I've participated in National Novel Writing Month four times so far, three of those times successfully. This year, I'm going for it again, my goal being to finish the first draft of the novel I'm currently working on. At the moment, I'm 35.000 words into the manuscript. If I manage to add the 50.000 NaNoWriMo-words in November, the first draft should be as good as done. It'll probably be a mess, but it'll be words on the page that I can improve. The first hurdle taken.
So that's my goal for this year's NaNoWriMo. And the general conditions appear to be in my favor. I have no big travel plans this November. I started on the manuscript just two months ago, so I'm not burned out on it yet. And this manuscript is the second in a series, the first of which I'm currently querying agents with, which provides additional motivation to get the second one done asap.
But, I also tanked my last NaNoWriMo attempt two years ago. Okay, conditions weren't ideal that year, since I was backpacking through Peru during one of those weeks, but I didn't even manage my personal goal of 30.000 words in the previous three. So I thought back on how I managed 50.000 words those three times before, and realized I did adopt a few habits in those years that helped me get through. Maybe those can help you, too, so here they are:
1. Write. Don't Edit.
It's like vomiting words onto the page. Toss them out there as you're thinking them. Don't hesitate, don't look back. Editing, improving those words, can wait. As Nora Roberts said, you can fix anything but a blank page.
2. Create an Outline.
Tossing those words out there is easier when you have a good or even just a general idea of where your story is headed.
3. Ignore the Outline.
If at any point you have a lightbulb moment about the plot that conflicts with your outline, forget the outline. Follow the lightbulb. Then adjust the outline accordingly for your next writing session.
4. Write before Work / you start your Daily Routine.
Set your alarm an hour before your usual wake-up time. Take this time to write, and only write. No Emails. No Facebook, no Twitter. No kids. Just a cup of coffee, your laptop, and you.
5. Write on your Lunch Break.
Or on the bus or train. During the kids' nap time. Basically, write anywhere and anytime you get the chance.
6. Forget about the Word Count.
At least until the end of the day, when you can sit down and check how many words you've written. If you wrote in the morning, and every other chance you got, you might be closer to those 1.667 words/day than you think. You might even be over. If not, now's the time to finish them. Just don't distract yourself from your writing by worrying about the word count.
I'll be trying to get back into those habits and mind set this November. But what works for me, might not work for you. I'd love to hear about your own tips, tricks and habits that have helped you reach those 50.000 words in 30 days. Tell me about them in the comments.
And good luck to anybody attempting NaNoWriMo this year. Let's do this!