I cannot stress this one enough. I used to be a pantser, someone who writes on the fly, but if you're trying to hit 50,000 words in a month (that averages 1,667 words a day) it can be hard to reach that goal if you don't have a map. Even the most basic outline can help. You don't have to be an overthinking, overprepared plotter like I am (see my article on The Outlining Process- http://afgrappin.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-outlining-process.html). This roadmap, even if it's just a list of a few bullet points for the main plot arc of your story, will be crucial in helping you move forward. For me, the more detail I have in my outline, the easier NaNo tends to be, but that's me. And you can ask those who have watched me work on my novel(s). I always have the outline right next to me... and the more I work on it, the more it gets marked up with additional notes and stuff.
Personally, I suggest being prepared as early as possible, but I have been known to finish my outline as late as October 30, a bare two days before NaNo begins. I have found that having that outline done before NaNo begins gets me raring and impatient to write that son of a gun, so I'm counting down the minutes until November 1, and when NaNo officially starts, BOOM! Out of the gate!
This step is still a preparation thing, and it's good to do this before NaNo starts. NaNo takes a lot of time and effort, and it can be difficult to concentrate on writing if you're constantly being interrupted. Let your family and friends know what's about to happen over the next 30 days. I'm not saying you need to become a complete recluse, because these people love you, and they can actually be a great help in reaching your goal. Support is amazing, and these people can help keep you accountable. Sometimes, I need a kick in the pants to sit my butt down and write, and being asked, "Hey, where's your word count?" by a friend is always nice. Of course, when you tell them you're behind, then they get to boss you around and push you towards your chair/desk/laptop/whatever, and who doesn't like bossing others around? They can serve as motivators, or even to bounce ideas off of if you do get stuck despite your outline. Let them know what you're doing!
I am lucky to have great support in NaNo, especially from my close friends. Even so, they are not Wrimos (although I've been trying to get my best friend to do it for years), so sometimes I just want to talk to others who are taking on this challenge with me. The Nashville, TN group has weekly write-ins, a HUGE writing party/potluck toward the end of the month, and all kinds of other ways to get involved with other writers and help push you toward that goal. I'll talk more about write-ins and other tools like that in another article. The point here is that your region and your region's Municipal Liaison (ML) are there to help you reach your goal. You're missing out if you're not hanging with your local Wrimos!
This is one thing I've watched a lot of Wrimo friends trip up on. To hit 50,000 words, you would need to write 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Doesn't seem to bad, right?
I've written some blog posts on this topic... but they may not have been posted yet, so I want to briefly go over how to get those words in. We have hectic lives, and sometimes it seems like every minute has something important going on in it. But believe me, little spurts of time can add up. Waiting at the doctor's office, waiting to pick up your kids from school, lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and even- dare I say it- sitting on the toilet are prime writing times. Afraid to take your laptop with you into the bathroom, or just don't have your usual writing medium with you? Open an email to yourself in your smartphone and type into your phone. Send the email to yourself and copy/paste it into your full document later. Even just a couple sentences here and there can really add up. And take advantage of the large chunks of time you manage to get-- if the kids are napping or you wake up early before everyone else, or anything like that-- and ignore the distractions fo Facebook and I Can Has Cheezburger. WRITE!
Think about it. If you go to the bathroom four times a day, and you take 2 minutes of each of those potty breaks to whip out a couple sentences, that's 8 minutes of writing already! Have an hour lunch break? Even just 15 minutes of that will be a boon! If you happen to find 5 minutes a day six times a day, that's half an hour of writing time! That's just as good as sitting down for 30 minutes, and you didn't even know you had that time, did you? It's there! You just need to find it.
This one can be hard, because like I said, LIFE HAPPENS. Even if it's just a little bit, a few sentences, make a point of writing every day. With NaNo, every word matters, and each one will get you closer to that goal. Don't force things and write to a breaking point, but write something every day. Plot stuck? Do something unexpected: make a steel girder hit your character in the head and make him have a dream sequence. Throw in another character from chapter 1 you didn't think would ever come back into the scene, and make your characters react. Do SOMETHING! I'll actually be doing another post on writing tips for Wrimos soon, so keep an eye out for it, but the point here is just to make some words. Make more words!
A lot of people miss the real point of NaNoWriMo. It pains me every time I hear someone say, "I'm a writer!" and then, when asked what they're working on, they say, "Oh, I only write in November during NaNoWriMo!" I don't mean to be harsh, but you're not a writer; you're a NaNoWriMo participant. A writer actually writes during other parts of the year. I really do hate to sound mean, but it's true. The point of NaNo, on the surface, is to write 50K words in 30 days.
The real underlying point of NaNo, though, is to develop a habit of writing every day. Some people don't realize how much they can accomplish, and NaNo is a tool to help you see your potential. Every month doesn't need to be this hectic and draining, but you need to keep going afterwards. 50K is not a full novel, really, and you don't really have a finished novel after that. You have a first draft that's novella-sized. But it's an AMAZING starting point, and YOU DID IT! Now keep going! Don't just set it aside. Look at how much time you've found out you really have every day to write! Keep taking a few little bits every day, keep writing that project or start a new one or whip out a short story, and keep your writing going. Let me reiterate. Don't feel like you have to keep up the NaNo pace. But keep up the writing itself.