How to Survive NaNoWriMo without losing your sanity (or hair)

Photo Oct 29, 3 36 35 PMFor newbies and veterans alike, National Novel Writing Month can be a harrowing experience. I’ve done NaNo four times and the first time, I was so stressed that I accepted my defeat and bowed out gracefully after 10 short days.
After having a number of successful books under my bet, I wonder why I get so excited when November comes around and survival means there better be an adequate amount of coffee and #writerfood in the pantry. I’m a successful author so why should I still be trying to crank out 50k words in 30 days? What point am I trying to prove?


For me, NaNo serves a purpose. It tests my writing skills and helps me to become a better writer. I’m not interested in writing faster because 50k in 30 days is fast enough. I write full-length books regularly. 80-120k is my sweet spot. I’m not trying to write that much in 30 days. But during NaNo, I can come up with an idea and let the words flow, whether I intend to publish the story or not.
I use NaNo as an opportunity to focus on an element of my storytelling that I want to improve. Writing stronger dialogue was a goal one year. Writing more compelling scene descriptions was another. This year, as dive into my NaNo book, my focus will be character emotions.
No matter why you’ve decided to plow through National Novel Writing Month, this is not going to be an easy task. It is not designed to be. Here are a few tips that have helped me through the last four Novembers.

Aggressively and thoroughly (read maniacally) plot and outline your novel BEFORE November 1st.

This is not the time to freehand or write with “just a concept.” Sure, you could do this if you insist but from my experience, not having a solid backbone of your novel will have you staring at a blank screen or notebook in a matter of days. You and Writer’s Block will be bumping uglies in no time. Plotting also means doing your character sketches. No one wants to get halfway through November and realize that they have no idea who their characters are or how they’d react in any given situation. Your characters shouldn’t feel like strangers to you. “But JC, NaNo is 3 days away. I don’t have time to do character sketches and a plot outline,” is what you’re currently whining in your head. Listen up, you have three days. You can pull a plot and outline out of your head in three days. Just do it.

WRITE EVERY DAY.

When I say every day, I mean every day. Including Thanksgiving. After you’ve stuffed yourself and are digesting your meal in your fave comfy chair, pull out your phone and open your writing app – I know you have one – and write. Successful authors know that writing every day keeps you in the groove. Who cares if it’s garbage? Only you and you can fix that during editing. Which brings me to number 3…

DO NOT TRY TO SELF EDIT AS YOU WRITE.

It’s redundant. Think of your NaNo book as the first first draft. Spellcheck…sure. Grammar check. Of course. Self-edit. STOP RIGHT THERE AND STEP AWAY FROM THE REWRITES. Your goal is to write a novel in 30 days, not a PERFECT novel in 30 days. We’re not trying to write books that are going to be published on December 1. Chill out. You have time fix and edit before sending it to your editor. Trust me on this.

RELAX.

Do not sit at your desk all day and night. You know what happens.

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Your significant other and/or children are not interested in reenacting The Shining so we’re not going to do that. To hit 50k in 30 days, you would be roughly writing at least 1500 words per day. You can hit that in one sitting or 10. It’s up to you. You might have a day that you end up writing 5-6k and a day where you only write 750. And that’s fine. If you are writing every day, you’ll get there. NaNo is supposed to be fun so enjoy it.

Final tip: DON’T LET ANYONE READ IT.

Not yet anyway. Wait until after NaNo when you’ve had the time to spit shine that baby. Feedback isn’t important this month. Being on the right track isn’t that important either. But you will if *see tip #1* so hearing what another person thinks could derail you. What are you going to do when you’ve hit day 15 and you have a 25,000 word WIP that your beta hates? Save yourself some time, anguish, and hair and wait until December to allow anyone to lay their eyes on your precious November baby.

That’s all for now. See you at NaNo
I’m Jackie Chanel on NaNo. If you need a writing partner, hit me up.

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