Last year, I wrote myself a few pieces of advice to follow to win this year’s NaNo. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually follow much of it, but I decided to write out the best lessons from this year for my 2016-NaNoing self (and anyone else who’s looking for some advice from a three-time-winning veteran!) Here we go!
1. Plan ahead of time, please.
This is a repeat from last year’s advice, but it’s true. Most of the time when I was struggling to come up with things to write, it was because I didn’t have any direction for where the scene was going. I like to let my characters drive the story, but when it becomes too character-driven, things start to lose direction in terms of the plot.
Next year, I should definitely try mapping out a few of the beginning scenes and scribbling a few notes each time I sit down to write. Aimless writing isn’t fun writing, and it’s a pain to edit later.
2. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!
Another repeat from last year because it works! I love hanging out on the forums before NaNo and during while we’re all slowly losing our minds. I’m quite easily distracted, so I need to be careful not to browse too long. It’s a great source of motivation, though (as is the @NaNoWordSprints twitter!) Whether you’re in the mood to complain, despair, celebrate, or laugh about your weird Googles (my weirdest from this year was ‘lunar cycles in 1977’) the forums have you covered!
3. Get ahead and stay ahead.
The first few days of November, I actually managed to write a few thousand more words than I needed to. Those words carried me through some of the busyness of the month, and they really helped me. If I can do the same thing next year, I’ll be set to win even earlier! Starting out ahead and then writing nearly every day, even if I only got in a couple hundred words, kept my enthusiasm and excitement higher and my stress levels lower. Getting ahead early on will be key to ensuring victory!
4. Pick a project you’re excited about.
This was my downfall in NaNos 2012 and 2013–I wasn’t passionate enough about my characters or projects. Honestly, it was the same in 2014, too, but I managed to slog through painfully. This year was so different because, even though I felt like I was copping out to write fanfiction, I was actually excited about writing it! I learned what I valued most in writing by discovering that I’d not had it in NaNos past. Deep characters and well-though-out plots and settings are what I love the most, and fanfiction gave me the opportunity to explore these elements that had already been laid out for me.
5. Find a way to keep it new.
This year I had my first ever 6k day (nearly 6.5!) I have in part to thank the folks over at 750words.com. I found their site five days or so before NaNo was over, but I couldn’t get enough. The cool stats at the end of the day? The simple layout? The badges? I was hooked! That new interface really changed things for me at the end. I excitedly pounded out another 1,000 words using the site, and then another.
Some people really like things to stay the same: write 500 words every morning before breakfast, drink some morning coffee, go to work, write a few more words, then do it again. For me, though, I like a little bit of spontaneity and excitement to keep me interested. At the end of the month it was a new word processor. Other times, it’s been Scrivener, a new music playlist, or an entertaining word crawl. Finding new things to keep me going was vital this year, and it’s something I know will be incredibly valuable this coming year as I try to stay motivated–for NaNo and for just trying to write every day!
Compared to last year, I did so much better. I stayed mostly on track, wrote almost every day, and even managed a 6k day to finish early! Looking at all those crazy people in the Beyond 50k forums, though, I know I can push myself next year to barrel past this year’s record.
What tips would you give yourself or someone else for doing NaNo better next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! You might just help someone out. 🙂