Tips from a NaNoWriMo Old Timer

This is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, so maybe calling myself an “Old Timer” might be a bit of an exaggeration…but I DO feel qualified to give a few tips.

First off, let’s cover the basics:

Okay, now onto more specific tips. I’ve organized them by category—Productivity, Motivation, and Craft. If you have ANY to add, please, please, PLEASE mention them in the comments! I know I’ve forgotten things. 🙂

Also, if you haven’t yet, please add us Pub Crawlers as your NaNo buddy! Our usernames are all below (along with our word counts! Eek!).

Productivity Tips:

  • If you can, I think a daily routine really helps. Notify your family and friends and coworkers now. Tell them you need uninterrupted time during your lunch break/after dinner/before school/etc. It helps if you inform people of your NaNo goals.
  • Rachel Aaron, author of the Eli Monpress series, has an AMAZING blog post about increasing your word count. I use this method every time I sit down to write a scene, and it’s mindblowing how much more I can write in an hour now.
  • Even if you don’t want to use Rachel Aaron’s method, I do think having a solid idea of what you’re going to write when you sit down helps keep your word count high and writing focused. If you outline, then you’re already golden for this. But, if you’re a panster like me, then using this headlight method–planning just as far ahead as the “headlights” reach—can be amazingly helpful.
  • For some people, a playlist can really 1)help get you in the mood to write, 2) help you imagine the scene you’re about to write, and 3) continue to stay “in” the scene as you type away. Plus, it can be great for blocking out outside distractions. Sarah J. Maas has a playlist that she finds inspiring.
  • If you can, find a good location. This is an intentionally vague suggestion because MY good location isn’t going to be the same as YOUR good location. Be it a coffee shop, your bed, or your best friend’s couch, if you can try to find time working at the best place for your creativity, you’ll really see your word count skyrocket.
  • The Rescue Time application is an interesting tool I recently signed up for…because for the month of November, if you’re doing NaNo, the application is FREE. It keeps track of what you do on your computer and helps you see just how much time you waste on Facebook (or in my case, on Pinterest). It can also—if you want it to—block out various websites and force you to only write for X-amount of time. I haven’t used it long, but it’s definitely interesting (and did I mention the free part?).
  • Take care of your body. Eat well, sleep well, and DON’T DRINK ENERGY DRINKS. Not only will they make you pee uncontrollably (for realz, I am not making this up), but they just aren’t good for your creative mind. You want to reach the end of November alive, right?

Motivation Tips:

  • The stats tab on your dashboard  is going to be your best friend. It’s got this really useful graph to show you your daily progress related to the recommended 1,667 daily word count. Seriously, it’s SO satisfying to log into your account, update your progress, and watch the bar graph climb.
  • If you need a little nudge or want a brief break from the keyboard, head to the Pinterest board that I set up (along with Jessica Spotswood, Beth Revis, Jessica Khoury, Sarah J. Maas, and Erin Bowman) for NaNoWriMo 2012. We pin motivational quotes and the occasional motivating hot guy. 😉
  • A lot of people will meet up with other NaNo-ers in their region. You can hang out at coffee shops or libraries or whatever, but it’s great knowing all these other people are in the exact same boat as you. For some people, it really gets the creative mojo going.
  • If you can’t meet with people in person (or don’t want to), then writing sprints online are a great tool! Just reach out to other NaNo-ers on twitter or scout around the forums. Then, set a timer for some specific interval (I usually do 30 min) and write-write-write as fast as you can! Meet back after your time is up to see who “won”.

Writing Craft Tips:

And now, if you haven’t already, please enter the giveaway! Sarah J. Maas and I are giving away 2 5-page critiques to anyone who not only signs up for NaNo, but also WINS it! If you’re signed up for NaNo, then go ahead and enter the raffle now. We’ll check for winners come December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You tell me: What tips do YOU have for NaNoWriMo survival?


23 Responses to Tips from a NaNoWriMo Old Timer

  1. Jess Nov 2 2012 at 6:46 am #

    I’m doing super well this NaNo (just hit 7k, yeah!!!), but when the excitement fades, so does my wordcount. Hopefully, this tips will see me through once I stop being so motivated.

    Also, good luck to all you pub crawlers doing NaNo this year. 🙂

  2. Loie Nov 2 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Awesome post!!! And kinda funny too because this is the first time I wrote out a detailed outline for a novel where I road-mapped my character’s journey and gave a short paragraph for each scene in the book (all subject to change of course) . I was amazed at how fast I finished yesterday AND today! I woke up early this morning to write and finished in two hours. So I totally agree with this post, having an idea of where you’re going helps save time.

    Happy writing 🙂

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 10:03 am #

      This is great!! I bet you feel super productive too. Whenever I finish my goals–and faster than planned–I feel like Queen of the Universe for the rest of the day. 😉

  3. Leigh Smith Nov 2 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Thanks for the great tips. (And the Pinterest board which I just spent 30 minutes looking at.) Yes! That post by Rachel Aaron is incredible. It has helped me a lot and hopefully will even more in the future. Good luck! And this is my third year too! Yay Juniors!

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 10:04 am #

      OMGosh, Rachel Aaron is totally my writing guru. I have her writing book (2K to 10K) and it’s a compilation of all her best blog posts + a few other articles. That book helped my productivity SO much.

      And haha–we ARE juniors!! Love it!!

