For non-writers November means football and Thanksgiving (and possibly Christmas decorating).
But for many others, November means the event where thousands of writers gather around their word processing units to lose their minds—aka NaNoWrimo.
NanoWriMo is an international creative writing event in which participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript during the month of November.
While I no longer participate in NaNoWriMo, I have tackled it in the past and know many people who are planning to write a novel this month. Perhaps you are one of those people!
Believe me, I know it can be intimidating. It’s all fun and games dreaming up stories, but actually forcing ourselves to write it down? That’s a whole different breakdown.
There are a lot of blog posts on the Internet about how to achieve your novel dreams, most of them with excellent tips: don’t edit as you go, brainstorm regularly, set attainable goals, try word sprints.
So I’m not going to tell you to do those things. Chances are, you’ve already heard about them.
Instead, here are some helpful (and weird) tips on how to overcome procrastination and lack of motivation and plant yourself in your chair (or on your floor) and DO THE THING.
Since NaNoWriMo is a topsy-turvy month where thousands of people abandon their sanity and sense of the serious, I decided to enter the spirit of the madness and write a blog post that will hopefully bring you a smile and a chuckle during this writing marathon.
For your convenience, I have separated these tips into three categories, to allow you to select the tips that most suit your personality.
For The Disciplined
1) Don’t Eat Until You Hit Your Daily Goal.
If you’ve ever wanted to give intermittent fasting a go, this method may be the process you’ve been waiting for. I have a healthy appetite, so believe you me, this would be a strong motivator for me to churn out my daily word count as fast as I can so that I can partake of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Note: If you have health concerns, this is not the the tip for you! We want our writers to take care of themselves!
2) Read Some Fan Mail.
This predominantly works for published authors, but even unpublished authors can keep a journal or notebook with compliments or kind and encouraging statements that have been made about your writing! I used to keep a lovely fan letter from a fan on my desk so that I could see it while I wrote. Her love for my books and eager anticipation for my next story kept me going even it was hard.
3) Write Your Book For Someone Else.
When I was really struggling with the second book in my Tales of Ambia series, I used the enthusiasm of three of my youngest fans to push me forward. It is desperately important to me to provide clean, fun, well-crafted reads that are safe for young people, so the knowledge that these girls were getting older while I dilly-dallied and doubted motivated me to plant myself at my desk and get on with the thing. My passion to provide these three young readers with a quality story in a world full of garbage fueled me through all obstacles. These girls deserved and NEEDED a good story, and I was determined to give them one.
You don’t have to write your book for a child; it can be for a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor. Any relationship where you feel the urge to hurry up and give them something that they will never forget—a book dedicated just to them!
4) Tell People You Are Writing A Book On A Deadline.
Confess it to your family and friends. Shout about it online. Tell that librarian you see every week. But it’s not enough to confess that you are writing a book, tell them you are hoping to have your book done in a certain time-frame.
Peer pressure and expectations are true powers in this universe; nobody likes looking everyone they know in the eye and admitting they failed.
So, tell everyone you know (or even people you don’t know, and don’t forget your neighbor’s dog). Then smash that deadline! Remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s messy, all that matters is training yourself to push through to a deadline and learning the discipline required to just sit down and draft the silly thing.
For The Undisciplined (Requires A Partner)
1) Bribe Yourself With Chocolate.
While this tip could also fall under the disciplined category, for some it might be simply easier to have someone living with you to buy some candy and then hide it. Said person gets to dole out a portion to you once you report that you have hit your daily minimum. You can even add in daily candy bonuses if you exceed your limit!
Note: don’t walk away thinking I’m telling you to eat an entire bag of candy corn if you type 5,000 words in one day—that’s never a good idea.
Here’s my disciplined variant. I like to buy a box of really fine truffles and I allow myself one a day if I hit my daily minimum. Sometimes I will even set the beautifully wrapped truffle beside my laptop as an extra incentive. It required a lot of control, but it works, and it’s much more satisfying than simply emptied a M&M packet into your mouth.
2) Bribe Yourself With Money.
If I’m really stuck or unmotivated, I will give a family member a dollar bill and tell them that they can keep it if I don’t write a thousand words in the next hour. If I accomplish said goal, I get my dollar back.
I am a skinflint, so I will write fast to get one measly dollar returned to me. But if you aren’t as cheap as me, ante up $5.00 or $10.00, or whatever you are brave enough to wager!
For The Slightly Immature
I’m guessing most people have that ONE PERSON who likes to compete with them (for me, it’s my twin or my dad). Maybe that other person might want to write a book too. Or maybe they have some other crazy goal they are trying to accomplish in a short amount of time.
If so, great! Use that relationship to motivate both of you to write your book (or hit your goal) and set up a deadline that works for both of you.
If you can, write together: there is nothing like the sound of the other person’s keys flying away to incite you to type faster. Have brainstorming sessions. Make weekly reports on your progress. Taunt one another, if necessary. Keep going until both of you hit that goal!
Or, you know, you can totally cream your buddy and leave them in the dust. You go this.
2) Get Angry.
I know, I know. But I did put this under the immature label. Believe it or not, anger is one of my chief motivations in my writing (not sure what that says about me).
But, in all seriousness, it’s very often righteous anger over some injustice or sin in our world that motivates me to write certain stories!
And, other times, it’s simply an obsessive aggravation over how much I hate standardized love stories or how much I dislike it when the redeemed villain gets killed off every single time—things of that nature. Get a good head of steam and then bend your will to addressing this problem or fixing a trope.
If you find your interest or resolve flagging, remind yourself regularly of how angry the subject makes you or how annoying that botched trope is. Shovel coal on that fire and write mad.
Or just write like mad – whichever.
For The Crazy
1) Don’t Drink Coffee Until You’ve Hit Your Daily Minimum.
If that doesn’t get you writing, nothing will.