I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I have a second draft of a first novel that I’m supposed to be revising. I have the first draft of a second novel that is so far on the back burner that it’s going to be like reading someone else’s writing by the time I revisit it. I’m still doggedly pursuing my goal of submitting my flash fiction to a different literary publication every month this year. I’ve entered my work in three different competitions in the past six weeks, which involves hours of polishing. And on top of all that, I maintain this blog with once-weekly posts because, doggone it, if no one else is going to publish my work, I’ll do it myself thank you very much!
And yet . . .
Yesterday I reached 24,303 words on a brand-spanking new project. It’s book three, or a hot mess of spewed verbiage that will eventually become book three if I ever stop chasing after new ideas. Yes, my cake-baking, procrastinating, cardigan-wearing millennial who can’t understand the pressure to have a side hustle when she doesn’t even want to have a main hustle is back at her reluctant amateur sleuthing. Book three will be full of family drama, dark secrets, deathbed confessions, and bitter estrangement. I’m not going to lie—it has been a lot of fun to write so far.
This is my third NaNoWriMo. I’ve been hooked since my first, in 2020. I love the pressure, the deadline, the edge of competing against myself, the hype and the sense of community on the discord servers I frequent. I love word sprints and random prompts and letting my fingers take over when my mind doesn’t quite know where the story should go. Even so, around this time of the month, things can become a bit of a slog. Some of the initial enthusiasm is dying down. People are getting tired. I’m getting tired. Life takes a wrong turn and starts getting in the way. The laundry pile gets too big.
How can you get over the hump, out of the blahs, and onwards toward the finish line? Here are 10 tips to help you survive NaNoWriMo:
1) Reward yourself.
Gold stars for every milestone! Bribery works, people. When I reach 30,000 words, I’m having an at-home spa night. Rejuvenating face mask, bubble bath, eucalyptus in the diffuser, twinkly lights and candles, a glass of prosecco, fluffy robe—it’s happening! 20,000 was an early pyjama evening with a book from my TBR. Little treats work too. I wrote today even though I was tired? Cappucino for me! I hit my word target for the day? Let’s scroll TikTok for half an hour. You get the idea.
2) Step away.
Sometimes your brain says enough is enough. Listen to it. Go outside for a walk, switch on a comfort show on Netflix, tackle the laundry—whatever it is, do something that will let your brain recharge.
3) Let it suck.
You’re not writing the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. You’re spewing the raw elements of a story onto the page. Let it be bad. You can edit bad; you can’t edit a blank page. Just get the words flowing and enjoy the journey. See where the momentum takes you. Ignore the backspace button!
4) Don’t compare.
Some of the writers I sprint with can rack up the most intimidating word counts. If I allowed myself to be discouraged by how my words stack up beside theirs, I’d probably give up. Don’t compare yourself to other writers; just be encouraged by running this crazy marathon alongside them.
5) Take care of your body.
Eat good food. Move your body. Get some sleep. Drink more water. And repeat.
6) Check in with others.
Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Connect with your region through the NaNo website. Get on a discord server where you can run some sprints with people. Find a local in-person write-in. Even going to a café to write can feel a little less alone.
7) Schedule your time.
Time is a wily thing. It slips away so quickly, and it can be hard to guard what precious little writing time you may have. Block out times on your schedule that you will dedicate to writing. Set your phone to remind you and turn off any digital distractions that might eat away at that time slot.
8) Track your progress.
Have a visual depiction of your progress. It is so satisfying to colour in bubbles or squares on a progress chart and see them gradually getting closer and closer to the goal.
9) Put a pin in it.
You’ll come across roadblocks in your story. Have a notebook handy to scribble them down and come back to later. You can decide on names, hair colour, and a lot of the minutia later. Big plot hole? Put it in your notes. Decision you’re waffling on? Put it in your notes. Scene you’re totally stuck on? Put it in your notes, or [USE A PLACEHOLDER] and move on for now.
10) Enjoy the process.
It’s just for fun, after all. If you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point? Find joy in the act of creating stories.