NaNoWriMo is right around the corner! Here’s a quick list of things I do every year that have kept me successful.
1. Have a system. Time management is crucial. You can read a short post I wrote about the system I use specifically during November here.
2. Go to write-ins. They help you meet awesome people, raise your word count through intense word wars, and feel a sense of solidarity in this otherwise solitary effort. Make sure to set your home region so you can find out about write-ins in your area! (Writer’s Den members—I’ll be emailing everyone on my NaNo interest list about all of the on-campus events I know about, so make sure to let me know if you want to get those emails.)
3. Have a sense of direction. You don’t need to have a fully-detailed, scene-by-scene, action-by-action outline, but I’ve found that knowing at least my climax and a few key scenes is usually enough to keep me writing. (Every writer is different, but I also know that the more detail I put into my planning, the easier time I have during NaNo. FYI.)
4. Be flexible. Sometimes stories take on lives of their own. If you’re fighting your outline, change it to reflect the new direction your novel wants to go and roll with it! Or, if you hit a dead end, you can pretend the last 2,000 or 5,000 or even 10,000 words were actually a dream, so your characters can just wake up and turn left instead of right, rob a bank instead of declaring bankruptcy, or whatever alternative you think would have been better for the plot. (Remember, NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality, so you can always cut pointless dreams out later.)
5. Use a spreadsheet. If you’re a data junkie like me, tracking the number of words you write per day using one of these fantastic spreadsheets by Svenja Liv is a must. You can choose a design, decide between the daily wordcount vs. the total wordcount tracker, and even use the other tabs in the spreadsheet to plan out your novel.
(The mighty spreadsheet is also useful if you ever want to remember what your NaNoWriMo experience was like. For example, my 2010 spreadsheet tells me I was 13,658 words behind on November 13, but I was able to catch up by the 26th by writing 2,000-3,000 words a day with one glorious 5,000-word sprint on the 19th. It makes for a great story.)