Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NaNoWriMo Prep #2 // Some Questionable Advice

Now that NaNoWriMo is literally just around the corner (no, I am not freaking out—you’re freaking out), it’s time to talk about last-minute prep. Various people have asked me to share my secrets for productivity in November, and I have shared a little before, but I figured I would cover it a bit more. If this doesn’t help you, well then, at least I’ve gathered my thoughts for myself. 

Before you jump into these tips, please keep in mind that they are more geared toward those willing to throw caution and good sense to the wind in the interest of going beyond the 50K. And because this advice comes from my personal experience, what works for me may not work for you. (Translation: If your hands fall off mid-month, please don’t sue me.) 

Dedication. Whatever your goal is, reaching it has to be the thing you want more than anything else. It has to be the thing that you choose over movies and books and other distractions nine times out of ten. You have to decide ahead of time what your level of commitment is going to be, and then you need to stick to that. It’s okay to decide that you need to bow out, but try not to decide that on day three. The first week can be especially daunting, and your mind is going to be thinking of all the reasons to quit. My recommendation is to quit only if you begin experiencing health issues (both mental or physical) and are worried that pushing yourself any harder will cause you long-term damage. Most importantly, learn to enjoy the struggle and the strain, because overachieving will not be a cakewalk. 

Rewards. If you’re reward-oriented, make sure that you set up a reward system ahead of time and, if at all possible, put someone else in charge of that system so you can have a level of accountability. In all honesty, I haven’t had huge success using any reward systems in the past, because I’m not a hugely reward-oriented person. Or rather, my reward is the writing itself. But I also know that if I let myself place a massive book order for every 100,000 words I write, well dang, I’d be at 3,000,000 before you could say, “I think Liz’s laptop just burst into flames.” 

Writing Music. If you listen to music while writing, it might be a good idea to compile your playlists ahead of time. I know that, at least from my experience, it’s far too easy to spend tons of valuable writing time looking for the perfect writing song. Don’t do that. It’s secret procrastination, and you will end up hating yourself. 

Writing Cues. In a similar vein, it’s really important to have some writing cues in place before November begins—things that will let your brain know it’s time to focus on writing. If you’re an intake learner like me, it helps to have a specific drink (in my case, coffee) or a snack that you only grab when you’re ready to write. The flavors and smells will help your brain get into writing mode. If you’re an auditory person (also like me), it helps to have specific music or white noise that you only listen to while writing. And if you have a specific location where you are consistently more productive (coffee shops and church for me), try to make sure you end up there as often as possible. 

But make sure—MAKE SURE—that you only use these cues when you are intending to sit down and focus on writing. As tempting as it might be, you can’t let yourself cave and use your writing cues while procrastinating or doing chores or whatever. They will lose their golden touch if you do. But if you keep them sacred, they are likely to help even when you’re in a writing slump. Simple behavioral conditioning, folks. 

Procrastination Game Plan. Yes, I did just say that. You are going to need to take breaks, especially if you are planning to go whole hog this November. But if you don’t plan your break activities ahead of time, your quick three-minute jaunt on Twitter could turn into a three-hour full-emersion social studies experience. And valuable learning aside, you are going to hate yourself. Make sure you have some protocols in place so that doesn’t happen, because you need to make sure your breaks don’t leave your discouraged. Your breaks are there to sharpen you and prepare you for another bout of writing, so approach them accordingly. 

For those of you who write on a computer, like me, consider taking a break from anything screen-related when you take your writing breaks. Eye strain is a real problem when you’re logging the hours to get all the words written. Don’t make this harder for yourself by scrolling through your Twitter feed between word sprints. Movies and TV shows are fine, because you’re not stressing your eye muscles quite so much, but try to keep your face a couple feet away from the screen. Also, be sure to get plenty of fresh air and exercise so your brain doesn’t turn into a bag of stale potato chips. If your phone takes dictation, maybe go on a walk and talk out some of your story. 

Have a system in place. Set timers for yourself and respect them when they go off, even if you have to drag yourself kicking and screaming back to your writing seat. 

