As a number of my friends get ready to join the insanity known as NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d give you some of my tips for surviving it.
1. Outline your book. Do it before November. It’s not cheating. It’s being smart and giving yourself a roadmap.
2. Do you research ahead of time. Setting your story in an unfamiliar city/country? Look it up, read up on it.
3. Plan for each of your chapters to be about 2000 words long.
4. End your writing day on a cliffhanger. Stop just before something you really want to write. Sometimes, I stop writing in the middle of the sentence.
5. When you start up for the day, edit the last three paragraphs you wrote. No more, no less. That should get you back into the right frame of thought.
6. Be willing to give up TV and videogames. Be firm in your commitment to your book. Realize you’re going to have to contend with holidays and family visits. Instead of watching the entire game / movie you always watch, take an hour and write.
7. Ask your family, friends, roommates to support you and be respectful of your desire to write. Writing is work. It takes time. You need to concentrate on it.
8. Get a writing buddy. Challenge each other. Do word sprints. If you can’t write together at a coffee shop, see if you can write together online using Skype or a Google hang out.
9. Log your progress every day. Be aware of all you have written and all you still need to write.
10. Understand you just need to get the words down but also understand that, eventually, you’re going to have to go back and rewrite the book. This is your 50,000 word outline for the real book to come.
There’s more—make sure you sleep, make sure you eat, make sure you take walks—but all of it is based on what helps you the most. I can’t work with sound unless it is music without words. Bands like Midnight Syndicate, Two Steps From Hell, David Lanz, Arcanum. Other people must have silence or heavy metal. I do recommend a soundtrack and listening to the same set of music that inspires and enhances your writing.
In the end, whether or not you get to 50,000 words, if you try, you succeed and learn something. I’ve been a fulltime author for years now and I still try to do NaNo when my schedule allows for it. I don’t think it will this year. But even if it doesn't, I’ll be working on something. So know that I’ll be writing along with you all.