It’s that time of year when we fasten our capes, buckle on our swords, brace our fingers, and begin to fight—ahem, write.
Fifty thousand words written in one month. Are the warriors who attempt this venture insane or courageous? Perhaps they are both, but whether you defeat NaNo or merely survive it, the fight will strengthen you in your day to day struggles against word counts and plot twists. After all, producing a five-hundred word article is nothing compared to writing two thousand words a day for a whole month.
With this major battle before you, here are three tactics that can give you victory in your quest.
Yep, those things that nag at you when you try to ignore life—or writing. But deadlines make sense. No one enters a war with the whole fight laid out before them. Instead, a soldier is assigned one mission at a time. Wars are divided into battles, and battles into maneuverers. Conquered piece by piece, what at first seems overwhelming becomes at least doable.
Fifty thousand words in a month seems like a huge amount, but 10,250 a week breaks it down a little. If you plan to write six days a week, that’s only an average of 1,725 words a day—which is roughly five hundred words multiplied three and a half times! That’s not so bad.
Another advantage of deadlines is that they help you monitor your progress. Are you ahead enough to take a day off from writing? Do you need to catch up on your novel? Or maybe you know you want to take a certain day off, like Thanksgiving. Plan for that ahead of time, distributing the extra words over a week or two so the work won’t sweep you off your feet. On the other hand, maybe you have a free week and want to write five thousand words a day for a short time so you have more leeway later on. Whatever your situation, deadlines keep you on track.
Battles take time and sweat and work and blood… Well, you probably won’t spend blood on your writing. At least I hope not. But writing does require time, finger work, and plenty of mental strain. And, unlike soldiers in the fields, many of you also have school, a job, or chores to attend to as well as writing. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any time to write.
If a task is important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. This is true of nearly every area of life, including writing. If a goal is of immense importance to you, then you will go to great lengths and make sacrifices to accomplish it. If it’s not that important, then you will stray into distractions much quicker, unconcerned about the state of your goal as you turn your focus to another project or nothing else in particular. So, before you stake out time for writing, you need to make sure you are mentally prepared for war. If you don’t care about winning, you probably won’t have the dedication needed to triumph.
Although life tends to alter our plans, we generally have more time than we think. Perhaps you could skip playing a game or watching a movie in favor of writing. Is social media swallowing large chunks of time? Could you get up earlier, or exchange some precious reading time to write a few hundred words? Maybe you could put other crafts or self-imposed tasks on hold for a month. It won’t be easy, but no battle worth winning ever is.
Warfare isn’t all drudgery. Morale must be kept alive and strong, so reward your victories. The elation you’ll feel when a daily word count is finished might be satisfying enough, but there are other things you can do.
Perhaps you can reward yourself with a game, or free time relaxing outside, or a favorite book. Maybe you allot yourself a small treat or break after every five hundred words you write, making the process of the daily word count seem more manageable. I will sometimes forbid myself to check e-mail or social media until a certain word count is reached. Or I’ll have smaller projects I want to tinker with, but instead of doing them all before I settle down to write, I space them out between each five hundred words. Occasionally I give myself some chocolate after a chapter is finally completed, or I’ll head outside to practice on the slack line or with my bow. Remember that writing isn’t meant to be dull, dragging work that you force yourself into for a whole month. Some parts will be more exciting than others, but keep your spirits up and forge ahead. Victory is on the horizon!
Aftermath and Beyond
With perseverance and dedication, deadlines, carefully carved out time, and a high morale, you are well on your way to claiming the victory of NaNoWriMo. But if you slip, or if circumstances intervene to pull you off course, there is hope yet. For one, you can try again next year.
Also, these same tactics apply to any writing effort. Like any good strategy, these tips can be twisted and adapted to many situations. Keep moving forward and don’t give up. Whether it takes one month, two months, or five, you can get your novel done and the victory will be no less sweet even if it was longer in coming than you originally expected.