So, we're eighteen days into NaNoWriMo as you're reading this, and hopefully by this point I've written more than thirty thousand words toward my manuscript.
How are you doing? Are you in the weeds? Have you fallen behind due to too many days off? Or do to not knowing what to write about? Or have you already rocketed over the finish line?
Well, in case you're feeling lost, or you would like some guidance for next time, here are some things I've learned from past NaNoWriMo attempts.
1. Let Yourself Miss Your Daily Goal.
If you're going to miss your daily goal, it's better to write something, anything, than to mark that day as a loss. Even if you're stuck, write five hundred words of something. It's five hundred words fewer that you'll have to write the next day. And don't beat yourself up about it, either, or it will be harder to go back to it later.
2. Definitely Keep Track of Daily Word Counts.
There's something really magical about being able to see how far you've come. Or how far you need to go. It's nice to look back at days when you wrote well over your goal to remind yourself that yes, this is possible, and yes, you can still do it. Keeping track of daily word counts also allows you to spot patterns, so you can see when you're writing less and when you're writing more, and that can lead to you creating the conditions that seem to be more favorable to productive writing time.
3. Jump Around if You're Stuck.
If you're stuck, don't sit there for an hour biting your nails and staring at the cursor. Jump to something else. Start a new scene or a new chapter, switch to a different character's point of view, move backward or forward in the story. It might be that something about the part that you're working on isn't quite right; it may be that the ideas that you're trying to express haven't finished baking in the great creative oven that we call the brain. You can always come back later. Just get writing!
4. Pre-writing Helps You Write Faster.
This is incontrovertible. Having even a rough outline helps you move more quickly. For NaNoWriMo 2015, I completed the most extensive outline I have ever done for a story, ever. I did it because I'm not going to have a lot of free time this November, and I don't want to sit, staring blankly at the screen, while I wait for the next thing to come to me. I do that a lot; it's classically a part of my "process" as a pantser. But we don't have time for that navel-gazing nonsense now, it's time for NaNoWriMo! So if you struggled this year, try mapping our your book next year. I promise it will help.
5. Pre-make Meals or Snacks.
On days when you have a little more time, like weekends, pre-make a couple of meals or snacks. That way, if you're writing and you feel hungry, you can replenish precious glucose stores without having to stop writing. I mean you'll need to go to the fridge and the microwave or whatever, but you won't have to be up long enough to leave your writing brain. This will also keep you from subsisting on junky convenience foods (Totino's Pizza Rolls have been one of my greatest supper sins during past NaNoWriMos), and we all know that the brain runs on glucose, right? How can you write your novel if you don't feed your brain?
6. Be Kind to Yourself.
If you don't make it, don't worry too much about it. I've succeeded and I've failed; there's always next time.