If you’re having trouble thinking of non-social-media-related breaks, here is a handy dandy list of suggestions: 

Read. Mosey on over to the kitchen and make coffee. And because moderation is not a thing we embrace during NaNoWriMo, just give in and drink straight from the coffee pot. You know you want to. Pick flowers. Pet an animal. Talk to the animal. When I had rats, I would discuss major plot points with them and verbally untangle my story issues. (But maybe choose a kinder animal, like a puppy or a lizard. Rats can be harsh critics. They require perfection and thus are better to consult during the editing stages.) Clean up the disemboweled mouse the cat left on the patio….again. Climb a tree. Fall out of said tree. Enjoy your first ambulance ride and hospital stay. Make sure to take notes and incorporate this into your story. Go out to eat, or better yet, try a challenging, new recipe at home. Braid your cat’s hair. Treat the thousands of scratches on your arms. Clean things. Play with mud. Get into the spirit of autumn. Eat a leaf and put pumpkins on your hands. Terrorize the neighbors. Enjoy learning firsthand about police procedure and holding cells. Have fun. 

Most Importantly—Log the Hours. I know this seems obvious, but it’s the one that gets short-changed the most. When you’re writing large chunks of words, it’s so easy to get overexcited and take more breaks than you should. It’s also too easy to assume that you will always be writing at peak speed. Don’t. Set yourself a schedule, and when the schedule says write, you write. (You can find my schedule for last year in this post.) Those who wrote 3,000,000 last year logged about 19-23 hours a day. In other words, you have to put in the time. The words will not magically appear on your document overnight.

I don’t know—I feel like I give the wrong impression that this is easy, and I know that I type quickly, but like I said, this is not a cakewalk. I repeat, this is not a cakewalk. So please don’t come into this expecting a cakewalk, because if you do, you will end up quitting. (And by all means, if you hit a wall and you need someone to light a fire under your butt, shoot me a message, and I will yell at you—nicely—until you start writing again. You can find my contact form on the sidebar.) 

Some Final Words. Now that you’ve read all my extremely serious advice, please keep a couple caveats in mind. If you aim to overachieve as much as I do, and if you’re like me, you will experience guilt about making Wrimos who are writing less feel bad. You will want to share you successes with people, because you are excited, but keep in mind that people won’t always be nice about it. You will sometimes inadvertently discourage people or make them jealous.

With regards to my word count, please keep in mind that I have a high pain tolerance and a relatively low regard for my own health when it comes to competition. I will write until I can’t physically move my fingers well enough to type. I will be using wrist braces this year, but I haven’t in the past, and I am paying for that now. Don’t always do as I do unless you are willing to accept the health consequences that come with. 

In Summary. If you’re planning to overachieve this year, ready yourself for the worst and hope for the best. (And take all my advice with a grain of salt.) Remember that this is a marathon. If you lose sight of the finish line, the race will become grueling and unbearable. You will spend most of the time feeling like you’re about to vomit up your lungs. But if you don’t quit halfway through, you will thank yourself come December. So run. 

Because I’m coming for you.


Well, that’s it for today, my little coffee beans. What are some pieces of writing/NaNoWriMo advice that you’ve benefited from? Are you planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this month? What are your favorite ways to procrastinate? Do you also struggle with avoiding the fascinating productivity-black-hole that is Twitter?


  1. Yup I definitely do most of these too! And for me the reward is honestly the word count and being done in a couple of days.😂 Although I do allow myself naps as rewards. Aren't I so niiiice to myself? My biggest failing is taking breaks but still staying on the computer. I have to remind myself to go play with my dog and go upstairs and let my family know they still have a child named Cait because we can't have them forgetting or they might not feed me which would be, quite frankly, terrible. I'm going to try and do that more this time!!

