I’m not entirely sure why Chris Baty chose November for NaNoWriMo. I mean, it’s probably better than staging something like this in December, but it seems totally counter-intuitive to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the same month as a major holiday.
And it’s not like, say, the Fourth of July, which is one day of celebration. No, this is a holiday that often requires multiple days for traveling, seeing family, and recovering after it all.
But here we are anyway, in the thick of November and hopefully in the thick of an exhausting sprint towards 50k.
In year’s past, Thanksgiving has been a big roadblock on my way towards winning NaNoWriMo, but I’ve figured out some techniques to prevent burnout and keep things moving along smoothly. The only catch? You may require a caffeine IV until December finally rolls around.
- Get ahead of yourself. You have to do this. If you fall behind this late in the game, it will only make it painfully difficult to catch back up in the midst of traveling and gorging yourself on turkey and pecan pie. If you give yourself a little bit of padding (har har har), even just a few hundred words a day, you’ll be much less anxious about writing.
- Once and for all, banish that internal editor. There’s no time for the lunatic in your head to start yapping about how stupid your story is or how little sense any of this makes. Shut that jerk up and keep writing. If you need to, jam a Pillsbury crescent down his throat.
- Write in small sprints. This is probably the most efficient way to stay on track with NaNoWriMo if you can’t devote huge blocks of time to your story in the coming week. My friend Samantha and I have been meeting on Gchat to write for 20 or 30 minutes a few times a week. First we chat, then vanish into our respective Scrivener worlds, and then emerge 20 minutes later to share how many words we penned. You can do this in the morning before you get out of bed, at the airport when you’re waiting to board a flight, while you’re enjoying a cup of coffee, in the meantime while dinner cooks, in line at the grocery store (hello smartphone!), or even on the toilet. I won’t judge you. Do what you gotta do, friend.
- Tell people you need to write. If you’re desperate to get some words on paper but you’ve got family all around and travel plans that are burning you out and friends who want to spend time with you, just be honest. Tell them you need an hour or two locked away in a broom closet to write. Just be sure you promise to dedicate the novel to them and publicly thank them for their support when you’re accepting one of your many awards after publication. That should buy you at least a few hours to write.
- If all else fails, plan a recovery day and bribe yourself to write. Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that you’ll lose some footing on your way to 50k next week. If that’s the case, you’ll need a word recovery day ASAP. It can be during the weekend after the holiday or during an evening after work. Go to a place that will force you to work, like a library or coffee shop or the shed, and bribe yourself. Bribe yourself like you’ve never bribed anyone before, neither man nor child. Say, “Self, when we hit that 50,000 word mark, we’re going to buy a slammin’ new pair of boots.” Really though, it doesn’t have to be boots. It can be a new Moleskin, a book, a dog. Hell, buy yourself a new car for all I care. Just get that recovery day lined up now and start imagining life as the author of a 50,000 word novel and the owner of (insert thing you want really bad here).
Remember: it’s so easy to fall behind. It just takes one or two days of being too busy and too tired before you’re barely treading NaNo water (um, I should know. This week was rough). It’s almost over, though, and you can sleep your ass off in December!
What are your techniques for maintaining a writing routine during the holidays? Share your genius methods below!