Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During NaNoWriMo

Here are a few tips to help you keep your head during November. For those not participating – there are handy hint below which apply to writing at any time.

1. Think Bigger

Set your word limit above 1667 words a day. The official daily target gives you NO buffer zone, it only gets you across the line if you diligently turn up to write that many words every day, and we all know things happen… life gets in the way. Set your daily word count between 2000 and 2500 words and you won’t get caught out at the end.

2. Set Milestones. Celebrate Small Victories

50,000 words can seem like an awful lot of words to find and 30th November too close, especially if you’re a NaNo virgin. Setting smaller milestones will help NaNo appear manageable – every 10,000 words, every 12,500 words – you decide. Not only decide on the word count but the date you want to achieve it by and how you will celebrate these small victories. In 2008 I set my big milestones at 12,500 words and at each of these points bought a bottle of perfume to celebrate. I finished six days early that year!

Small achievements fuel momentum and November is all about forward motion.

3. Write On in Write-Ins

A write-in is a bunch of wrimos getting together in person to write. They are fun, they are productive and they’re a great way to meet the writers in your local area. If you are predominantly an online writer it can personalise the experience of NaNo. For someone like me, who is a tad competitive, the writing races and highest word counts are extra incentive to get the words on the page.

In 2010  I did the majority of my writing at the four Brisbane write-ins. Without the Write Ins November would have been a very different month (probably one without a winner’s badge!)

To find out more about what’s going on in your area check out the regions section of the NaNo website and get on the mailing list for your area.

4. Embrace the Mundane

When we’re pressed for time it is easy to skip out on the things considered mundane or low priority – such as preparing meals, housework etc. It’s actually a false economy of time and creativity. These mundane tasks, are actually potent forms of creative meditation and can actually assist you, as well as ensuring you’re fed, clothed and living a few steps up from squalor.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Delete

Every word counts in November… am I crazy to even mention deletion?

Take a deep breath… please!

Sometimes your narrative takes a dead end turn and you of course, don’t realise until you’ve crashed into the wall at the end. Not to worry. Cut and paste the dead end into a new file and save as ‘out takes’ (or something far wittier – ‘shit which didn’t stick’?) The words in this file whilst not part of the ongoing project, are still counted towards your total. There is no point labouring on a narrative when a strategic cut can refuel the momentum.

If you can’t bring yourself to hit delete and you ARE at  a dead end or a plot point that refuses to budge consider this technique for finding your way back into the story.

6. Take care of yourself!

Hydrate. Nourish. Exercise.

Yes – I’m on the tangent. But hear me out.

Dehydration impairs mental processing and it happens quicker than you think. Keeping yourself hydrated is one of the best and easiest things you can do to facilitate writing. Unless you absolutely need the caffeine, reach for some H2O instead. I’m keeping a bottle close at hand.

The body requires sustenance. Make a list of meals to cook which are simple, quick and nutritious (our favourites are stirfrys full of veggies) and get all the ingredients for an entire week’s worth of meals. This cuts down on the time spent going to and from the supermarket. It’s also one of the essential. I love chocolate as much as the next person, but the sugar high and crashing low isn’t good for creativity – consider foods which are healthy, nutritious and fit the ‘snacking’ profile, such as nuts.

Exercise increases the feel good hormones in your body, it helps to lower your blood pressure, relax your body, is the perfect antidote for stress and unwinding knots in narratives. Even a gentle fifteen minute stroll around the block will do you good. This article by Patricica Fry is one of my favourites on walking and the creative headspace.

7. Support Others

You don’t have to believe in the three-fold rule to know the support you offer will be returned to you in kind and abundance. You never know when you might need your own personal cheer squad in the next 30 days.If you have several friends also doing NaNo consider setting up a private Facebook Group  or dedicated Google+ circle as a check in spot, to encourage each other. Those of us who went to Byron Bay this year, have a group set up to support each other through the month.

And on the note of support – put your money where your mouth is and provide financial support to The Office of Letters and Light, the not-for-profit organisation that runs NaNo. You can buy merchandise or make a direct donation and enjoy a halo over your name for the month of November.

Image via Ivysimmeijun’s Blog

7 thoughts on “Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During NaNoWriMo

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I’ll be doing NaNo for the very first time this year and I am sort of collecting tips to survive the month. What you wrote sounds like a pretty good plan to me! 🙂


  2. “Set your daily word count between 2000 and 2500 words and you won’t get caught out at the end.”

    Meh! Or you can goof off and then write 11,000+ words on Day #Last.

    Repeat after me – “I’ll NEVER do that…I’ll NEVER do that…” If you’re me, you may add the word “again” to the mantra.

    These are all good ideas, Jodi. I’ve been to write-ins and all but one were helpful (the last one I went to got rather “chatty” – so fewer words written).

    My best to you on the NaNo quest for the month – to you and all us crazy wrimos.


  3. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Wisdom to Soothe Your Soul | Alison Runham

  4. Pingback: Learning to get my writing in wherever I am and at whatever time I can | Sybir

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