Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!
In this episode, I share my experience writing a book in a month during NaNoWriMo, why I think you should give it a go too, and how you can best prepare yourself for success.
Whether a beginner or seasoned writer, NaNoWriMo can offer the kick in the pants you need to get your next book written, while helping to build the habits and mindset needed for a prolific author career. Are you ready to end this year on a high with another book under your belt? Then sit back and enjoy the show!
Sign up for NaNoWriMo here: https://nanowrimo.org/
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Find the full transcript of this episode below.
Episode 35: Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo
Hello, my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors.
So I hope you’re ready to start another productive writing week. Can you believe that we’re in the last week of October? So this year has gone so incredibly fast. October is always one of my favorite months despite being laid up with COVID this month, which has really sucked.
But I am almost equally as excited for November, to be honest, because November brings one of my absolute favorite writing events that I want to talk to you about in this episode. So if you’ve been in the writing world for a while, I’m sure you would have heard of NaNoWriMo. And if not, then I’m going to tell you all about it. I’m going to tell you why I personally love it. And what you can do to help make it a success, if you’re looking at indulging in National Novel Writing Month in November this year.
I know there’s always mixed feelings out there about National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. And so I just want to put the emphasis on this episode is really based on my experience, what has worked for me, why I love it. If something just doesn’t vibe for you in what I’m saying, then just don’t even worry about it. Just take what’s of interest and let everything else go.
But maybe for some of you, this will be the kick in the pants that you need, or the inspiration to give NaNoWriMo a go or to start on a novel that maybe you’ve been putting off or a story you’ve been putting off or to start a new project or to start your very first project. Because to be honest, NaNoWriMo is really what I credit for having written my very first novel. Just for those of you who maybe NaNoWriMo is a new thing, let me just tell you a little bit about it. So I was actually living in Canada. I now live in New Zealand, but I was living in Canada at the time when I first heard about NaNoWriMo. And that was probably, actually, I think it must’ve been around 2007 because I was going through my book case and pulled out a book written by the founder of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty. His book, No Plot, No Problem: A Low Stress High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. And I’d had actually put the date on the inside that said 2007. So it must’ve been sometime around there. And living in North America and managing a bookstore, somehow everything came together that I first heard about NaNoWriMo, and it was something that stuck in my mind of interest for 10 years until I actually dove in and gave it a go.
So, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you know that I’ve always dreamed of being an author, always dreamed of writing fiction novels. And I sat on the sidelines and didn’t for majority of my life. I did write short stories and I did have a few of those published in local literary journals here in New Zealand. And I did start a multitude of novels going all the way back to when I was a kid. But they would have been lucky to have even got anywhere close to the 10,000 word mark before I totally discarded them.
So NaNoWriMo is something created originally by Chris Baty back in 2007 in San Francisco. It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes creative writing. And although it started off in America, in the US it is something now that really is embraced by people all around the world. I mean, I didn’t start doing NaNoWriMo until I was back here, living in New Zealand.
The premise of it is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, 30 days in November. And of course 50,000 words to most of us who write novels makes for a rather short novel, or there is controversy that it even is a novel at that length. But what I thought was fantastic, is it was a springboard for what actually did eventually become two of my novels.
And if you’re on the fence about the 50,000 word count that this writing event is based around, Chris Baty in his book, No Plot, No Problem, actually mentions a good range of books that actually are roughly around the 50,000 word count. And that’s classics like, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, Brave New World by Huxley, Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
So NaNoWriMo makes its home online through their website, which I think at the present is nanowrimo.org, but I will put the link in the show notes, of course. And every November or prior to November, you can sign up to be a part of this amazing worldwide challenge. I think at the moment when I last logged on just recently to their website, they were saying that they had over 798,000 active novelists, and over 368,000 novel’s completed. And I don’t have the data as to how many countries are involved in this, but let’s just say there are hundreds of thousands of people all around the world that every November come together more often than not in just the virtual capacity through the internet of connecting to write their novels. Sometimes their first novel sometimes just to get a kickstart on a different project, and away they go.
So NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is really this cool get together of novelists and want to be novelists and writers all around the world with this common goal of usually writing 50,000 words in the tight timeframe of a month, 30 days.
The website is set up that you can create your project. You can give it a title. You can write a synopsis for it. You can share as much details as you like. You can connect with others through the community chats, you can join little groups, you can invite buddies, you can do a whole range. To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of that networking, connecting with others thing for quite a few years now. But when I first went all in with NaNoWriMo back in 2015, I was all over that.
Back then there were groups that I joined that were groups for people over 30 years old, or groups for people who were writing this novel and had a day job, groups for people who are rebels and actually weren’t going to work on a novel, but we’re going to edit a novel instead, or write a collection of poems or just go against the flow. And that’s the really cool thing about this creative community, this creative endeavor, this creative event, is that there are rules, but there really aren’t any rules. The website is a really cool place where you can set a goal for yourself, whatever that goal is. Now it doesn’t really have to be 50,000 words. And it really doesn’t have to be a novel. But there’s lots of cool little badges you can award yourselves. There’s great discounts you can get on really cool writing software, the likes of Prowriting Aid, Freewrite devices, Plottr, discounts for a Scrivener and IngramSpark. You get to see all your stats. You get to see the cool little pretty bar graphs and line graphs and everything to show how you’re progressing along towards your goals.
And at end of November, so November 30th ,and you’re expected to log-in how many words you have done, and there is software that just double checks that it actually is 50,000 words, uh, quite often opens up other kind of awards and that. Extra discounts on writing software and things like that too, which is, it’s just really kind of cool.
And I don’t feel like I’m really doing justice for how cool this is.
Really NaNoWriMo is a self challenge. It’s a challenge where you can cheat, but where’s the value in that? The real reward comes from the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from writing 50,000 words in a month, which for many people, and particularly myself starting out, was phenomenal. It was mind blowing because never in my life had I actually written 50,000 words on any one story line ever before.
And so there are a lot of perks that come along, particularly, in building your writing character of self, your writing mindset and that. That I really attribute NaNoWriMo for having helped me with, and will possibly help you if you haven’t given this a go before.
So, let me share just a little bit about my own NaNoWriMo journey, right at the very beginning. So, like I mentioned, I think I first stumbled across it back in 2007 when I was working in and helping manage a large bookstore in Canada, when I was living there. And I remember one of my colleagues was an aspiring author and I was so envious of her because I just did not have that dedication back then, writing was that dream, that thing I always talked about and never did.
But she would spend every spare moment, every lunch break and afternoon tea break and everything, in the staff room with her notebook and her pen and writing. And she was always talking about the stories that she was writing. And she was always doing this. And I think she was probably the one that brought it to my attention, that there was even such a thing as NaNoWriMo.
And it just interested me so much that somebody was so dedicated, that they would spend every spare moment when they weren’t physically working, writing. Like how did a person do that? I’d never been able to do that. Was that was she even human? And of course, lots of people can do that. That’s a thing of my own that at the time it was so unbelievable, and so far out of the scope of what I thought I’d be capable of. And part of that was probably because when it came to novel writing, I had no idea where to start. I had been writing short stories for an incredibly long time. And that was easy because there was an easily seen start and finish to them and they didn’t have to be particularly long.
So as my dreams of being an author and writer continued and I started and I stopped what I thought was going to be novels. I eventually moved back to New Zealand where I’m originally from, in 2011. And I set about changing careers. I went back to university. I got a teaching degree and I started my first teaching job back in 2015. And educators will get this. Teaching is a really interesting career. The hours really can be insane. And I know there’s lots of professions like that. I know don’t want to take away from that. But the hours really can be quite insane, and no teaching college really prepares you for what it’s like in the classroom and the nuances of it, and the amounts of work that you take home and the mental load and emotional load as well, that stays with you in the afternoons, the evenings, the weekends, the holidays, and all of that.
