Tips from a NaNoWriMo Old Timer
This is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, so maybe calling myself an "Old Timer" might be a bit of an exaggeration...but I DO feel qualified to give a few tips. First off, let's cover the basics:
To "win" NaNoWriMo, you need to type 50,000 words by the end of November. This isn't a full book, but it's a darn good start.
If you can type at least 1,667 words per day, you'll reach 50,000 by the end of November. That means writing everyday—including weekends. You could, of course, write 12,000 one day and the none for the rest of the week. ;)
Get familiar with your NaNo dashboard, which you reach via: http://nanowrimo.org/en/participants/[username].
If you can, please donate to the nice people who keep this running every year. I am kinda sad by how low the $$ meter is this year—it's usually substantially higher.
Okay, now onto more specific tips. I've organized them by category—Productivity, Motivation, and Craft. If you have ANY to add, please, please, PLEASE mention them in the comments! I know I've forgotten things. :) Also, if you haven't yet, please add us Pub Crawlers as your NaNo buddy! Our usernames are all below (along with our word counts! Eek!).
If you can, I think a daily routine really helps. Notify your family and friends and coworkers now. Tell them you need uninterrupted time during your lunch break/after dinner/before school/etc. It helps if you inform people of your NaNo goals.
Rachel Aaron, author of the Eli Monpress series, has an AMAZING blog post about increasing your word count. I use this method every time I sit down to write a scene, and it's mindblowing how much more I can write in an hour now.
Even if you don't want to use Rachel Aaron's method, I do think having a solid idea of what you're going to write when you sit down helps keep your word count high and writing focused. If you outline, then you're already golden for this. But, if you're a panster like me, then using this headlight method--planning just as far ahead as the "headlights" reach—can be amazingly helpful.
For some people, a playlist can really 1)help get you in the mood to write, 2) help you imagine the scene you're about to write, and 3) continue to stay "in" the scene as you type away. Plus, it can be great for blocking out outside distractions. Sarah J. Maas has a playlist that she finds inspiring.
If you can, find a good location. This is an intentionally vague suggestion because MY good location isn't going to be the same as YOUR good location. Be it a coffee shop, your bed, or your best friend's couch, if you can try to find time working at the best place for your creativity, you'll really see your word count skyrocket.
The Rescue Time application is an interesting tool I recently signed up for...because for the month of November, if you're doing NaNo, the application is FREE. It keeps track of what you do on your computer and helps you see just how much time you waste on Facebook (or in my case, on Pinterest). It can also—if you want it to—block out various websites and force you to only write for X-amount of time. I haven't used it long, but it's definitely interesting (and did I mention the free part?).
Take care of your body. Eat well, sleep well, and DON'T DRINK ENERGY DRINKS. Not only will they make you pee uncontrollably (for realz, I am not making this up), but they just aren't good for your creative mind. You want to reach the end of November alive, right?
The stats tab on your dashboard is going to be your best friend. It's got this really useful graph to show you your daily progress related to the recommended 1,667 daily word count. Seriously, it's SO satisfying to log into your account, update your progress, and watch the bar graph climb.
If you need a little nudge or want a brief break from the keyboard, head to the Pinterest board that I set up (along with Jessica Spotswood, Beth Revis, Jessica Khoury, Sarah J. Maas, and Erin Bowman) for NaNoWriMo 2012. We pin motivational quotes and the occasional motivating hot guy. ;)
A lot of people will meet up with other NaNo-ers in their region. You can hang out at coffee shops or libraries or whatever, but it's great knowing all these other people are in the exact same boat as you. For some people, it really gets the creative mojo going.
If you can't meet with people in person (or don't want to), then writing sprints online are a great tool! Just reach out to other NaNo-ers on twitter or scout around the forums. Then, set a timer for some specific interval (I usually do 30 min) and write-write-write as fast as you can! Meet back after your time is up to see who "won".
Writing Craft Tips:
Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars trilogy, has a great blog where she delves into all SORTS of writing-related topics.
Brandon Sanderson, famed author of the Mistborn series, teaches a college course on writing and he offers all those lecture for free online!
I did a post on my personal blog Friday sharing all of my favorite writing books. Check your local library to see if they have any!
Got a specific, burning question? Then ask for craft tips from published authors in the NaNo YA forum with Beth Revis, Jessica Spotswood, Robin LeFevers, Wendy Higgins, Gennifer Albin, Jessica Khoury, David Macinnis Gill, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Erin Bowman, and me!
[hr] And now, if you haven't already, please enter the giveaway! Sarah J. Maas and I are giving away 2 5-page critiques to anyone who not only signs up for NaNo, but also WINS it! If you're signed up for NaNo, then go ahead and enter the raffle now. We'll check for winners come December. a Rafflecopter giveaway You tell me: What tips do YOU have for NaNoWriMo survival?