By Michael D. Young
So, you want to do NaNoWriMo? Good! And good luck! It’s not for the faint of heart, especially if writing is not your primary profession. I’ve done NaNoWriMo eight times and managed to write the full 50,000 words seven out of the eight times, all while trying to juggle family and work life. Though it can be difficult, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience that has produced some of my favorite work.
So much of the time, it’s easy for writing to take a back burner in life. But with NaNoWriMo, I always have an excuse at least once a year to put writing on the . . . front burner, I guess? (Is that even an expression?)
Consider this your NaNoWriMo pep talk. I speak from experience and I intend to keep this yearly tradition up for as long as I can type words on a screen. I hope you’ll make it part of your yearly schedule as well.
First, you need to realize that you CAN do this. For most of us, it isn’t going to be easy. Even after doing it seven times in the past, it still requires a lot of good planning, discipline, and determination to reach the finish line. It really is like a long-distance race that you can win if you keep a steady pace. This also means, however, that you risk getting burned out if you procrastinate and try to sprint full speed ahead at the end. Before you even start, you need to get into the right mindset—victory is possible, even if you aren’t yet a seasoned writer. You just have to be consistent and persistent.
Second, go in with a plan. What your plan will be like will depend on your own schedule. If you split the task up equally among the days in November, you end up with a daily goal of about 1,667 words per day. That’s one way to look at it, and if you have a dedicated time you can write every day, this might be a good plan for you. You might want to set a weekly goal instead, so that you can write more some days and less some days, depending on your schedule. Make the plan before November hits, so that you can get started right away.
Third, set daily/weekly goals and try to exceed them early on. If there is one thing I have learned about NaNoWriMo, it is that things always come up. Even your best-laid plans will be frustrated at times. For this reason, I suggest trying to make a lot of progress early on in the month. Then, if you have a day when everything goes wrong and you can’t get to writing, you’ll be able to recover. On the days you are feeling better, write more to compensate for those inevitable days when you will not feel as good. Even if you have a really stressful day that ends up being packed wall to wall, write something. Every little bit of progress will help, and every little victory will help you stay motivated. I find that slow and steady works a lot better than infrequent sprints, but that’s just my style.
Fourth, turn off your editor brain. Remember that nothing in a first draft has to be permanent. The first draft is like telling the story to yourself, and you’ll have the subsequent drafts to refine the text and make it seem like you knew what you were doing in the first draft. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get the words on the paper so that you can mold them into finished product . . . eventually. Resist the urge to go back and rewrite the chapter you just finished. Keep going until you’ve hit the finish line and then crank up your editor brain.
Finally, don’t give up on your project when November ends, and be sure to share your success. It is an accomplishment to be proud of, but it’s not the end of the road. I take a few days off and then launch back into my project. Most of my books are longer than 50,000 words, so I use December or even into January to finish what I started. It helps you finish the year strong and start the new year with a bang.
Once again, good luck to you all. On your marks, get set, go!
About The Author:
Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Western Governors University with degrees in German teaching, music, and instructional design. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music, and spending time with his family. He played with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square for several years and is now a member of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. He publishes anthologies for charity in his Advent Anthologies series. He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Bards and Sages Quarterly, Mindflights, Meridian, The New Era, Allegory, and Ensign.