Tips Learned From NaNoWriMo 2018

As many of you know I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018. Essentially what that means is I had the mental fortitude to withstand egregious amounts of coffee injected directly into my bloodstream. Also, I was able to write 1,700 words a day for a whole month ending at 50,000 words. I honestly learned a lot about my writing along the way. For context I’ve been writing fiction for around 8 years now, and this is the first time I’ve submitted anything to a competition or organization. It was a great experience to have participated and I have no regrets, well except now I’m even MORE addicted to coffee which I previously thought was impossible.

TIP 1 - SIT DOWN AND WRITE

Yes, It's really that simple. Now before you say, "Well duh," or "What a stupid tip," take a second and ask yourself, "did I honestly set a part of my time today to write, or did I just think about writing?"...well did you?

I want to write, but I'm just too busy during the day.

We've all got responsibilities like a full-time job, schooling, families, and binge-watching Netflix, but you MUST find the time to sit down and crank out a few sentences. Fortunately, we all live in the 21st century and have access to technologies that make finding time a heck of a lot easier, as most smartphones have note-taking apps that allow you to write literally anywhere. My favorite and preferred note-taking app is Evernote, but most app stores have free ones. Tapping away at a tiny keyboard on your phone really isn't the most preferable way to become the next Charles Dickens or J.K Rowling, but it's an excellent start.

If you don't have a smartphone then go buy a small notepad and reliable pen, something you can reasonably take with you everywhere. Now, this is the important part: Whenever you are not actively doing something productive pull out your notebook/notes app and start writing. It doesn't have to be anything specific, even if it's just taking notes on plot, you're still moving one step forward. This could even be a fun game for you to play in which you try to find spots here and there to whip it out and start writing. I whipped it out on my lunch breaks, while I was using the restroom, and while I was waiting in line to get some of that sweet nectar of the caffeine gods.

Go over your daily schedule and find a time that you would normally spend on social media, watching videos, or when you know that you'll have a good ten or fifteen minutes to spare. Unless you're Elon Musk, you undoubtedly have ten minutes to spare. During that ten minutes sit down and write whatever comes to your mind. When you start writing and you inevitability feel like what you're putting to paper is garbage then YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT. Remember, what you're writing at this stage will NOT be seen by anyone else unless you really enjoy people judging your unfinished work. (Which I would highly advise against). After you've finished writing for ten minutes then guess what, you did it! Now do the same thing again the next day -and the next day -and the next day.

Don't push yourself too hard starting out. Work up gradually from ten minutes to fifteen, to twenty, to thirty, etc. Eventually, you'll be blocking around an hour a day to write. Make sure loved ones know your intentions so that they aren't as likely to pull you away from your passion.

I already write every day and it doesn't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

If you already write daily and you feel like you're hitting roadblocks or don't feel anything you write is good, YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT. When you feel like your writing isn't up to snuff, well truth be told it probably isn't. Writing is hard, writing well is exceptionally hard. To get better you just have to keep slogging through the hard parts and keep writing. It's gonna be boring at times. It's gonna feel like nothing you make is worth reading. It's gonna feel like you're going nowhere. Stick with it. The best part about writing is that even if you aren't good starting out, there is always room for improvement. There are plenty of opportunities to learn throughout the writing process. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to learn is to read books. Not just textbooks on writing, I mean books in general. Not only is it an excellent resource for inspiration and brainstorming new ideas, but it will also help you understand how to write better. If you're not reading at least five books a year then YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. They don't even have to be the same genre as what you are writing. In fact, it is actually a good thing to read a variety of different genres so that you have a wider range to draw from.

Just remember, the greatest writers didn't get there by chance or with luck. You don't see all of the hard work that they went through to get their first work published. Sometimes it takes draft upon draft to get to a point where it's worth reading, and then it takes several more rounds of editing before its any good.

