Congratulations! You've made it to day 5 of NaNoWriMo! That's almost an entire week! Already an accomplishment. And if you've been reaching your daily word count, you should have somewhere around 8,335 words already (depending on whether or not you set your own daily goals or if you're using the daily goals recommended by NaNoWriMo). Even if you haven't made your word count every day — even if you haven't made your word count at all — you aren't dead, right? And there are still 25 days to go (including today — which counts unless you're already done writing for today — and since it's still 6 AM here it definitely still counts for me). So, how about a few tips to help you stay motivated for NaNoWriMo and keep you writing through the rest of the month to finish that novel!
- If you aren't already using writing sprints, start. They are brilliant for pumping out scenes you have in your head and getting them onto paper quickly.
- If you are doing writing sprints, make sure you write what you know during those sprints. Your research should be done before starting a sprint (if you happen to come across a spot where you need to look something up and you're in the middle of a sprint, use placeholders and keep sprinting. You can always look it up later).
- Try to end the day in the middle of a scene, and leave yourself a little note about where you're going to go with the rest of the scene. That way, when you get started the next day, you aren't faced with that dreaded blank page staring at you. It will be easier to get into your groove faster if you leave yourself a breadcrumb like this.
- Give yourself breaks. Just because you have a daily word goal, that doesn't mean punish yourself until you reach it. Get off the computer, stretch your legs, check the mail, lean into the refrigerator. Whatever you need to do to stretch and give yourself a break. If you need a longer break, have some fun. Set yourself a timer to know when to get back to work.
- Make sure you take a moment at the end of every day to reflect and pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment. I don't care if you made it to 10 words or 10,000 words for the day – either is an accomplishment and should be congratulated. You made progress, celebrate it.
- Don't forget to update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site at every break. This will allow you to track your progress and view several of your stats throughout the month. It's a great way to keep yourself motivated and writing more.
- Listen to your body! Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Eat when you're hungry. Drink when you're thirsty. Stop for a break when you're distracted or tired. Stretch. Self-care is an important part of this entire process, but it's also the easiest to forget.
- If you're not already, try to write about something you're passionate about. If you come across a scene you don't really care about, skip it and write the next scene, or the scene after that, until you get to a scene that contains something you really care about. That will help you crank out the words to reach your goal and may even help you find the motivation to write out that bad scene.
- I love dialogue. Nothing gets my juices flowing like a good old fashioned conversation in my book. Especially if you're facing writer's block. Set up a scene where your characters are arguing about what just happened, and you'll find the inspiration to write the scenes around it.
- I hate descriptions. Hate them. I know a lot of writers want the flowery descriptions of dancing hillsides and castle tapestries to flow on for pages and pages. And some readers enjoy reading those descriptions. I am neither one, and here's why: descriptions slow down the story. If your characters are taking the time to look around and notice the velvety-soft carpeting, they aren't doing much else. And during NaNoWriMo, keeping the pace is hard to do when the story isn't really moving. Go for the action: dialogue, fight scenes, arguments, accidents, crashes, sex. You can always add in your flowery descriptions of her cascading pearly white curls later.
- Are you using your accountability partner? Do you have an accountability partner? Reach out to your partner whenever you need a something to get you moving again. Whether you need a kick in the pants or a big hug, make sure to reach out whenever you're feeling less than motivated so you can get the help you need.
- Subscribe to the NaNoWriMo newsletter and you'll get pep talks emailed straight to you. Open them, read them, and print them out as needed to help you keep going.
- If you have to, set up some sort of reward system. I don't generally like reward systems, especially for NaNoWriMo, because if you still don't reach your goal then you can end up feeling even worse about yourself and you risk losing even more motivation. Plus, setting up rewards can sometimes install a ceiling, they cap out after a while. But, if you set up a system that includes things you want and feel passionately about or have wanted for a really long time, then they can serve as the last bit of motivation you need to reach that goal.
- Take a look at the winner's page on the NaNoWriMo site and look at all the goodies being offered. Every year there's at least one service or software that I look forward to testing, checking, and using (and with a discount no less!) Read through the descriptions and find the one you're looking forward to winning the most.
- Celebrate in others' success, and share your successes, but don't compare yourself to them. As you join all these groups and chats about NaNoWriMo, you're going to see tweets and statuses, posts and articles, each of which will include updates on how they are doing with their novel. You are bound to see some from people that will blow your mind. I mean it. I've seen people update in the tens of thousands every day. I know writers who reach 50,000 words within their first three days. That's okay — you aren't in a race with them. Celebrate, cheer them on, then return to your own race. And when you make progress, share it so everyone can celebrate with you.
- At the end of the day, pick out your favorite sentence or paragraph and share it somewhere. Post it to a group or as your status on Facebook, tweet it. Just share it somewhere and let others praise you for your literary genius.
- Find and attends write-ins. Yes, write-ins. We like to think of writers as being socially awkward, shy people who would rather have a relationship with a chat room than with other people. But in reality, we also love socializing. And there is something very motivational about sitting in a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a library quietly writing with a group of silent cheerleaders who are also quietly writing.
- Write naked. I'm not even kidding. Okay, maybe I'm kidding a little bit. But my point is to get comfortable. Set up a pre-writing routine to help put yourself in the mindset of writing. Kind of like how you brush your teeth and take a shower every night before bed to help yourself unwind? Or how you wake up and stretch then brew some coffee and grab some toast to get ready for your day? Pre-writing routines are great for stimulating the mind and getting ready to write.
- Write even when you aren't feeling motivated. Are you tired? Facing writer's block? Do you hate your story? Just not feeling it today? Who cares. I mean, I care, I hope you aren't feeling any of those things. But when it comes to writing, don't let those things stop you. Motivation comes and goes, just like passion. Some days you will feel on top of the world and conquering it 3,000 words at a time. Other days you will feel like drop kicking your computer right out the window. When you're in the middle of a motivational high, use it to your advantage. Write out your daily goal, then set yourself up for easier success for a future daily goal (instead of continuing to write, perhaps complete the research or plotting of a future scene. That way, if you lose motivation, it will be easier for you to power through.
- And last but not least — find your happy spot. No, not while you're naked (unless that's your only happy spot. Who am I to judge?) Play your happy-maker song at top volume. Dance. Go for a walk. Spend time with your kids. Kiss your spouse. Make a happy-maker sandwich. Or chocolate. Bake a cake. Whatever you know always gets you into a good mood, do it. People procrastinate the most when they're in a bad mood, so force yourself into a good mood. Then roll with it. You'll be pleasantly surprised with how well this works for you by the end of the month!
There you have it, my top 20 tips for staying motivated and surviving the rest of NaNoWriMo! I'd love to hear which of these tips you tried and how they worked for you. Or if you have a tip, please share!
Are you planning on participating in the next session of Camp NaNoWriMo? Join me as we prepare together!!