  4. Debbie Nov 2 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks for this post – really useful. It sounds really stupid but I never really thought of taking care of my body through NaNo before. I usually lock myself in a dark room and hit the coffee.

    I find keeping an eye on my writing buddies helps me through NaNo. Seeing their word counts is motivating (and sometime reassuring if I think I’m behind target).

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 10:17 am #

      I’m SO bad about taking care of my body during the throes of a deadline, BUT I’ve been trying to do more lately. The good thing is that I HAVE to take my dogs for walks around the block since we live in a condo with no yard–that at least gets me moving some. I’m also trying to cut back on the coffee since…well, I’ve shamefully reached that point where it no longer has any sort of waking effect. :-/

      And you’re totally right about friends word counts! I woke up and saw Sarah and Erin had massively out-paced me during the night. You know what this means!! 😉

      • debbie Nov 3 2012 at 7:02 am #

        Yes, I do. 🙂 Hope you catch up.

  5. Christa Nov 2 2012 at 10:55 am #

    This so such a fabulous post with so many helpful links! Definitely book marking it for future reference.

    And now I have extra incentive to “Win” NaNo this year!

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Yay!! You can DO IT!! 😀

  6. Ghenet Myrthil Nov 2 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks so much for this! I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year so I need all the help and inspiration I can get. I’m at a little over 1800 words for day 1 so feeling good so far! 🙂

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      Heck yeah! You’re above the needed daily rate, so that’s AWESOME!

  7. Amy Jane Nov 2 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    I’m new to your blog, but this is my third year (in a row) too. I did my first NaNo in ’06, and reached most of my 50,000 words one-handed, nursing my 6-month-old through the day and night (hey, if I’ve got to be sitting still anyway…)

    My tip: commit. And either have a real reason or tell lots of people with great enthusiasm so they believe asking you about your progress is encouraging rather than nagging.

    The first year (maybe every year…) I love it for the first 48 hours then freak-out and want to run away and change my mind.

    The trick is to make it hard to back out.

    I told my whole (small) church in ’06 and this delightful older gentleman asked me every. week. how my novel was going. (He even continued asking about progress in revision with genuine interest. Now I wonder if I never finished because he died and no one else cared…)

    That’s the telling-someone persistence-factor. Last two years (not this year, thankfully) I was in a pretty serious depression, and the daily sense of accomplishment was a deliberate feed into my mental health self-care.

    By this point, no one in my local world particularly supported my writing, so I latched into an online group that provided the accountability/motivation I didn’t have IRL.

    Knowing that you’re doing something that matters (especially when it’s fun most of the time) helps with persistence.

    • Sooz Nov 2 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      So many good points here. I definitely agree with the “commit” aspect. I’m in the lucky (or is it unlucky??) position of having a deadline for this NaNo book, so that really forces me to commit…which means I’ve forgotten to really mention the importance of that in my posts! I will totally make sure to mention this in my future NaNo posts during the month. Thank you!

  8. Soumi Roy Nov 3 2012 at 1:20 am #

    This is my first time in National Novel Writing Month, I hope to do well. I really don’t get much time left after my university but when ever I get free time, I just sat down with my laptop and start writing, listing to the songs that inspire me always. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo under my own name Soumi Roy. Thank you Susan for such wonder tips

    • Sooz Nov 5 2012 at 9:00 am #

      You’re so welcome, Soumi! And GOOD LUCK with your first NaNo! You can do it!! <3

  9. JQ Trotter Nov 3 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m doing NaNo for the first time this year. I’ve knocked out a good chunk of words now (around 15K) but I really think that the reason I can do that was the prep work I did. I had an outline planned out of almost every chapter from start to finish, so I don’t have to sit around and wonder what to do next. I also have a pandora playlist for the story that helps 🙂
    RescueTime’s sound like an interesting app. Thanks for all the great tips.

    • Sooz Nov 5 2012 at 9:00 am #

      WHAT?! 15K already?! That’s insanity–in a good way! Go YOU! I am enormously impressed. 😀

  10. Sorcha Nov 4 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    I’ve made my donation, picked up my widget, and now I’m ready to write!

    So far I’m sticking to the mantra that I need to write at least 1667 words a day. I figure if I can do some more and build up a little buffer then that’s great too, but I don’t want to lose all that buffer by getting lazy.

    I’m a terrible morning person but I think I may have to get efficient with my lunch time at work and use that to knock out some words and free up a little time in the evenings. Thanks for all the tips! I love the feeling of all being in this together.

    • Sooz Nov 5 2012 at 9:01 am #

      Lunch time/afternoon are my strong times too. I am very diligent in the mornings, but my word counts tend to be low…It’s great to figure out when you’re best writing time is–knowing lunch is good will help you reach your 1,667 each day! I have faith in you!! 😀

  11. Alexa (Loves Books) Nov 6 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I got off to a VERY slow start with NaNo (clocking it at only 500 words for the first three days), but I’m slowly and surely catching up. This is in part due to my growing love affair with my WIP. It also has been helping to do NaNo battles with everyone on Twitter! My word count goes up, up, up. I’m still behind, but I’m getting there!

    • Sooz Nov 8 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Yay! I’m so glad you’re picking up! Doing writing sprints has been insanely helpful for me too! Don’t miss our #NaNoWriMoBattle today at 4 ET! And then there’s another round at 8!

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