This is a list of survival tips for NaNoWriMo, things that help you keep your sanity in the race for 50k.
1. You are going to write crap and it’s okay.
Seriously. It is perfectly okay to write a lousy first draft. It is perfectly okay to write a story that will have to be completely dismantled during the first edit. It is perfectly okay to have a plot hole here or there and have coincidences all over. Remember, NaNoWriMo focuses on quantity, not quality. This is the time to get the story down as fast as possible, not make it perfect.
2. Relax and do not panic.
If you find yourself using all your initial ideas in the first few days or suddenly hit writer’s block, you are probably going to panic when you find that the well is dry. Take a breath, take a break, do not panic. Step away from the notebook or laptop and do something else.
3. Make allowances for yourself.
Everyone needs a break, everyone gets writer’s block. If you need to stop for a day or lower your word count goal, do it. (Besides, NaNo likes to emotionally, physically, and mentally drain writers. As a friend of mine said last November, “It is a marathon of tears and headaches and caffeine.”)
So, you’ve recharged your batteries, you’re relatively calm, you’re okay with imperfection. You even have and idea for the next scene. But when you go to put pen to paper… you feel a bit overwhelmed and kind of scrambled. Here’s where one of my favorite tools comes in. Get a notebook and open to a fresh page. Write what happens in the scene in a clear, easy for you to understand way. Include anything you want to remember to write in that scene. Basically, you are outlining this one scene.
Another thing to do planning-wise would be plan your scene before time for you to write. If you figure out what you want to write before you sit down to write it, you won’t spend your writing time planning what to do next.
5. Ask for help.
You get stuck. Bad stuck. You aren’t sure what to do next or how to make that one character less annoying or what to name that character who suddenly showed up in the bar and now has a whole subplot. And you need the answer sooner rather than later.
Ask for help. Ask a writing friend or a sibling or anyone you’re okay explaining a bit of your story to (because in order to get help, you may need to helper to understand part of the story). But beware, the person you’re asking may give you a completely different idea than what you need and if you’re a pantser, that could be disastrous. (For example: “I think you should put ninjas in the scene.” “Oh that’s a cool idea. Yeah, this is a medieval fantasy dystopia, but I could totally work those ninjas in.”)
6. Word war.
Need word count fast? Grab a friend or five and have a word war! Also called a word sprint, word wars are when you and other writers write as fast as you can for a set amount of time. These can be competitive (whoever writes the most words wins!) or just be an encouraging form of peer pressure (everyone else is writing; I need to write, too).
Okay, that was a really bad way to put it.
7. Do not neglect your family.
This is important. During NaNo, we can get so caught up in our writing and other things, that we neglect our families and we’re not the most pleasant people to be around. Chances are that your family isn’t going to let you write in peace all day for 30 days. And you’ve got other work, too.
Please. Try to be patient with your family. Especially when you have writer’s block or would rather be writing. The writing can and will wait. Your family is more important than how many words you write, EVERYTIME. And chances are that when you try to be kind and patient and genuinely have fun spending time with your family, they will be more patient and understanding when you need to write. (Try it, at least. It couldn’t hurt.)
8. Do not up the caffeine or sugar.
This is a different bit of advice than the others, but I am serious. Giving yourself more caffeine than usual has a million side-effects that are not conducive to writing (i.e.– increased addiction to caffeine, jitters, needing to go to the bathroom more often). And more sugar is bad, too. I know that I included treats as a thing to get in preparation for NaNo, but eating too much of those has its bad side-effects, too. (Personally, I get a headache and become emotional when I do this.)
9. Have fun.
For all the bad things I’ve mentioned that could possibly go wrong during NaNo, this last bit of advice is crucial. The main part of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in a month, despite time constraints and lack of certainty. Think of it as an ego-boost for yourself. But if you don’t make it to 50k, it’s still okay. You tried! You’re awesome just for that! And chances are good that you were awesome before you decided to try. (On that note, read this post from YAvengers.) Have fun during NaNo. And if you aren’t having fun, make it fun.
Hope the tips are helpful! Anything I left out? I’d love to hear in the comments!