5 Things You’ll Need to Win NaNoWriMo

It’s October 30th, meaning NaNoWriMo is just two days away! I know I’m pretty stoked to be working on a brand new project. With the exception of some short fiction, this year has been all about revisions for me, so I’m looking forward to a change of pace.

A few days back, I did a post about preparing for NaNo, but the closer I get to November 1st, the more I realize that failure or success during NaNoWriMo is often attributed to outlines, rewards systems, word wars, or bringing a friend, but going in with the right mental state is just as (if not even more so) important. So here are five things that I think everyone needs to help succeed.

1. Strong Time Management Skills- I know this sounds like something you might list off hand on a resume, but there’s a reason why it’s at the very top of this list. The idea of writing 50,000 words in one month sounds absolutely daunting, but last year I managed to surpass that by putting aside roughly an hour a day (with a little more on the weekends) to writing. Now, I’m a fairly fast writer, so you might want to up that a bit, but working on something for an hour or two a day is something that most people can work into their schedule (granted, I’m not counting parents who work full time into this generalization. You guys get so much respect for me for just keeping it together. Also, people working on post-grad degrees. Good luck doing all of that reading). Just think about how much time you spend on non-vital activities. How much time do you spend on social networking sites, like facebook or twitter? Or watching TV, netflix or youtube videos? Or reading books or comics? Playing video games, or using your smart phone? I bet you anything it’s at least an hour or two a day. I’m not saying these need to be cut from your life completely (I’m reading the new Tamora Pierce book next month if it kills me! AND I’m seeing Thor 2), but you’d probably shocked at how much time you can find if you made writing a priority over updating your twitter. You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on these things later anyway.

2. A Story that You can Get Excited About– You’re much more likely to fly through those pages if you have an idea that you’re really excited about, so pick your project with care. If you’re like me, you probably have several story ideas floating around in your mind at any given time. Try to pick the one that thrills you, even if it’s not an “important” story or necessarily fits the NaNo length (I’ll be writing into December myself). If you don’t have an idea at hand, think about the stories you love to read the most. What’s something you would get excited about seeing at your bookstore/library? Better yet, what’s something you’d like to see in the wild, but haven’t encountered yet?

3. The Ability to be Okay with “Good Enough for Now”- What seems to derail the most people is the urge to go back and revise. You’ll be chugging ahead just find until you look back over the beginning of chapter one and realize that the writing is really crappy. Then you’ll spend so much time fixing it that you’ll not only fall behind, but actually see your word count go down. It’s a lot easier to resist the urge to do this if you accept one very important reality. First drafts, are usually really shitty. Yes, in my revisions I’ll occasionally come across a scene where I’ll find myself impressed at what happened to emerge from my mind, but for the most part, it’s a mess. During NaNo, try to limit your revisions to taking notes off to the side about things you might want to go back and change. NaNo is all about forward momentum, and you’ll never achieve that if you can’t get past chapter one.

4. Perseverance- My biggest challenge with NaNo isn’t day one. Yes, there are few things more intimidating than a blank page, but once I get my fingers moving, I’m usually fine. The problems come when we get to the latter half of the month. All of a sudden, I’m less than enthused about my awesome NaNo idea. I don’t want to sit down and write anymore. I find my attention wavering to the internet other tempting distractions. Dealing with this is always tricky. Sometimes the answer is just pushing through those first twenty minutes of writing until you finally find your groove. Sometimes the answer is taking a day off. Regardless, if may not happen for you the same time as it does for me, but there are going to be times when you’re just not as excited about your project anymore. Getting past this plateau is difficult but necessary if you want to reach the finish line. Whatever you do, don’t give up!

5. A Love for Writing- Regardless if my calculations above are correct, this is something you’re going to spend A LOT of hours on in November. If you truly love writing, or feel that you have a story to share with the world (even if the world is just your hard drive), every second of it is worth it. And yes, that’s even true if the end product is irreparably bad, because I bet you learned something in the process. If you’re in it only because you want to be published, or you’re friends are pressuring you into it so they don’t have to go at it alone, you’re heart’s not going to be in it and finishing it is going to be even harder.  Admittedly, I feel an exception can be made for the curious, for those who have always wanted to try out writing, but have never seriously put there ideas down on paper. NaNo is supposed to be about self discovery right? Maybe you’ll discover the writer in you.

So those are my tips for getting in the right mental state. What do you think are some of the necessary qualifications for 30 days and nights of literary abandon?

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3 thoughts on “5 Things You’ll Need to Win NaNoWriMo

  1. Pingback: Welcome to NaNoWriMo | Picking Up the Pen

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