NaNoWriMo: How to Make the Time to Write a Novel in 30 Days

NaNo2015Header2015 will mark the 17th year thousands of writers from around the world begin National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) on November 1st. Few would argue this is a crazy journey—attempting to write a 50K-word draft of a novel in thirty days. Some might say it’s an impossible feat, but in 2014 over 58,000 participants completed their novel drafts (out of the 325,000+ who signed up). Most of those who didn’t “win” still made progress, still wrote more words than if they hadn’t stepped onto that road to give it a try.

Whether you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo or committing to your own writing schedule, finding the time to meet your daily word count is essential to success. For NaNo, that means writing 1667 words every day (or however you want to break it down). Here are a few things I’ve done to make the time to write and cross the NaNo finish line three years in a row.

1. Make friends with your calendar
♦ Mark off whole days or partial days in November that you know you absolutely won’t be able to write (like birthdays or Thanksgiving).
♦ Block off daily/weekly time for writing—before/after work or school, during commute time, lunch hours, your child’s naps. Get up earlier or go to bed later than usual. Even finding 15 minutes here and there will add up.
♦ Plan catch-up or get-ahead days. Make up for the days you know you can’t write and build in time for unexpected, but inevitable, glitches in your perfect plan. Weekly writing marathons can push you ahead after a setback. Local NaNo chapters often schedule write-ins.
♦ Reschedule and/or avoid setting appointments that can wait until a more convenient time.

2. Plan meals for the month
♦ Make slow-cooker meals, sandwiches, breakfast-for-dinner. Pick one night a week (or more) for fast food.
♦ Don’t forget Thanksgiving or other celebrations. Delegate to family/friends, if possible.
♦ Cook extra servings in October and freeze for November meals.
♦ Stock up on favorite snacks (for NaNoWriMo, popcorn and your favorite caffeinated beverage is considered a meal).

3. Get your writing space ready
♦ If you’re writing at home, de-clutter your writing space and prep for battle victory. Remove distractions, except for favorite writing quotes tacked to the wall.
♦ If you can’t write at home, scope out one or more places that will work for you. Local libraries are great if you like quiet or a coffee shop if you don’t mind the noise. I used to write in my car on my lunch hour.

4. Enlist help
Letting family and friends know how important this commitment is to you should elicit help with daily/weekly chores, like laundry and dishes, and vital responsibilities such as childcare.

5. Restrict television viewing and social media
Reward yourself with these when you meet your word count. Record your favorite shows to view later or build in time on your calendar.

6. Restrict socializing
Again, reward yourself after meeting word counts or build in this time. Or just say “no” and schedule a post-NaNo celebration with friends/family to make up for your transgressions.

7. Prioritize
Plan to do those things that are necessary and let the rest slide. This can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re a perfectionist, but doing so will make a huge difference in how much time you have to write.

8. Embrace your OCD tendencies
Be relentless in pursuit of the time to write those 1667 words per day.

If finding the time to write has been a stumbling block in the past, being fanatical for 30 days can get you into a routine and make a difference in your writing career. At the end of the month you’ll know how important your writing is to you, how committed you are to it, and what you’re willing to do to succeed. And if you keep on track, you’ll have a rough draft of a 50K-word novel as a result of your sacrifice and hard work.

Need more convincing? Check this list of WriMos who have gone on to publish their NaNo manuscripts including Jason M. Hough (The Darwin Elevator), Hugh Howey (Wool), and Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants). Read about the history of National Novel Writing Month and sign up to take the journey that begins November 1st.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your favorite trick for finding time to write?

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Speculative Fiction Writer

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Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Advice
7 comments on “NaNoWriMo: How to Make the Time to Write a Novel in 30 Days
  1. PartlyPixie says:

    This is a great list!

  2. Well, I signed up for the first time and appreciate the list of prep tips! Embracing my OCD tendencies cracked me up. Can do! :-)

  3. Even though I’ve ‘won’ several times over the past seven years, I need the reminders from your list. I tend to write four 500-word chunks a day, especially since I know I won’t have as much time the last week of the month.

    My 2010 NaNo effort led to my published novel, The Crimson Orb, and that’s great encouragement for me.

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