National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is officially half over, and with the encroaching deadline comes the pressure to push your word count to new heights. NaNoWriMo is an annual online challenge during the month of November which challenges writers to write at least 50,000 words in exactly one month. The challenge is free to join, and it is open to writers of all levels. Check out NaNoWriMo.org for more information!
Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or just working on your story, increasing your word count can be a challenge. Remember, first drafts are for getting your words out in the open. There will be time for perfecting and editing later. That’s why challenges such as NaNoWriMo are so valuable, because they encourage you to be wordy and to write without thinking too much.
Read on for tips on how to reach the big 50k!
Have a set schedule for writing and stick to it! Try to write every day, it’s not as hard as you think. This is a great habit for all writers to get into, whether you’re just starting or you’re a seasoned professional. A great time to write is just before bed or first thing in the morning. Make it a habit and stick to it, even if you only write for ten minutes.
Create a plot map
It’s challenging to write when you don’t know where your story is going. In order to prevent getting stuck, write an outline. It can be ridiculously detailed or merely bullet points, it’s all up to you. I know there’s a stigma that too strict of an outline can be constricting for writers and that it might impede with your creativity, however, if you’re having a hard time figuring out what to write every time you sit down at your computer, it could be beneficial to create a road map for where you’re going. You can always let your creativity get the best of your story later, but this way if you ever get lost you have a reference guide to keep things moving.
Set reasonable goals
Writing a novel is hard. Writing a novel in a month is downright insanity. Don’t be hard on yourself. Set realistic goals you can actually achieve. If you have a busy week, don’t expect to write your lengthiest chapter and then some. Plan a certain word count you want to reach each day or week and balance things accordingly. In order to achieve the 50k goal, you need to be writing, on average, at least 1,667 words a day or 12,500 words a week.
You’ve been working hard, so make sure you treat yourself! Set rewards for your big milestones! Having something to look forward to will you keep your fingers on your keyboard and a grip on your sanity. Celebrate reaching 10,000 words. Celebrate reaching 25,000 words. Remember that writing is something many people talk about, but few people actually do. You deserve to be proud of every sentence.
In case of writer’s block
So you’ve encountered a little bit of writer’s block. Suddenly that 50,000 word goal seems like a pipe dream, and you question all your choices that led to this moment. Take a deep breath—don’t panic! All writers are affected by some kind of writers block, and during a challenge such as NaNoWriMo, the pressure is that much more intense. Don’t throw in the towel yet, there’s still hope.
Here are some ideas to get your creativity flowing again:
Talk it out
If you get caught on a particular plot point, try talking it out with someone. A friend or partner can be a valuable tool, even if they have no interest in writing themselves. Explain the plot and ask where they see your characters going from there. Often, their answer will surprise you. Their fresh perspective could be all you need to get the juices flowing again.
Get out a pen and a notebook
Writing by hand is an entirely different experience than typing on your computer. Typing has many advantages, including being a faster medium, but that white screen could also be contributing to your writers block. Step away from your bright laptop screen. Pull out one of those ridiculously overpriced Barnes & Noble’s notebooks you “just had to have” and haven’t written in it once. Write freehand and see if all you needed was to feel a pen in your hand.
Change your location
If you no longer look forward to sitting at your desk/couch/fridge, consider switching it up. Choose a location that’s conductive to actually getting work done. Coffee shops, libraries, and quiet parks work great. A new workspace helps you look forward to writing and allows you to find inspiration in your new surroundings.
Optimize your soundtrack
While you may enjoy jamming to Taylor Swift on a daily basis, “Bad Blood” isn’t a very efficient soundtrack for writing. Lyrics in general can be too distracting, instead opt for instrumental or ambient sounds. 8tracks is my favorite source for emotional writing tracks. Are you writing a death scene? Smut? Dystopian setting? 8Tracks allows you to search for very specific user-created playlists. Include “writing” in your search for optimal results. Another amazing resource is ambient-mixer.com. This platform is filled with user-created ambient sounds that transport you to both realistic and fictional settings. My favorites include Gryffindor Common Room and A Rainy Cafe.
Write or die
Write or Die is an online writing platform that forces you to write quickly or it attacks you. Not literally, obviously, but it makes super annoying sounds, and you can even choose to have scary images pop up on your screen if you go more than a few seconds without typing anything. There’s a paid version which I haven’t tried, but the free trial is enough for me. This program is not messing around. I’ve reached my daily goal in a 15 minute session with this thing.
Take a break
If you’ve tried everything possible to shake writer’s block and still have nothing to show for it, it’s time to a take a break. I don’t mean it’s time to quit, I just mean file it away for a few hours. Go on a walk, clean your house, order a pizza, launch yourself out a window. Just get away from your story for a while. Approach your work later with a fresh mind.
First drafts are supposed to suck, so allow yourself to be wordy and to break the rules. Don’t let writer’s block get in the way of your goals. If you’re brave enough to be participating in NaNoWriMo this month, I wish you the best of luck! Happy writing!