on a time to start, and then spend the ten minutes after that writing as much as they can. Then they post their word count for the ten minutes and/or the piece they just wrote. Good feedback often comes from posting the piece, and sometimes the little snippets attract a new reader.
NaNoWordSprints works a similar way. An ML leads a few word sprints using the twitter account @NaNoWordSprints. They choose a time to start, and sometimes offer an optional prompt to use if you’re stuck. The amount of time you write for varies sprint to sprint. At the end of the time, you post how much you wrote, and sometimes answer a question.
Rewards (or Carrot and Stick Approach)
I used this method last year, and during Camp NaNo this year. It was around Easter, so I had my chocolate bunny sitting in a bowl beside me. I set myself goals, and when I reached them, I could have a bit of chocolate. I’ve found this is probably more effective when the reward is a little further away. The temptation was a bit too much with it sitting right next to me.
This year I’m planing on using the carrot and stick approach, like I did last November. For those not familiar, it’s like rewards, but if you don’t reach your goal you get a ‘punishment’ (stick), instead.
Everyone knows you’re supposed to lock away your inner editor during NaNoWriMo, and what better way than not being able to see what your writing? I’ve heard of some people typing their project in white font so they couldn’t see their mistakes and be tempted to waste precious time fixing them. It’s a clever idea, but like all things, it doesn’t work for everyone. I tried it, but it didn’t really help me. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, and that kind of annoyed me. I then tried it in light grey, but if I tiled my screen at a certain angle, I could see what I was typing, which defeats the purpose (and was cheating on my behalf).
Find a Writing Spot
If you haven’t already, find an area without distractions, where you can concentrate. For some people it’s a room in their house, a coffee shop, or somewhere outside. Try and make that spot free of distractions. It’s a good idea to mix it up sometimes, too. Spending all your time in one space can dull your creativity.
If all else fails, go back to Plan A and lock yourself away. That’ll stop the distractions. (I actually do that during NaNo and camp. Every night and weekend I’m in one quiet room, only coming out for the necessities. No, that does not include a social life outside of school.)
Ever since I discovered word wars, timers have been lifesavers — not just in writing, but in every area of my life. Now I just have to work on sticking to them…. Even if you’re not warring with someone, you can set a timer and just go for it. You can even combine it with rewards.
Sometimes I use a Google Chrome extension called Strict Workflow, which blocks certain internet pages for the desired length of time while you work, unblocks them for your break, blocks them again when you start working again, and so on. Very effective to stop the internet from being such a time-hog.
On the NaNoWriMo forums, there’s tons of threads which lead you through a story, making you do different exercises to boost your word count as you go. I can spend whole afternoons working on these, and they really help. You can easily reach your daily word count using one of these — some even have an exercise where you just write 1000 words. That already leaves you with just 667 words to go for the rest of the day! These threads are definitely something to check out.
I hope some of those suggestions helped someone! Now, I should be off to actually work on my project…. Time to enforce some of these.
Have you tried any of these? How do they work for you? Feel free to suggest some other ideas, if you have them!