So it was my very first year of teaching, where I was trying to find my feet, and most teachers will tell you those first couple of years are incredibly tough because you’re really just trying to keep your head above water the entire time. So why I thought that that would be the year that I would attempt NaNoWriMo for the first time, I have no idea. And what’s more, NaNoWriMo traditionally takes place in November, which is report writing season here in New Zealand, where we do our end of year reports, as our school year goes from February through to December. And report writing is pretty intense. You’re usually writing a lot about each individual child that you teach, in your own time. And as it was, I was already spending a lot of my weekends and evenings just prepping and trying to get my head around the whole teaching biz, even all the way at the end of the first year. It was not something that I was able to pick up super fast.
But for whatever reason, I decided I was going to try and do NaNoWriMo. And I did. I had the vaguest of ideas. I had one scene which was purely of a woman murdering a man with an ax. I know, lovely. And I had an opening scene as well, that it was going to take place at a school. And that was it. That was my entire preparation for diving into NaNoWriMo. I didn’t really have a title. I didn’t have any idea what the ending was going to be like. I didn’t know the characters very well. I was just absolutely committed that come hell or high water. I was going to write 50,000 words in November.
And surprisingly I did. Now, if anybody finds me on the NaNoWriMo website now, I don’t know what’s happened over the last couple of years, but there have been two or three times that I’ve actually won NaNoWriMo. And that first time was one where I did reach that 50,000 mark. And I have since noticed that the numbers, my word counts have dropped by about 2000 words on a couple of the books that I know I made that 50,000 word milestone. So I’m not quite sure what happened. I think they’ve changed website providers or something in that time, I’m not quite sure. But anyway, I stand by the fact that I did make that 50,000.
And I will let you in on some of the ways that I managed to do that. If you’re looking at doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, or maybe it’s not your first time, and you just like to hear tips from what worked for other people. So I will share some of that. The things that I learnt while I did NaNoWriMo have actually stayed with me the entire time, and are a core part of my normal every day to day writing process. They haven’t changed. Every time I start a new project, it is as if I am starting naNoWriMo all over again.
And that is something that I particularly love about their website. Is that it is set up that you can actually start new projects anytime of the year. You don’t have to wait to NaNoWriMo. You can do them at any time with your own word count and there’s website pages that will kind of help keep you accountable. With lots of little novelties and incentives that work particularly well, if your brain is wired the way that mine is and you have ADHD. So I’ll talk a little bit about that as well.
So some of the perks of diving into something like NaNoWriMo, where you’re forcing yourself to try and reach a milestone of 50,000 words within a month, starting on the first November and ending on the 30th of November, is that that small chunk of time really leaves you no option, but to get out of your own head. And I think most of us as writers and authors and poets and whatnot, we spend so much time in our head. And in our head often lives that horrible inner critic that likes to tell us that we suck at writing, that what we write is complete trash, and we’re never going to make it, or if we have already done really well with one story or one book, we’re never going to be able to repeat that again. So that nasty little voice that chats away in our head, can sometimes take over whenever we sit down to start a project. Now, what I have found is that committing to such a short time span for a relatively large word count, you don’t really have time to indulge in that inner critic. It is about quantity of words and not quality of words. And I know this is a bit of a controversial subject because not everybody’s going to agree with me with this, but this is what works for me. Is that I have learned thanks to NaNoWriMo, to be all about getting the words on the page and cleaning it up later. NaNoWriMo is almost like the permission slip I needed to have that really shitty messy first draft, where I can experiment, where my characters can be really boring at times, where I can keep writing, even though the normal everyday word for something has escaped my mind, my mind has blanked at that time, and it’s okay because I know NaNoWriMo is not about having this beautiful, pristine finished book at the end of it. It is not about the editing process, unless, of course you set your own kind of rebellious goal that that is actually what you’re going to focus on for that month. But it is about getting words on paper, hitting a particular word count, and then using that as the backbone for whatever you like at the end of it, or throwing it away completely altogether.
And this is something that I not only continue to teach my own students to do, but I do. I am all about the word count and I really don’t care about the quality of the words so much in my first draft. Because if I get caught up in the quality of every word just being beautiful and every sentence just being this poetic masterpiece, then I know that it is going to take me forever to write anything for starters, and I’m probably going to lose steam with it or interest in it, and get bored and drop the whole thing.
