It’s that time of year again—the unofficial start of a writer’s New Year. NaNo time! And this year, as with many years, I’ll draft at least one new thing, and possibly other things, too. I have set myself a goal of 120,000 words. Ambitious, but within my range of what I’ve done before.
You can find almost anything out there to help you plan for NaNoWriMo. Plotters offer plotting plans. Pantsers tell you to wing it and just charge forward, backward, sideways, and fix it all afterwards. No one way is right—what’s right is what works. I wanted to talk about the things I’ve found that that have made me successful at completing NaNoWriMo.
First: Define success. A successful NaNoWriMo is whatever you want it to be. It isn’t 50,000 words. It isn’t 150,000 words. It’s doing what you want to do with it. Whatever that may be, you’ll need these things.
This isn’t the same as having a complete outline and all the beat sheets prepared and lined up on your Wall-O-Readiness. It could be. It won’t be for me. Give me an idea and get out of my way. That’s pretty much the extent of my writing plan.
But, everything else in my life? Organized on paper. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on building my word count, clearing out my drafting projects, my Beta reading, and my personal reading, preparing for what will be an intense writing period. I have my exercise schedule worked out. I am thinking through menu plans to give myself the most time to write. School for my kids will be streamlined to give them writing time for their projects as well. It’s kind of a big deal for us!
Organization helps you see what kind of goal you could achieve and gives you the space in which to achieve it.
Plotters and pantsers both know the dreaded panic that comes right around 10,000 words. You hit that first plot point and…then what? Gasp. Stuck.
The cure for stuck varies, but the solution is usually write the next sentence. And the next sentence. Stir that pot until something bubbles and the boil starts again.
It takes determination to break through that wall. Writing is hard! I don’t care if your NaNoWriMo goal is a short story every week (Go, you Rebel, you!) or 200,000 words (who are you, what are you drinking, and can I have some?) Being able to breathe, step back, write another scene, write out a plan, to write whatever is needed to get you through that point is key in having a successful NaNoWriMo.
I have yet to finish a NaNoWriMo without something BAD happening. I used to howl at the universe about it. All I wanted to do was write a novel! Why was the world against me? Turns out it was something much less personal. Life happened. A lot of life is happening this year, and a lot of it hasn’t been good, am I right?
So, to be successful, you need to be flexible. You wanted to write 50,000 words in a month but you got that job you’ve been needing. You were about to finish that revision and you got sick. Or maybe it’s just a constellation of bad things and you need to just get through it and the words are going to have to wait.
To have a successful NaNoWriMo, you have to be willing to let things go. Whatever you have done is good enough. Words will wait. Give yourself the grace to adjust your goals, reopen that organization, and schedule what needs to be done.
There you have it. My intangible things a writer needs to be successful at NaNoWriMo. Now go forth and word!