TIP 2 - WRITE EARLY

Humans are creatures of habit. I'm sure you've heard this phrase hundreds of times before, otherwise, you've been living under a rock. If you've been living under a rock then chances are you're most likely some sort of bug creature, and if you're a bug creature then what makes you think you can write? Go back to your rock. If you don't have a morning routine, you should start one. Start with something small like waking up and pouring yourself a glass of water. Simple enough right? Once you've got the hang of that add making your bed to the mix. Starting off with doing something productive like making your bed leaves a residual feeling of being useful that will last you well into your morning routine. From there try sitting down and reading a short chapter from that book you bought that one time but never got around to actually reading it, or go straight into writing.

If you can't make the time before you're off to your daily tasks then try to start writing as early as your schedule will allow. This will prevent you from holding it off until the evening when you're already tired from the day and will have tons of excuses not to write. The earlier you write, the better. It'll give you more time to hit your daily goal which we'll talk about in the next tip, and it will prevent you from procrastinating.

TIP 3 - SET A DAILY GOAL

Having goals set is one of the most important things you can have in life. It gives you something to aim at and it gives value to the things you do throughout the day. Goals can be hard to start at first because gauging what all you can do really is tough. If you overshoot you might burn yourself out early, and if you don't do enough then you're apt to get lazy. Try to find a healthy middle ground; this may take some trial and error. The goal I had set to reach 50,000 words in a single month for NaNoWriMo was 1,700 words per day. That may sound a little daunting to the novice writer, and it should. You want your goals to be challenging. If they aren't challenging then they won't actually feel fulfilling when you reach them. Be reasonable though, if you know there's no way in hell you're hitting that 1,700-word mark a day then scale it back. Try starting with 1,000 words per day or even 500 words if you're newer to writing. The point is you want a number that you can actually shoot for to hit EVERY SINGLE DAY. Keep track of how much you write on a separate document. This will show you how much you've accomplished day to day and will guide you in setting your goals for the mid and long term.

Have a long-term goal and put a due date. If you don't have a due date then it will be easy to fall prey to procrastination. Why write 500 words today when my friends are going out to party when I can just write 1000 words tomorrow? Well if you have this mentality, you probably aren't going to actually write that 1,000 words tomorrow. If you have a long-term goal with a date then you have agreed that every time you don't write your daily word count then you are going to make things harder for yourself later on. Not only that, but your chances of actually completing the goal at all are greatly diminished.

TIP 4 - USE WRITING PROMPTS

For the longest time, I thought writing prompts were dumb and a waste of time. I couldn't have been more wrong. I found myself hitting roadblocks time and time again while I was writing and needed something else to write to get my mind working. I decided to give writing prompts another try and after the first one (which prompted for some Lovecraftian horror) I was sold. Honestly, if you have the time, use a writing prompt every single day before writing. It's an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing. Writing prompts set you up with an interesting premise that you can use to get words onto paper. Normally, they are meant for writing about 500 words or so but sometimes when a prompt is interesting enough it can expand into something much larger. One of the writing prompts I used for warm-up ended up developing into a series of short stories I'm writing (the first of which you can read here). There are lots of places on the internet that you can find writing prompts with a simple Google search. My go-to is Reddit at r/writingprompts - it's a place where the community makes writing prompts and you can submit your response to them for others to read and enjoy. Some writers have even developed a whole novel from a writing prompt submitted by the Reddit community, so DON'T UNDERESTIMATE WRITING PROMPTS.

TIP 5 - HAVE OTHERS HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE

This one is tough because putting yourself out there sets yourself up for receiving scrutiny. Which is exactly what we want. One thing that helped me reach my goal of 50,000 words in a month was to post my daily progress EVERY DAY on my social media accounts. I even invited my friends and followers to call me out if they don't see my post that day. The only day I took off was at the tail end of November for Thanksgiving, which I promptly wrote twice as much the day before to make up for it. If your friends are anything like mine, then you know they can be vicious when you're together with them in social settings. If you don't meet your goal then they will know. Ideally, just the threat of them seeing you fail will light a fire under your butt to keep on writing. I know it certainly did for me.

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