So NaNoWriMo has been lifesaving for helping me get out of my own head. And previously as a real perfectionist when it came to my writing, hence one of the reasons that I didn’t write for most of my life although I kept telling everybody I wanted to be a writer, was because I was stuck in that perfectionism, of believing that everything had to be perfect the first time round. And most of us nowadays realize that that’s not the case at all.
So NaNoWriMo really helped with that, and it also actually gave me the backbones of some stories that actually did go on to being novels. They differ considerably from what I write during NaNoWriMo, but my two novels that I have out there in the world at the moment, both started off as NaNoWriMo projects. So back in 2015, I started what was later to become Unspoken Truths. It went through several iterations of titles, and the characters names changed, and the characters themselves changed, and the plot changed. And there is very little that is similar between the finished novel that’s out there in the world now and my NaNoWriMo project. The first couple of chapters I think are somewhat similar and I still have the woman with the ax. There we are. You can go read my book if you want to find out what that’s all about. And it still takes place in a school. Otherwise, there is not a lot that’s very similar. But, it gave me enough of a backbone that with a good few rewrites and editing and all the rest of it, it did become a novel. It actually became my second novel, my second published novel out there in the world. And it’s had great reviews. I personally really love it. And so there’s my happily ever after for that one. In 2017 I attempted NaNoWriMo and won again. And by won, I mean I made that 50,000 word count. And that became the backbone of my first published novel, Rest Easy Resort, which also is quite popular with the people who have read it, and it was the novel that really kick-started that confidence in myself that, Hey, I could do this.
And you’ll find, just a little bit of a Google search or something, that there’s actually quite a few novels out there in the world, best sellers even, that started as NaNoWriMo projects. Novels such as Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
So even though NaNoWriMo is meant as a bit of a creative challenge for yourself there’s nothing to say that quality can’t come out of it. Just, I think it’s just really good to keep in mind, that first drafts usually don’t always show that quality, but they might have some real nuggets of gold in them, and they might create a really great backbone for something really beautiful to come out of it.
Now because you’re given a month to write 50,000 words, and the idea is that you don’t come to NaNoWriMo with a project you’ve already started, so you’re literally starting a brand new project on November the first. There is that encouragement to really build that consistency with your writing. To reach that 50,000 word count goal, you need to be doing about 1,667 words a day. When I first started writing, that was one heck of a lot, and I am not a fast writer. At all. I have certainly gotten faster. But what I found was that I could actually create that consistency, even though I felt that my schedule was absolutely packed. I had very little free time in my day. I was, you know, well into a new career, but it was also one of the busiest months of the year in that career. I could still squeeze in writing a novel. I mean, who knew? I had always told myself that I didn’t have time to do that. But I found that I did. So it was really great for creating that consistent writing practice for me. Mainly because, as I’ve said before, I do have ADHD, and so my mind really finds it easier to focus and accomplish goals when there are little incentives or competition or even just something gimmicky that just engages my brain. And that’s what I really love about NaNoWriMo, because their website is set up with these little badges that you get rewarded when you write three days consecutively or a week consecutively, or the entire 30 days consecutively. And I wanted those cute little badges. Like I wanted them. And I know it might sound really ridiculous. But it was enough incentive for me to keep going. So even on those days where there was just too much going on, for example, I went on a school camp in November as well. And it is incredibly hard when you’re sleeping on the floor of a zoo. Like seriously, we were in a room at the zoo, sleeping on the floor with a room full of kids. I did not have my laptop. There was no quiet time or alone time for me to be typing words. What I did have though was my phone. And so I could log onto the website, I could log on to even just putting the words in an email document, emailing it to myself, that I could add to my manuscript at another date. I would do a little bit writing in my sleeping bag there on my little phone, so the kids couldn’t really see, and then I could log the word count through their website. And even if it was just 50 words one day, and I think it was just 50 words one day then, yay, I still got that really cool little badge that I did not miss a day. And as we all know, as writers, every word counts.
