How I Survive NaNoWriMo!

Hey there folks!

I realize that I missed my weekly Tuesday post, total la-ay-zee moment on my part. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday happened to be the Zone 4 Spring Conference for the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE).

I was there enjoying that little three day break that vacation with my people. Here’s my make-up post!

So, NaNoWriMo. The abbreviation strikes fear and panic into some people, many others have no idea what it means. To keep this post on track, here’s a link to the National Novel Writing Month website in case you’re on the side that has no idea what it is.

I’ve been a part of the NaNoWriMo community for over eight years (my profile says eight, but those first few years I tried going by hand). The first year that I officially participated was 2011, my freshman year in college. That might sound ludicrous. Why in the hell would I even dream of that torture? 50,000 words right before my first finals?

To be honest, my first two years I earned my Associate Arts and Science degree, aka I got my generals out of the way, and didn’t fully care that I was doing it. I’m sure I could spin some story about how I never slept and finished my novel draft before sleeping for a week, but I can’t remember how I did it. I know that I did it in eleven days. ELEVEN DAYS, and I know I haven’t been able to finish a work longer than 10,000 words since.

Sam, why are you writing an article on how to survive NaNoWriMo then? Just because I haven’t ‘won’ since 2011, doesn’t mean I haven’t put forth effort since then.

You can read millions of posts that say ‘this is how you do it!’ and if you have sense, you’ll know that every writer is as different as the story they write. Different lives, personalities, work loads, experience, etc.

I’m one of those writers who writes better when they have been working. Like, I clean hotel rooms in the morning and feel more motivated to write in those afternoons. If I have a day off, like today, I put it off thinking ‘a little more rest/one more movie and then I’ll write.’

And when I do write, I need noise canceling headphones or the right volume of music to block out the world.

**I’m not going to lie, I’m already feeling anxiety about Camp NaNoWriMo in a few days**

So, here is what works best for me:

  1. Telling People. Honestly. Especially if you live with other people or have someone you talk to and/or love. If you don’t tell them, they’ll keep talking to you or bothering you when you’re supposed to be writing. And nothing destroys a writing jag like a text message asking what happened on last night’s episode of Little Women Atlanta or when the next paper is due.
  2. Notebook. This seems pretty self-explanatory. If you write, you usually have some form of paper to keep story notes in. I like to separate NaNoWriMo items from other daily writing items or ideas because it’s easier to find and I have less of a chance to get side tracked while looking for the color of my protagonist’s car.
  3. Turning Your Back. If you’re living in a dorm room or have a small area where you live/write, there’s a chance you have a television or X-box or whatever it may be that will distract you. The easiest way I’ve found to help me write is to literally face the other way. Usually a wall. And then I turn up.
  4. Music. I’ve said before that the podcast on the Nerdist with Maureen Johnson is one of my favorites. There, Johnson said that she listens to music, more specifically she mentioned a David Bowie playlist. I too listen to music when I write, but it has to be either instrumental soundtracks (Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/etc) or chillstep. And for me, I have to plug in those head phones and search for that *perfect* volume that drowns everything out. It’s really nice to find with chillstep because the bass pumps through you and it’s like a zero in on the task at hand.
  5. Index Cards. This is a writing ‘trick’ I’ve avoided for so long. I never understood it until I did it. I just sat down and looked at a breakdown of a three-act story structure and applied my story idea to it. I have them pinned up on a bulletin board right now. Each act is a different color. I took a lot of story notes between classes at the beginning of the week and need to add them, but it’s already making me feel better that I won’t have to search through a 50,000+ word document to find where I need to change.

So there we go, five little tips on how I survive.

I won’t lie and say it’s easy to do the 1,667words a day to make something coherent, but it’s a goal and if you’re nervous or haven’t done NaNoWriMo before, just jump in.


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