Hey everyone! We are, as of today, ten days into National Novel Writing Month. If you’re on track, you’re 16,667 or so words into your project. If you’re an overachiever, you’re much higher than that. (My friend is on 28,578, which doesn’t make me feel like a snail at all.) If you’re not on track, let me remind you of the immortal words of Douglas Adams: “don’t panic”. Even if you haven’t started at all, you can still reach the finish line if you average 2,500 words a day, which is doable.
This is the toughest part of NaNo, at least for me. The excitement has worn off, the initial rush has gone away, and you’re now realizing you have to do this for the next three weeks to meet your goal. Once we hit next week, things should start to get easier and go more smoothly since we’ll be over the halfway point.
So today’s post offers some tips and tricks to stay motivated during this part of NaNo.
1) Reward yourself
Once you get out of school, it’s easy to adopt the mindset that adults don’t need treats and rewards. That those things work well for motivating children, but we don’t need it anymore. We’re grown ups, we’re above those things.
Let me tell you: you absolutely still can benefit from treats and rewards.
One of the hardest parts of writing is that you don’t get feedback until you’ve put a long of work in. There’s nothing quite like the rush of someone reading something you’ve written and enjoying it, but you can’t get that until you have something to show. You’re instead left with dozens, if not hundreds, of hours where you are writing without any kind of tangible reward. On the good days, the sense of accomplishment, of knowing you achieved your personal goal, is going to be enough to keep you going. On bad days, however, you need something more to keep yourself going.
So find a way to reward yourself.
Note that this works for pretty much any task you have to do day in and day out. A teacher friend gives herself an M&M after every writing assignment grades. (Yes, a single M&M. She’s watching her calorie intake, and has over a hundred students. More than one would add up.) You can do something similar. Choose a small reward, something that you want, and break the writing into small tasks. I’m currently letting myself have one piece of leftover Halloween candy every 500 words. It makes the writing that much easier, that much smoother, because you know there is a reward coming soon.
2) Hop events
At this point, you probably have a bit of an outline, or at least some idea of where your story is going. Right now, there’s a good chance you’ve spent the last ten days writing from the beginning and going in sequential order from start to finish. That’s the way most people I’ve talked to handle NaNo, and it makes sense.
However, if you’re starting to feel that burnout, hop to something you’re looking forward to writing. Have a big dramatic scene coming up? Jump to that. Want to write your characters’ musings as they sit on a park bench? Head over there. Do you make yourself laugh when you write your characters getting drunk? Then by all means, do that.
This is a great method to keep yourself in the daily writing groove while at the same time rewarding yourself for making it this far. You’ve completed the first third of NaNo, or you’re ahead of the game, or you’re starting off and you’re committed now. Whatever it is, take the time to write something you enjoy.
3) Remind yourself why you’re doing this
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re in the middle of NaNo. The days become a focus on individual word counts, of quantity over quality, of forcing yourself not to go back and edit that part that you know could be better, but would take a ton of time to get right. It’s the grindiest part of writing, pushing through that first draft, and any time you have to grind you become focused on what you’re doing, not the big picture.
So remind yourself why. Why did you put yourself in the position of trying to write 50,000 words in a single month?
Maybe it’s just that you want to finally say you completed the first draft of a novel. That’s what it was for me the first time around, and it was definitely enough to keep me going. Or maybe it’s something more. Do you find writing cathartic, and this is about getting into the habit so you always have that release? That’s a great reason! Do you want to be famous and rich? Setting your goals a bit high there, and there’s nothing wrong with that (so long as you manage expectations.)
Spend a little bit of time thinking about what you’re going to do when the novel is done. Sure, there’s still editing to do, but you should also celebrate. Have some friends over for an “I just finished a novel” dinner! Take your significant other to that fancy place you’ve been meaning to go. Get out of the house and see the sun for the first time since Halloween!
Actually, do that last one now. You’re pasty and your friends miss you. The words will be there when you get back.
What else can we do to stay motivated during Nano? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to click here to get your free book!