So NaNoWriMo was also the precursor to me falling in love with writing sprints. Because we know that when it’s only a month, there is a end in sight. And again, as somebody like myself with ADHD, I need to be able to see that end in sight. Because when I don’t, I lose interest real fast. But as I keep telling myself throughout the month of November, it’s only one month. This hard work, these sacrifices it’s only for one month. So it was that really cool challenge that I was able to set for myself and keep going, knowing that there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel, for those days when it was a real struggle, and there were times it was a real struggle.
The best thing that came out of first engaging with NaNoWriMo was on completing 50,000 words. That was such a confidence boost. I had never written 50,000 words on any story before. I had never written consecutively for so many days before. And so here I was finishing on November 30th, having hit my goal, having been disciplined, and stayed on track the entire time. And I did it and I accomplished it. And I had not a finished novel, in fact, every time I did NaNoWriMo I never actually got to the end of my novel, there was still probably a good extra 30,000 words to go. But I’d got further along a novel than I ever had before. And the feeling that, Hey, I actually can do this no matter how busy my schedule, I can actually write this much. And I actually can write longer fiction beyond just short stories. So there was a real confidence boost there, and you know what it worked because look at me now, I have written a good few novels and have more in the works, very, very close to completion.
So it shows you what you’re capable of.
It’s also a fantastic space, particularly if you explore their community, their little pep talks, join some groups. You can actually join groups usually in your local area as well, no matter what country you’re in, there’s often a liaison for your area that sets up physical get togethers and writing sprints and events and that too. So you get the networking out of it, but you also get so many opportunities to celebrate your wins. And I’ve talked about this so many times before, but celebrating all your wins is so fantastic for building your confidence, keeping your vibe high, and keeping that momentum going. And so whether it’s through the little cute little badges on your web page, or it’s just the little pep talks from other authors that you tune into. It all helps to give you that really cool high vibe, this is fun, this is a celebration of writing, kind of feel to it.
Because you’ve signed up to something, because you’ve created an account, because your name is, if you choose it to be, out there for other people to connect with you, it’s almost an avenue for you to hold yourself more accountable to. In fact, you get a badge, I think, and I don’t know if that’ll change this year, but you get a badge just for announcing your project on social media. And I mean all these badges and that, they’re self awarded. They’re things that you get to give yourself most times, except for the ones where you update your word counts. Those kind of automatically appear. People who like all those little novelties and incentives and things like that. There is so much on the page. There is bar graphs, there’s line graphs to update your word counts. You can put your word count in there and it will calculate how far off the goal for your day it is. You can put in information so it will calculate when your most productive time for writing is. It will estimate when your project will be done, which is useful if you’re, well, whether you’re ahead of the game or falling a little bit behind, it can kind of tell you, so far you’re on track to be finished in January the following year, so get your butt into gear kind of thing. You can even track things like how you’re feeling when you’re writing for that time. So, whether you’re happy, there’s little smiley faces and sad faces and things that you can update to keep track of all those cool things. And I know it again sounds a little bit gimmicky, but I actually think it’s really cool. It’s one of the things that made me realize I actually am a more productive writer when I write in the evening. It also acts as a bit of an incentive for me, if I’m falling behind with my word count, I want to see those graph lines grow and hit the mark of where it says I should be each day. And I want to see the calculation for how many words per minute that I write. So those kinds of things keep me focused and excited and keeps the momentum for me to continue for the entire month.
So if NaNoWriMo is something that you’re considering for this upcoming November. These are some of my tips, things that have worked for me that maybe might work for you as well.
So I really do recommend that if you’re going to undertake NaNoWriMo, you make writing your top priority for that month. Like I said, it’s only a month. The month’s going to happen one way or another. So you can either come out of it with 50,000 words towards a novel or let it slip by with very little. It’s completely up to you. But if you are going to commit to naNoWriMo as a writing challenge for yourself, then make sure you make writing a priority. In my first year, my job, in theory, should probably have been my priority. For all the other teachers at my school at the time report writing was their priority for November. I knew that if I didn’t make writing my priority I wasn’t going to have any success with NaNoWriMo at all. And so, not being a morning person, particularly at that time in my life, as soon as I got home from work, instead of diving straight into report writing and other schoolwork, I actually set aside the goal where I would just write until I reached the minimum of 1,667 words, before I even considered doing any schoolwork. And it worked for me. It absolutely did. It was my refusal to budge, it was my commitment to myself that this was going to be the time that I could prove to myself that I could reach that arbitrary word goal. So make sure that you do sincerely commit to trying to prioritize your writing.
