National Novel Writing Month is a yearly challenge to write an entire novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. This is a tall order considering Thanksgiving is in there and the month only has thirty days! It also requires you to write an average of 1,667 words per day, which isn’t easy—especially in the beginning. Given that it’s already hard, should you even bother if you forgot to start on November 1st? We’re already a week into November—have you blown NaNoWriMo again?! I say you haven’t. Here are my tips for starting NaNoWriMo late.
Move Past Guilt and Shame Immediately
Don’t stress that you’re already 11,669 words behind. (That number didn’t help, did it?) The point of NaNoWriMo is to jump-start your writing and get you focused in on your goals. Nobody’s going to produce an amazing work of fiction in thirty days. Plus, although 50,000 technically is out of the novella zone, most full-length novels are quite a bit longer, by almost double. My point? You weren’t going to have a completed manuscript anyway, even if you “win.” You’re a week late. There’s still a lot of time to catch the fever and make great progress. So put guilt behind you and get started.
Plan to Push
Although my first tip is to not get down on yourself, don’t think that means you shouldn’t add a little pressure. Pressure is the point of NaNoWriMo. The point is to get your butt in the chair and your fingers flying across the keyboard. Don’t stress about what you missed but make a plan to hit the remainder of the word count. (That’s 38,331 if you missed November 1-7.)
Average Your Words
There will be days in the month where hitting your word count will be impossible. Things come up and we all have duties to day jobs, family, etc. (See also: Turkey Day.) But don’t let that be an excuse to slump! If you have an off day be sure to compensate with an up day. You might need to make at least three out of four weekends this month dedicated writing weekends. You’re going to have to sacrifice a little to make NaNoWriMo work. Progress is worth it, though. If you aim to average about 10-12,000 words a week, you’ll still be hitting the mark even when you have a slow individual day.
NaNoWriMo is a challenge, so use the tools the organization made for you. Actually sign up and update your profile at NaNoWriMo.org. It will show graphs of your progress and give badges and awards for hitting your mark. It might seem silly to work for an electronic sticker, but evidence shows these benchmark “rewards” do make a difference. We’re wired to seek rewards. This is why video games are so popular. You don’t actually save a princess, but you do earn points and prizes, which is motivating. If these little hacks help you write more, use them.
Phone a Friend
Finally, as Mary Poppins so wisely sang, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—snap! The job’s a game.” Let’s be honest. Writing 1,667 words a day is a somewhat Herculean task. It’s gonna hurt, especially at first when you’re finding your voice and your plot and your characters. Make a plan to make this fun. We naturally avoid pain, so if you dread writing, you’re not going to want to do it. Enlist a friend. Get an accountability buddy online. Attend a write-in in your community (lots of resources at NaNoWriMo.org). Make it a game. Make it fun. Make it desirable. You’ll thank yourself on December 1st.