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NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is one of the most widely undertaken annual writing exercises in the world. Every November, thousands of writers — amateurs and professionals alike — attempt to write 50 thousand words in their chosen niche. The rules are simple: you can't include any words that were written before November 1 in your word count, and you must reach the 50 thousand word goal by 11:59 PM on November 30. The rest is up to you. If you make it, the NaNoWriMo organization rewards you with a lovely certificate and a coupon to get the critically acclaimed writing program Scrivener at half price.
It sounds difficult, doesn't it? It is — but not quite so difficult as it sounds. Here are five tips to cut this terrifyingly huge mission down to size.
1. Get Into the Groove
The NaNoWriMo formula dictates that participants must write at least 1,667 words each day to reach their goal by November 30. This is not as easy as some people make it sound. Though you can't write anything within your chosen project until November 1, you may find it helpful to establish the routine of writing 1,667 words each day in advance. It can be as simple as journal entries or train-of-thought pieces; just practice getting those words out.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan
Are you someone who plans your novels down to the last detail? Or are you more of a see-where-it-takes-me kind of writer? Regardless, if you're planning on defeating NaNoWriMo, you might want to put some ideas down on paper ahead of time. The NaNoWriMo rules do stop you from creating any actual content, but you are permitted to plan as much as you like.
Planning your NaNoWriMo project serves three vital purposes: firstly, it quells anxiety about beginning the project. If you're jumping into this huge endeavor blind, it causes a lot of people to panic and staunch their creative flow. Going in with a plan in hand instills confidence and can assist with kick-starting the project.
Secondly, it keeps the content going. I often find that I stop writing when I can't decide what happens next. With a plan firmly in place, you can avoid these blockages and falling behind.
Thirdly, it assists with sorting the content once NaNoWriMo is over. Ideally, on December 1, you have 50 thousand words of content. No one ever said that this content had to be good, or even make sense. A lot of content that is created during exercises such as this falls into the category of "word vomit" — the uninhibited ramblings of a writer's mind. With your plan in hand, you can sift through everything and start building your novel.
3. Set a Minimum, NOT a Maximum
Once you've gotten into the groove, the trick is to keep that habit. However, you need to be careful that that 1,667 word goal that you've set for each day functions as a minimum value, not as a maximum. Don't get upset; once you've reached 1,667, you can easily stop. But if you're feeling like you could write more, then do so! It only adds to your word count and provides a cushion for the possibility that you can't reach that 1,667 goal another time.
4. Just Let It All Out
NaNoWriMo is a word count exercise; it's meant to teach you to just write without constantly stopping to edit. So, the key to your success is just putting down whatever comes into your head. You can sort out the word vomit later, but for now, all you have to do is write.
5. Read the Pep Talks
The NaNoWriMo organization sends out weekly pep talks to its participants. These short little pick-me-ups are written by prominent authors worldwide, and each has a little nugget of inspiration to keep you writing, even after November is over. This can be invaluable motivation, so don't forget to check your NaNoWriMo inbox every now and again.
So now you have a couple little things to get you going. Now get writing!