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Conquering NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide for Accomplishing Your National Novel Writing Month Goals

If you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, November is the month for you. Since 1999, the month of November has been known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of NaNoWriMo, you can learn more about the project by checking out their website. But for those of you who have heard of the month-long writing event, and perhaps were too afraid to take part in previous years, now is your chance. I understand that the idea of writing a novel in one month can seem like a daunting task, so here’s a guide on how to potentially complete your novel and avoid getting overwhelmed .

1. Plan ahead

The entire process of writing a novel in one month would go a lot better if you have a plan in mind. To start, make a plan of how many words you’d like to write each day. Since the goal is 50,000 words by the end of November, the minimum for each day would be 1,667. Of course, you don’t have to stick to those specific daily word count goals. You can create your own based on the time you have to dedicated to your novel each day. That’s another thing to plan: your daily routine. If you aren’t a professional novel writer, you probably aren’t used to scheduling writing time into you daily routine. Perhaps you’re a student with a full course load and a part-time job. Planning beforehand when you’ll set aside time to write can really help you stay on track. Although the most important thing to plan is your actual novel. Considering that the point of NaNoWriMo is to spend the entire month of November writing a novel, you don’t really have time to think about what you want your novel to be about. Which is why you should definitely have an outline prepared before November starts. Just consider the month of October as pre-NaNoWriMo.

2. Create an outline

Creating an outline for a 50,000-word novel can seem just as daunting of a task as actually writing the novel. If you’re a true creative you probably have a million ideas swimming around in your brain, so an outline will actually turn out to be your best friend; once you get started that is. First, consider your list of ideas and pick the one that excites you the most. That’s the one you should focus your novel on; you’ll be more invested in finishing your novel when things get tough. Once you’ve decided on an idea, start setting up your characters. This will need to be a very detailed process, not only should you work out the basics like their physical appearance, but you should also work on fleshing out their personalities. After you’ve got your characters all sorted you should work on setting and have a few ideas of some scenes you’d like to include in your novel. Although your outline doesn’t need to be as detailed as your actual novel will be, it does need to contain enough information to help you through the novel writing process.

3. Join a group

This tip is important for many reasons. Being a part of a writer’s group or community can provide support when you’re feeling stuck. The group you join doesn’t necessarily have to be related to NaNoWriMo but helps even more if it is. NaNoWriMo offers many forums that you can join. Doing so allows you to engage with other writers on the same journey as you, which can be helpful when you need someone to relate to your writing struggles. It also helps with holding each other accountable. Joining a group of some sort helps you get out of your head. Having someone else’s opinion can be helpful when writing a novel since you’re most likely writing a novel that you want others to read and enjoy.

4. Reward yourself

Writing a novel in one month is essentially one big goal made up of smaller goals, but every one of those goals should be rewarded once they’ve been accomplished. The best reward you can give yourself is taking a break. It always helps to step away from your work every once and a while, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Of course, your reward can be something else like going to see a movie. Or, if you’ve exceeded your expectations and reached multiple goals earlier than expected, maybe you want to treat yourself to a party, a staycation, or if you’re feeling super proud of yourself, a weekend getaway. Regardless of what the reward is, make sure to indulge in it. You deserve to feel good about all the accomplishments you’ve made.

5. Keep going

Of course, the greatest reward is completing your novel. So, keep going! Sticking to your plan is key, but if changes need to be made for you to continue, then do so. If your story seems to be getting off track, look back over your outline, its there to help keep your story moving in the right direction. When you feel the need to bounce some ideas off of someone, ask the members of your writer’s group for their opinions. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s okay to take a break and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve put in so far. So, when you start to feel like you’ll never finish or there’s just too much work involved, refer to the previous tips and then carry on.

I'm a senior and a Professional Writing major. I most enjoy writing about others, as well as giving helpful advice.

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