As November approaches, writers worldwide gear up for the ultimate writing challenge: National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in just 30 days, and this month-long event can be both exhilarating and overwhelming.
I have attempted NaNoWriMo several times. Only once have I crossed the finish line, but it was a different time in my life, and I had different goals. A couple of years back, I wrote a post based on my experiences of doing this about how you can modify NaNoWriMo to fit the demands of your life and your writing objectives.
And yet . . . I have many friends who thrive on the chaos and discovery of NaNoWriMo as it was originally conceived. I talk to them regularly in November to hear about their experiences and advice for this unique challenge.
They always say that the number one villain in the National Novel Writing Month quest is time—particularly during November when the holiday season is beginning to ramp up. (“But why does it have to be the same month as Thanksgiving?” one of my friends once said.)
But fear not, intrepid writers! Drawing from the wisdom of NaNoWriMo vets, writing resources, and my own experience, albeit limited, I offer you some tips for conquering the beast that is time.
This week, we'll discuss how to stay motivated, stop burnout, and balance your life amidst the excitement of National Novel Writing Month.
Balancing Writing with Work and Life Responsibilities
Finding the time and energy to write can be daunting in the whirlwind of everyday life. With work deadlines, household chores, and family responsibilities, it's easy to put our writing dreams on the back burner. However, during National Novel Writing Month, staying motivated and balancing our writing with our other commitments is crucial.
One effective way to stay motivated is by setting realistic writing goals. Break your writing sessions into smaller chunks rather than aiming for hours of uninterrupted writing time. Perhaps you can commit to writing for 30 minutes before work, during your lunch break, or after dinner. By setting manageable goals that are easy to meet, you’ll experience the emotional high that comes from hitting that day’s word count.
Another strategy is to create a writing routine that fits into your daily life. Whether it's waking up early or staying up late, find a time slot that works best for you. By making writing a regular part of your schedule, it becomes a habit and less overwhelming.
(By the way, that’s not just NaNoWriMo. That’s real life.)
Most importantly . . . don't be too hard on yourself if life gets in the way. Finishing the word count is the least important thing about NaNoWriMo. It’s more about enjoying your creativity, playing with stories, and maybe even having a completed first draft that you can develop into a polished novel.
But as I said, I know many people want to know how to do just that. So, let’s get back to the tips.
Managing Time by Brainstorming
While NaNoWriMo encourages spontaneous and free-flowing writing, brainstorming before you write each day can give you a road map.
Outline the main plot points, create character profiles, and jot down any key scenes or moments you want to include in that day's writing. This will give you a solid foundation to work from and ensure that you always have something to write about even if you feel like you’re hitting a wall.
Having an outline or plan also allows you to structure your writing sessions more efficiently. Instead of staring at a blank page and wondering what to write next, you can refer to your outline and pick up where you left off. This not only saves time but keeps you motivated and prevents you from getting stuck.
Of course, your outlines and ideas don't have to be set in stone. NaNoWriMo is a time for exploration and experimentation, so don't be afraid to deviate from your initial plan if inspiration strikes. Use your brainstorming as a guide, but allow yourself the freedom to follow new ideas and let your story evolve organically.
Keeping Up with Your Writing Goals During Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with loved ones, indulging in delicious food, and expressing gratitude for the blessings in our lives. But for writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, it can also be a potential obstacle in reaching their writing goals.
One effective strategy is to plan ahead. Look at your calendar and identify specific days or times during the holiday when you can dedicate uninterrupted writing time. Communicate your intentions to your loved ones and kindly ask for their support in giving you the space you need to write. Setting clear boundaries and expectations will help ensure that you have the time and mental space to focus on your writing.
Another approach is to embrace the Thanksgiving holiday as a source of inspiration. Take advantage of the festive atmosphere and use it to fuel your creativity. Consider incorporating Thanksgiving themes or traditions into your writing. This can not only make your writing more engaging, but it can also help you stay motivated and excited about your project.
Remember, the Thanksgiving holiday is about balance. While it's important to prioritize your writing goals, spending quality time with your loved ones and enjoying the holiday festivities is also crucial. Find a balance that works for you, whether it's writing in the morning before the festivities begin or dedicating specific pockets of time during the day for both writing and holiday celebrations.
Strategies to Avoid Burnout and Maintain Momentum
Writing a novel in 30 days can be a whirlwind experience that can quickly lead to burnout. That's why it's crucial to pace yourself and have strategies to maintain momentum throughout National Novel Writing Month.
One effective strategy is to break your writing into smaller, manageable chunks. Instead of pushing yourself to write for long stretches of time, set aside specific intervals throughout the day for focused writing sessions. This allows you to maintain a steady pace and prevents overwhelm.
Another helpful tactic is to take regular breaks and give yourself time to recharge. Stepping away from your writing and engaging in other activities can help prevent burnout and keep your creativity flowing. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, or indulge in a hobby you enjoy. This time away from writing will help you stay motivated and energized when you return to work.
Additionally, make sure to celebrate your progress along the way. Acknowledge and reward yourself for meeting milestones or reaching specific word counts. This positive reinforcement will keep you motivated, remind you of how far you've come, and inspire you to keep going.
Need Some More NaNoWriMoTools?
This free workbook contains prompts, tips, tools, and ideas for developing a writing project. If you need a little inspiration for your NaNoWriMo project, it’s the perfect resource AND it’s free.
Go forth and enjoy National Novel Writing Month!