Ideally, if you can find ways to maybe minimize some of your responsibilities during that month- I do not recommend doing NaNoWriMo necessarily, if you’ve actually got a whole lot booked in that month, because it can be extra tricky. It can be done. But if you can get away with delegating extra responsibilities to others or not taking on any extra responsibilities during that month, all the better.
Now, just as a thing too. NaNoWriMo, although traditionally done in November can actually be done at any time of the year. And they do have what they call Camp NaNoWriMo, which is similar, in April and July, I think. You can choose your word count for that. I tend to do lots of little mini NaNoWriMo’s all throughout the year. And not even for a month period. I just did one recently for a rather long short story, which I had booked over a two week period and pretty much got done in six days. And just using the NaNoWriMo web page and the goal trackers and all of that to keep me focused and my word count moving. So you don’t have to necessarily do this in November. The positive of doing it in November and joining this is that people from all around the world are doing it with you. And so if you want that extra motivation and sense of celebration, it is going to be there everywhere. It’s going to be on social media. You’re going to be hearing about it lots on podcasts. Like you are with me today. Yeah, it’s just going to have that real buzz in the air because this is the traditional NaNoWriMo novel writing month.
So, if you can minimize some of your responsibilities. You might want to consider doing things like maybe eating out a little bit more during that month. Maybe you let the chores slack a little bit. Those are things that I have definitely done. Getting any family members or people that you live with onboard is almost crucial to this because what you don’t want is to start slipping with some of the chores to find that your loved ones or people that you live with are getting a little bit annoyed with you in doing so. So if you keep them on board with, Hey, I’ve got this challenge this month, it’s going to be really tricky for me, it means that maybe I’m not going to be able to do some of the things that I normally do or I’m a little bit slack with some of them. Hopefully you can have my back and be on side with this. Now, fortunately, my husband is amazing. And he was all good with us ordering in a little bit more when it was my turn to cook. Which is always good for me because I actually hate cooking. So yay. But I know other people find that planning food and advance and freezing it, so they’ve just got easy, convenient meals available works for them. So do whatever you need to do to give yourself a little bit more time to dedicate to your writing in that month. If you can schedule a three-day weekend, take an extra day off from work or something like that during the month too, all the better for it.
Now if you plan on undertaking NaNoWriMo, one of my number one tips for you to really succeed at this is to get excited about it. Don’t go into a challenge like this, if you’re just ho-hum about it, because you’re going to lose momentum. It’s, it’s going to be a bit of a waste of time. So get excited. Get that high vibe. Know that you’re going to be a different person at the end of this challenge. At the other end, you are going to have 50,000 words or more or less, doesn’t really matter. But you’re going to have something down on paper that who knows it could end up being one of Amazon’s next best selling novels. It could be what fast tracks your author career, my friend. So start strong by starting excited. There are going to be times where you’re completely over the challenge, where you just don’t want to write anymore, and you’re really starting to listen to that inner critic a little bit more, they’re starting to get on your back about how you suck as a writer and nothing’s gonna come of this novel. So you need that excitement at the beginning to sustain you for as long as possible. Consider how it’s going to make you feel at the very end when you come out having mastered 50,000 words. And they don’t need to be great words. Remember, they just have to be words.
Another reason to start strong and to start excited, is really use that first week in particular, if you can, to get as many words down as possible. Ride that wave of excitement and just go for it, because like I said, there are going to be days, maybe even weeks in the middle, where that momentum may lag a little bit and you may be finding it a real struggle to reach that 1,667 word goal each day. And so if you’ve already built in a little bit extra at the beginning, it makes it much easier to follow through all the way. Saying that, I have done some NaNoWriMo’s where I started off really strong in the first week. Completely pretty much bowed out in the second and the third, and then worked my little tush off to come back in the fourth week and complete the NaNoWriMo. But Ooh, that is so much extra stress. So if you can try and keep that consistency, but maybe even build in a little bit more leeway at the very beginning, it will help. It’ll help.
