How to Sharpen Your Writing Process with NaNoWriMo

image_previewIf you’re wondering why there’s a sudden dearth of writers posting grammar and bacon memes on Facebook this week, you can probably blame NaNoWriMo. Now expanded world-wide and not just for November anymore, National Novel Writing Month was the brainchild of Chris Baty and a few of his friends. These San Francisco writers challenged each other to write a 50K novel (more accurately, a first draft) during one November and the idea stuck. Many writers already hit this quota on a regular basis; some write even more. But if you’ve wanted to attempt a longer story, or if you want to get back into a butt-to-chair routine, the NaNoWriMo challenge could be the perfect exercise for you.

Ways to use it:

Test out a new genre. One year I decided to try writing a mystery. I haven’t published it yet; it’s still sitting in the first-draft vault. But I might not have done it if not for the challenge.

Get out of a rut. If your enthusiasm is flagging on your current project, the feeling of accomplishment from hitting a word-count quota (or even taking a break from the WIP to work on something else) can be just the thing to sail you back into the flow again.

Write the first draft of that novel you’ve been “meaning” to write, if you could only find the time between and among your other projects. A rough outline for a novel has been sitting on my whiteboard for the past three months. I won’t be able to work on it at NaNoWriMo pace this November, but I plan to do an “unofficial” challenge of giving myself December and January to get the first draft done.

Support fellow authors. Why not give back a little and cheer on some newer writers as they shoot for their goals? Write along with them or just shake your pom-poms from the sidelines.

If you’re going to do it, it’s not too late to sign up. You’ve missed a few days, so to hit the 50K mark by November 30th, you’ll have to do a little pro-rating. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

Calculate a daily quota. If you plan on writing every day for 30 days, that’s about 1,666 words a day. But realistically, life can get in the way. You might have work, school, family responsibilities. Americans have Thanksgiving, which for a lot of us means time spent cooking, shopping, and entertaining out-of-town relatives. I would look at the month and block out days I expected not to get much writing done, and plan to write more on the other days.

Look for ways to reprioritize your time to allow for more writing. Jim Devitt and Martin Crosbie have written great posts about how to make more time for your writing practice and shoot for your goals. Do you really need to watch that second or third rerun of The Big Bang Theory?

Take care of your health. I know I’ve fallen down here, and twice I’ve ended up sick at the beginning of December. The impulse is to plant your butt in front of the computer and ignore regular meals, sleep, and exercise. Some things, like cleaning the house and doing laundry, can be pushed to the back of the list, depending on your tolerance for wearing dirty socks or dodging dust bunnies. Mine is quite high. But cheating out a couple hours’ sleep a night or grabbing whatever is handy in the kitchen instead of some decent food is not doing you any favors. And who wants to be sick on the holidays?

If you choose to take the NaNoWriMo challenge, or are already doing it, I hope you have fun with it and stay healthy.

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

10 thoughts on “How to Sharpen Your Writing Process with NaNoWriMo”

  1. This is my second NaNoWriMo (but 4th if you count Camp Nano which I love). I love this process. The biggest struggle is finding time to exercise. Writing is already relegated to 5-7 a.m (if I don’t sleep in) during the week because November is my second busiest work month of the year. That, and many family issues, and yes, eating, make it a challenge. I love a good challenge….

    1. I love a challenge, too Julie! I’ve done NaNo in November five or six times. I kept about the same schedule as you did when I worked full time. My goal for 2015 is to start getting up earlier.

  2. I’m doing NaNoWriMo on my own terms, setting a personal word-count goal instead of aiming for 50K, but it’s the push I needed to move out of my short story comfort zone and begin working on something longer.

  3. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this month, but I have recently been trying stuff outside my normal genre, and I must say it’s been a fun experience (even if my regular readers won’t see the result). So, I definitely like the idea of trying something new as way to use NaNoWriMo.

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