I will be the first one to admit that before last November I was never consistent enough in any of my previous NaNoWriMo years to even come close to the monthly goal of writing 50,000 words. So much so in fact, that in the past, I never even bothered logging in to my input my daily word count. I never reached out to anyone for accountability or put myself out there and help create a community of support. Last November however, was another experience entirely, and I’d like to break down three things I did consistently that I believe made the difference, and allowed me to finally reach the 50,000 word goal for the challenge, even after losing 10,000 of those words in a program crash.
Writing Buddies Are Important, But More Important is Your Commitment
Many people will tell you that those who have a writing buddy or a community of support are more likely to achieve the 50,000 word goal than those who don’t. I will partially agree with this. I never made an effort to connect with others before last November, but connecting with others at face value will avail you nothing if your commitment is lacking. I went all out on reaching out before and during the last NaNoWriMo, not because I wanted outside encouragement, but because I knew that I would need my inner-self (you know, the one that sabotages all the plans I make) to not only cooperate, but take lead. I reached out through social media, posted my word count progress in all my platform bios, used hashtags to find new writers participating, and even created a private support group with the help of the NaNoWriMo forums. Collectively, all these actions forced my inner-self to follow through on the commitment I made. I was pumped up, looking forward to another day of writing, no matter how short I was on time. This is what the difference between giving up or skipping days, and showing up to write.
It’s All About the Math
Another advise I heard about was the need to write everyday. I know many writers who followed this advice and accomplished their 50,000 word goal (though I don’t think that was the only factor for their success). But for me, writing everyday wasn’t feasible. I knew I wanted to take Sundays off to spend time with my family, focus on spirituality, and rest from what I knew would be very stressful weeks. I was also homeschooling three of my kids (still am), with a fourth roaming around the house in nothing but a diaper. My days were mostly spoken for and my writing time was limited, so I had to plan accordingly. I grabbed a calendar, broke down the 50,000 words into daily chunks (making sure Saturdays picked up any slack), and kept track of my progress everyday, without skipping a single one. I woke up at 5:00am Monday through Saturday and wrote as fast as I could until my kids woke up. If my daily goal hadn’t been reached by the end of that session, I would continue at other times of the day whenever a break presented itself. I didn’t surf the internet, I didn’t scroll through my feeds, I didn’t pick up a book, I only checked important emails, and even opted to speed walk instead of choosing another type of workout if I needed more time, flat out writing the words on my phone while my legs moved. Some days it wasn’t ideal, but it worked.
Without a Strong Foundation, Your House of Words Will Crumble.
Throughout the entire month, I kept track of my daily word goals and made sure I was staying committed to the process, on my own, and with others. But none of that would have made a difference, if I hadn’t prepared an outline to begin with. I used to be the type of writer that flew by the seat of her pants when it came to crafting a story. I would sit and write and let the words take me where they may. But if working through three books (completely re-writing one of them four times) has taught me anything, is that to be an effective writer, I need an outline. So I spent the entire month of October preparing an outline that I could use for NaNoWriMo. I even co-hosted an Instagram challenge with daily actions that would ensure I was properly prepared before the first word of my book was typed. I won’t go into the details of what system I used to created this outline, that is for another post. Suffice it to say that having an outline to work with was foundational to my daily success. Every morning, I was able to pick up right where I had left off the previous day and continue writing without a hiccup. It was a game-changer, and I am not exaggerating when I say that.
It’s Inside You
I am sure there are many different approaches writers can use to succeed at NaNoWriMo. I’ve read many of them online, and used beat myself up for not hitting the mark whenever I tried. But we are all different, and this is the most important lesson I learned through it all. I had to find out what worked for me, what inspired me, what motivated me to keep going even after a program update threatened to erase my entire month’s work. It almost brought me to tears. But I chose to show up again, ended up recovering most of the file (thanks to back ups), and re-wrote the 10,000 words I could’t recover. In the end, it could all be summed up in a single sentence, which my thirteen-year old was kind enough to share with me: If you don’t fight for what you want, you can’t complain when you don’t get it. It’s that simple. Be true to yourself, come up with an accountability system that works for you, prepare to succeed, and fully embrace it.