And, on that note too, if you can keep that momentum by writing something every day. Even if it’s just 50 words, just trying to make it that habit to get some words logged in every day. Hey, you get those cool little badges to show that you’re consistent. Yay. But it also helps to build that writing habit, which can be invaluable if you plan to have a long author career outside of NaNoWriMo as well.
To keep that momentum going, you might even want to consider joining like a virtual sprint group or a community of writers in your actual local area and community. Or buddy up with a friend. Whatever it takes to get those words down on paper.
So when you do come up to those times where you just don’t want to write, my recommendation of course is just push through it. It does get easier. Anybody who’s been writing for any length of time knows there are days when. It is tough and it is hard. Push through. You can do this. Honestly. Take a break if you need to, but don’t give up.
Ways that I find I can push through on those kind of days is if I’ve done a little bit of prep beforehand. I’m not a huge planner at all. I usually start a story with maybe a character and maybe a scene or two, or knowing the ending of the story. And that is pretty much it. And that’s quite often not even on paper. What I do always do, and this is my little nifty thing that goes along with keeping that dopamine flowing in my little ADHD brain, is I always prep before a story with a playlist on Spotify of music that I think kind of sets the tone of what I plan on writing. So even though I may not know the actual plot of my story I generally know the tone that I want to invoke. And so I will spend a good few hours before I start any writing project, even my short stories, by going through Spotify and creating a playlist just for that piece of work. And then, I find it’s really useful to listen to that as much as possible when I’m involved in a project. So I might listen to it in the car, on my commute. I might just listen to it when I’m cooking dinner or doing something just non-writing related. And if I get really, really stuck during my actual sitting down at the laptop writing, I might put it on quietly in the background. Because it’s amazing sometimes how music and tunes and lyrics even can inspire plots and characters and action and emotive feelings and that in the story. So I find that for me, that works really, really well to keep that momentum and motivation.
I also use Scrivener. So if you haven’t heard of Scrivener, it’s like a software that if you sign up to do NaNoWriMo, you can actually get a discount on. And I think you get an even larger discount if you finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words. So there we are. But it’s a writing software that I absolutely adore. I always use it for my first drafts. And what I like about it is you can organize down the side and I think you can do this in word and Google docs too, but I don’t know, I just prefer Scrivener for this. But you can set up a little chapters. So if you do start to plot or plan your story, you can write little notes for yourself down the side so that you know what you’re going to write next. I also take notes as I go when I’m writing, so that I don’t interrupt the flow too much if I change anything. Or if there’s something that I think all I’m going to need to remember this later on in the story. So I might be writing my story and then needing to remind myself of the name of something. So I might just quickly write it in the notes or in the research part on Scrivener. Or if I get to finishing up my word count for the day and I’m ready to call it quits, I might just leave myself a couple of notes in Scrivener as to what I’m going to continue writing on with next. And so I’m not really describing why I think Scrivener is a really good selling point right here, I just find that it works really, really well for me.
One little tip that might work for you too, is, because it’s about momentum, and because it’s about getting words on the page, to not get caught up finding that perfect word. And I, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I continue this with all my writing practice, is that when I’m writing my first draft, it’s all about getting words on the paper, and if my brain is having a blank and I can’t think of that particular word, I will usually write down a placeholder word and highlight it, so I can go back and fix it at another time, or if I really don’t know, I tend to write the word something in brackets so that I remember to go back and change all those somethings when I do my editing.
Because I’m all about the novelty and the motivation and the momentum with things like challenges like this, I also treat myself to things like a new notebook, because as a writer I feel like you can never have enough pretty notebooks. And so I usually devote a brand new little, pretty notebook to whatever project I’m working on, so I can take notes as I go, I can put it in my purse if I’m going anywhere and jot any ideas or anything down, if I don’t have my laptop with me or anything like that. It just helps me keep my writing project nice and close to me the whole time.
