The month is already mostly gone. (How is that possible? I mean, really. Wasn’t the end of NaNo just yesterday?) But that’s given me plenty of time to reflect upon my lessons learned from National Novel Writing Month 2015.
There is always something new to learn in writing. Never will you learn it all, and the best authors never claim to have learned it all. I always find tips from other authors interesting, even if they do not work for me, and so that’s what I’ve compiled from my experience with NaNo this year for you: 6 tips learned from writing 1667 words a day for 30 days.
1. Finishing a WIP can give you both a high and low.
I went a bit “untraditional” with my NaNo novel this year. If you look at my Stats page on NaNoWriMo, you’ll see that I claimed my book as “Spurn the Moon Draft 2.5.” Well, I have to confess: that’s only partly true. About 20K of my NaNo-win words were from that WIP; that was all it took for me to reach The End on that draft, and I had plans to move on to a new revision after typing The End.
However, even though I got that thrill and “high” of those two little words resolved for the bittersweet ending of a novel, the next few days were a significant low in my writing word count.
I had a really hard time transitioning to my next project. I decided that the project I had planned to revise I had no motivation to revise at this time, and then settled on another novella in need of revision that I wrote earlier this year in Camp NaNo. It was a bit outside my typical genre, but happened to be a spinoff with three of the same characters from Spurn the Moon and one of the same settings.
Once I decided on that, things began to go smoother for me. I retyped every word of that revision (and am still working on it), so few sentences have remained unaltered. But it wasn’t until I committed to that novella, with a working title of Footprints in the Dust, that I was able to move on from Spurn the Moon and let go of that WIP.
2. To increase your productivity, try switching genres.
As I began to discuss in number 1, if I wanted to win NaNo this year, I had to move on to another project after Spurn the Moon Draft 2.5. As it is with “real writers,” there wasn’t any choice. I had to keep writing. While that novel is finished for the time being, and although it is still desperately in need of revision, I have to let it rest.
But transition was difficult. I needed something to distract me from my novel, and I used my blog as that distraction. Switching from fiction to non-fiction can sometimes be a great move when you’re at a loss for your fictional world, or when you’re burnt out on that story.
I went to my blog and began to research and write about writing. Sometimes this can unlock the very thing that is blocking me and move me from blah to inspired in my own fiction.
And once I transitioned to non-fiction, it acted as a sort of cleanse to rewire my brain so I could focus on a different fictional world again.
3. Don’t be afraid to take a day off when you’re burnt out.
I’m not afraid to admit: this NaNo I got burned out. But the important thing was that I didn’t let it completely derail me. How?
There were days this month when my son didn’t sleep well, I was exhausted from being up with him all night, and I wanted nothing but to nap during his nap time.
Some days, I took a nap instead of writing.
There were also days when I was simply braindead. I couldn’t type a word of my story and those that did came slow and pained.
Some days, it was more productive to turn off the computer, read a book or watch an episode of Psych.
Was that procrastination? No. No. NO! It was taking care of my body and mind first. Unless your body and mind is healthy, writing will become a chore and something that drains you rather than revitalizes you.
4. Write when you’re inspired, revise when you’re tired (and have a backup plan).
Well, first off, I’m an advocate of showing up to write every day. But for NaNo 2015, I aimed to write more than the minimum word count required each day in order to win NaNo.
I did this purposefully in order to give myself some cushion. I knew there would be days where I wouldn’t get the 1667 words written that I needed, and I was serious about winning. Therefore, I made my goal at least 2000 words a day, and that way when I didn’t reach that magic number on one day, I was able to have a significant cushion.
I also did something else. When I was on a roll, I didn’t quit writing. If I hit that 2K words and the words were still flowing, I kept going. If I hit 3K and the words were still coming (and it wasn’t an ungodly hour of the morning), I kept going.
5. Connecting (or lurking) with other writers can give you a boost of inspiration.
The fantastic thing about an event like NaNo is the sheer number of other writers trying to do the exact same thing you are: write 50K in 30 days.
It can give you a huge inspiration boost (or competitive boost) to see how much another writer has written that day. Instagram was a flurry of word count updates and photos of authors in their natural environment. Not only are pictures often inspiring, but seeing how many writers are using NaNo to get their words written and how many are demolishing their goals and who is struggling. (Not that I advocate comparison between yourself and another writer, but you can be the one to encourage a struggling writer and share your struggles too!)
6. You must make writing a part of your daily routine.
Okay, I already knew this last one, but this past November I was reminded of it. After all, since having my first child, my daily routine has changed quite a bit. No longer do I live on my schedule, but my life revolves around a little tyrant with plenty of demands.
That said, I still managed to win NaNo with over 70K words written. How did I do it, you ask?
Hmm. That may be a post for another day. But mostly by being deliberate. Nap times became writing times, dishes went unwashed (or washed while the tyrant was awake and otherwise occupied), dinners may have not been cooked, and I didn’t go to bed without attempting to write something every day. But mostly it was my attitude which led to pounding out the words.
Create a habit of writing every day and you’ll be surprised by how many words you can pound out when you’re in front of your keyboard.