    And I get you with the inadvertently making people feel bad... >_< Obviously you're streets ahead of me BUT I JUST ADMIRE YOU FOR IT. And it feels bad to put my achievements on twitter because I will always have people saying "oh well I suck now"...which isn't true!! Like everyone has a different process and different abilities...and I think writers have to learn to flail over themselves because it's great motivation to be proud of yourself and want to do better...
    Anyway what am I even saying. who knows. I LIKED THIS POST MUCHLY.🎉

    1. *high fives you* I feel like we're basically writing twins (except you plan and I pants, but meh, tomato potato). The word count is such a great incentive. The getting done, less so. I actually end up feeling like crying on the last day of November because I don't want it to be over. *weeps* You are so nice to yourself. *pats your head* I would have to say that's my biggest failing as well, and it frustrates me. I could be using that time to get more reading done. And I don't even like hanging out on social media longer than a few minutes a day, but no. My brain hates me. And it would be awful if they forgot to feed you. :O I hope that doesn't happen this month. *sends you crates of food just in case*

      AWW, THANK YOU SO MUCH, THAT MAKES ME FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. I actually remember being super discouraged my first two years of NaNoWriMo because everyone was happy about their successes, and I didn't feel like I could share mine without sounding like I was just trying to top everyone. Last year I decided to just get over it and share my excitement regardless. I do still want to be sensitive, but I don't want to act like my high word count is a bad thing, an achievement to be ashamed of. I definitely think it should be a priority for all writers to learn how to flail over themselves, especially when they're feeling discouraged. I mean, writing is an achievement in and of itself, regardless of whether you even reach the 50K in a month. And it always makes me sad when I want to share my excitement over my word count and I end up ruining someone else's party. Like, no, be happy for yourself! My word count doesn't negate yours.

      AWW, THANK YOU! :D

  2. *applauds this post* Yes yes and yes to alllll of this! Thank you for sharing! <3

    1. *bows deeply* I'm glad you liked it! And you're welcome! <3

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  3. DUUUDE that rain website! How have I never heard of this before?? It's fantastic and I will now be using it nonstop.

    I'm so excited about doing NaNo again. I tried it for the first time last year, but got kind of stuck in my story and couldn't make it to 50k (I passed 30k, though, so yay!). This year I have a pretty good feeling about the story I'm doing, like I have a better idea of where I'm going with it, so I don't think I'll have quite as much trouble. It's driving me crazy waiting until November 1 to be able to start it though. xD

    1. IT'S SO GOOD, ISN'T IT? I found out about it two years ago, and dang. *nods* It's also good to layer over your music. I tend to have Spotify and Rainy Mood playing simultaneously (with the cafe off), and it's sooooo atmospheric and gah. alskfa;lsdjkfds. I'm so glad you like it too! I had one that did campfire and night noises as well, but I can't seem to find the link. :(

      I'm so excited for you! Passing 30K is really impressive, especially when you're feeling stuck. I'm confident you'll be able to hit the 50K this year. :D I'm glad you have a story you're excited about, and I totally understand having trouble waiting for November. I'm chomping at the bit too. XD

      Thank you for commenting, and best of luck this November! :)

  4. This post is beautiful and I needed it today. THE LAST TIME I DID NANO, I WAS SEVERELY DEPRESSED. It was so rough that I only finished 35K. And cried almost every day. So this year NEEDS TO BE DIFFERENT. *ahem* Also, how dare you introduce me to Rainy Mood???????? I'm going to use this every day forever. <3

    Love you, beautiful!! Thank you for the motivation! (Also, I owe you a message as;ldkfjaklsjdf so sorry I'm completely wiped lately.)


    1. Aww, thank you, you lovely creature! I'm so glad my post came at a good time! :) Ugh, depression is so bad for NaNoWriMo. I'm so sorry. :( I get worried every year that November will come during a slump for me. :| But 35K is really impressive, especially if you're struggling with a huge setback like depression. Hats off to you!

      *evil laugh* Rainy Mood is my weapon of positivity and atmospheric wonderfulness. I shall attack all writers with its black magic until the website crashes from overuse. *resumes evil laugh*

      Love you too, you gorgeous person!!! You are so very welcome! :) (No worries on that front. I totally understand not having the juice to engage in online conversations. I have so much trouble with that myself. So take your time and message me when you feel up to it. I don't want you draining yourself on my behalf.)

      Thank you for commenting! :)


  5. "Get into the spirit of autumn. Eat a leaf and put pumpkins on your hands."

    That whole paragraph was amusing but this bit made me laugh so loudly I scared my dog. I can't imagine aiming for as many words as you are, I'm scared about trying to hit 50k. But this is a great post and I'll be using some of the tips in ... 2 hours and 40 minutes. Good gods.