It might also work for you too, to think of your own special reward at the very end of NaNoWriMo for reaching that 50,000 word count. Do you want to go away for a weekend? Maybe you booked something in, or you decide that if you can reach that goal, you’re going to treat yourself to something you’ve had your eyes on for a while. Whatever it takes to just build that excitement, I guess.
And I think my final tip, which is probably one of the most important. Is to make sure that you really do save your work all the way through, because there is nothing more heartbreaking than putting all your energy and effort into something and it not saving. So save it to your computer, save it to the cloud, save it to a hard drive, email yourself, your words, whatever you’ve got to do to make sure that you’ve got a backup so that you don’t suffer that heartbreak that can happen, that we all know, we knew lose some of your work.
So that is pretty much my overview of why I think NaNoWriMo is just seriously cool, and if you haven’t tried it yet, and you’ve got maybe a new project or something you want to work on, or you just want to challenge yourself, then come join me with NaNoWriMo this November. You’re a week out, so you’ve still got time to prep and get yourself ready. That is one of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is they do encourage you to come to the challenge as prepped as you need to be. You can write out in-depth outlines, do Pinterest mood boards of your book, if you like. Whatever kind of gets you inspired and excited to start, come November 1st.
In case anyone’s like, oh, maybe Jo is an affiliate for NaNoWriMo, no, it doesn’t really work like that. And I’m really not, NaNoWriMo have no idea that I’m doing this episode. It just really as something that has had such a positive influence on my writing since I really began this whole author journey.
But I am a huge advocate for them. To my knowledge I think they’re non-profit. I think they also support a lot of other creative writing endeavors and literacy charities and things like that as well, which is really cool. They do have a cool shop of merchandise that you can purchase. And sometimes I do that as well. And you can donate and so I am a supporter of them. They’ve got the support of some really cool people, particularly in the indie author industry ,who give discounts on things, like I mentioned before, Prowriting Aid and Ingram Spark and Scrivener, and all those cool things. So it’s worth just giving it a go just for those cool perks as well. They have an awesome community .It’s all positive. It’s all down to earth, it’s all about challenging yourself and seeing what you’re made of, and celebrating your wins. So many people want to write a book and don’t. So NaNoWriMo really is that permission slip to get off your butt and to give it a go to prove yourself that you’re capable of writing something. Anything, 50,000 words, that’s a decent amount of words. So, join in and celebrate that win it is, it is so, so worth it.
So I hope that has inspired you to maybe give it a go. I would love to hear. Your. Experience doing NaNoWriMo, if you’ve done it before. Your tips and things that have worked for you. I can’t remember exactly how it works, but I think you can kind of look for people, you can do a bit of a search if people have their projects made public on NaNoWriMo. So you might be able to find me there,, I think I’m just under Jo Buer. You can always request me as a buddy, I think is something that they kind of do there, where you can check in with each other and how your writing goals and everything go. I’m totally open to that. I’ll try and make sure that that is set up.
And otherwise, I am just wishing you a wonderful last week of October. Enjoy the spooky season the last week of it anyway, and happy Halloween. And I hope to see you engage in NaNoWriMo and get writing, my friend. Why not? Why not finish this year with an extra 50,000 words or more under your belt? How awesome would that be?
So on that note, if you have enjoyed this episode, I would really love if you could leave a review on whatever platform you’re listening to this on, or give a star rating. Anything like that. I hate to sound like I’m always begging for these things, but it really does help the show get out there in the world and be seen by others. And it just, I dunno, puts a smile on my face. So I would love that. That would be amazing.
And if you haven’t already, share this with a friend, share Alchemy for Authors with a friend. You can sign up to my newsletter. You can come stalk me on Instagram is where I usually make my home, or join my Facebook group as well. And I will make sure that all those links, including the link to sign up to NaNoWriMo is in the show notes.
So again, I’m wishing you a wonderful week. And lots and lots of productive writing time or planning time, if you are endeavoring to do NaNoWriMo. And until next week, happy writing.