My ultimate guide to maximize my Nanowrimo

You’ve always wanted to write that book in your head but you never had the time. Or perhaps you’ve decided to commit yourself to some time to finally get to your creative projects but feel that you’re not moving fast enough (My Singaporean competitive blood speaking. Hehe.).

Enter Nanowrimo – an online programme a friend of a friend recommended because it helped some of their writer friends get projects done and released.

Then the questions start – What is this wondrous programme? How does it help? And I already have a full life (job, kids, the works), how can I commit to yet something else?

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Let’s dive in then, shall we?

Nanowrimo?

Nanowrimo (na-no-wry-mo) is short for National Novel Writing Month. Simply put, you write 50,000 words in 30 days.

It was set up by the Office of Letters and Light (currently based in San Francisco, USA), starting as a pact between founder Chris Baty and a few other of his friends to finally get their novels written after a long time of “I really need / should / want to…”

What do you get out of Nanowrimo?

Your novel draft. Or a draft of whatever you decided to write for Nanowrimo.

And various downloadable goodies should you decide to do Nanowrimo with the site.

Why do we Nanowrimo?

I’ve gotten a few questions about why we would do Nanowrimo. Common ones tend to be –

  1. If I were to copy and paste a word 50,000 times, do I still win?

  2. If we do Nanowrimo, does it mean we’ll get published?

  3. What’s the point in doing Nanowrimo when I’m getting essentially nothing but the pain of putting myself through this process?

To quickly answer these questions first:

  1. Yes, you do. But can you sleep at night knowing that you wasted time to get a purple bar by essentially doing nothing?

  2. People who have done Nanowrimo have gone on to get published – both traditionally and independently – Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) and Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) are just some titles.

As for the third question, this is where we come to the crux of why we do Nanowrimo –

To get our draft done.

Many of us are not the most self-disciplined people – even those with amazing structure and discipline in their lives have moments of wavering and down-time. Nanowrimo is a community that recognizes the distractions and ‘could-have-would-have-should-haves’ of everyday lives but yet find the time to create something despite having full lives.

Another good friend of mine also said – the process itself should be its own reward.

While I have yet to achieve that level of zen, Nanowrimo does help in letting me enjoy the process of writing, plotting, and storytelling, even if the draft that comes out of it (or Draft Zero, as I call it) is rubbish.

After all, a draft in high need of editorial surgery is better than a blank document.

Okay, I’m sold! How do we Nanowrimo?

This is the easy part – you can either do it on your own or with a group of friends with the same goal (you won’t get the purple bar or certificate of completion though), or…

Go to Nanowrimo.org and register. It’s free and you get to talk to people within your locale or community.

Maximizing your 30 Days with a Full Life

Onwards to the meat of this post, then!

As I’ve mentioned, Nanowrimo is an undertaking of 50,000 words of your draft or project within 30 days. But if you have a full life – full-time job, family, side hustle, the works – but still want to actually finish that project you’ve been putting off just because, then perhaps these steps can help you maximize your Nanowrimo time.

Set a Goal

While it is generally frowned upon to start writing your Nanowrimo before the actual Nanowrimo starts, no one said anything about pre-planning your project.

Sure, it does take away the thrill of writing off the seat of your pants, but it definitely will help if you set a goal for yourself before you embark on the November storm that is Nanowrimo (after you’ve committed to doing Nanowrimo, of course).

A few things to note about the goal you’re going to set for yourself this time:

  • DEADLINE – Your timeline has already been decided for you, but take this opportunity to reaffirm this.

  • Measurability – You would want to know if you’ve hit your goal at the end of the month.

  • Realistic – Not to say that you cannot be ambitious, but you should be honest with yourself – are you sure you can finish a completed 90,000 word piece ready for publication by November if you’re struggling with a 9,000 short story in the same amount of time?

Example goals can be the following:

  • During Nanowrimo, I will write at least 50,000 words of the YA novel I intend to write out, titled, “<insert title here>”.

  • During Nanowrimo, I will write an accumulated 50,000 words of the following, pending works.  

Set a Schedule

This is very much like how you dedicate time to create, only that if you decide to focus on Nanowrimo, your subject / tasks would be reflected accordingly.

On an overall level, Nanowrimoers who want to reach 50,000 words by the end of 30 days need to hit 1,667 words a day. However, if you know that you’ll have down time – family vacations, major work projects – do factor those into your scheduling as well.

For example, I had a friend schedule 2,000 words a day for Nanowrimo because she wanted her Sundays off.

Plan Accordingly

Following your available time and your goals, you can start planning. Here’s how I do my Nano plan, now inspired by Megan Minns:

1.  Set aside an hour or so to create your plan.

2.  Ensure that your planning environment is as optimal as you can manage – If you need quiet, wait until everyone at home is asleep. Or take lunch alone at a quiet café.

3.  Keep your Nanowrimo word count goals and schedule handy and in easy sight.

4.  Planning starts proper!

5.  Take your daily Nanowrimo word count goals and align them with the free / flexible spots in your schedule (unless you’ve already scheduled Nanowrimo written time).

6.  Adjust accordingly – if you want to write 2,000 words a day, you cannot really hit that goal if you only have 10 minutes a day, realistically.

7.  Share this schedule or plan with a writing friend or forum (if you’re comfortable and/or need accountability partners. I’ll talk more about this in the next section).

8.  (Optional) – Assign days for Nanowrimo word bursts! These are days where your schedule is relatively clear (or you can clear it!) so that you can do a word marathon, whether or not it’s to catch up or to get ahead. You might want to mark these days differently on your calendar so that you can look forward to them.  

But at the end of the day, planning just means to have a point in your planner or alarm on your phone so that you know what you need to do for the day, instead of sitting in front of your computer thinking about what to do for a good few minutes (or hours) during the day.

We’ve all been there – and I hope we can all minimize these incidents.  

Get an Accountability Partner / Group

One of the greatest aspects of Nanowrimo, I feel, is the accessibility you have to other people who are Nanowrimo-ing, so you don’t feel alone. If you find that you really need to hit your goal, one of the ways I find incredibly useful is to find someone to keep you in check.

The Tiger and I usually each other’s accountability partner to a certain extent.  

WRITE!

Yes. Write.

Concluding Hot Tips

So yes, I know these tips for maximizing your Nanowrimo experience can be a lot to take in, but if you don’t have the time, here are my must-haves when it comes to a great Nanowrimo experience:

  1. Plan. Really. Word-Count Goals and Scheduling save precious minutes and mental energy.

  2. Having an accountability partner or group. Nanowrimo write-ins (if your area has them) also help with motivation if you feel like you need that extra push to get going.

  3. Know that at the core of it, Nanowrimo was formed to help writers or budding creators with two things:

    • To get draft zero out – a bad canvas is better than a blank one

    • To have fun telling your story!

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What You Can Do / Your Challenge:

  1. If you haven’t and would like to, sign up for Nanowrimo here!

  2. Again, if you want to, join your area’s forum boards – writing might be solitary but you don’t need to be if you need some support.

  3. Plan your Nanowrimo before November (go through this post again if you’d like!).

  4. Mark your calendars for Nanowrimo and Word-Burst days.

  5. Start writing when 1st November hits!

Again, all the best to all of you and here’s to more fruitful Nanowrimo experiences – and drafts!

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How has Nanowrimo been for you? And if you haven’t done Nanowrimo in its entirety, what are you looking forward to? Do share your experiences in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.