Seriously, the first keys to succeeding at NaNoWriMo have nothing to do with writing process and everything to do with planning your life. Of course, everyone’s goals for NaNoWriMo differ. Too, this is 2020.
My 2020? A serious illness in January. Both my cats passed. A cancer scare. My isolation and lockdown are seven months old. Then, my desktop crashed on September 25th, the exact cause still undetermined.
In 2020 we’re fortunate to show up for NaNo at all.
Thus, expectations vary. 10K? A NaNo Win of 50K? An entire novel?
This will be my 7th NaNo in a row, a novel completed all seven times. Not all were good. Some were learning experiences. In seven years I’ve either made or witnessed most mistakes. I committed to my first NaNo thirty minutes before it was due to begin. To say I wasn’t prepared on every level would be an understatement. The entire month was me playing catch-up.
Because we’re each unique I’m going to address this topic like you’re planning to write 50K. To me, that’s the middle ground. Please adjust as needed.
In short, it’s critical you plan all aspects of your writing life in November and allow for the unexpected as much as possible.
Sound simple? You wouldn’t think so if you watched the massive number of people who drop out each week for reasons that could have been averted.
Okay, let’s get started…
Schedules and Possibilities
I’m in the US where we celebrate Thanksgiving in late November. Every. Single. Year. Yet, each year people drop out in late November because they forgot they were supposed to host a massive dinner. Others suddenly remember family vacations or family coming for extended visits.
This is 2020, that brings with it enough problems. Covid-19. Election Day (please vote, I already did).
With all this in mind, it’s time for numbers that help clarify the month’s realities. I’m no math wizard, but if I can figure all this you can to.
To write 50K in thirty days you have to average 1,667 words/day. If you’re going to miss a day or more during the month you have to adjust that average. Too, if you miss writing a day early in the month making up the difference isn’t a big deal. Miss days late in the month? Difficult at best. This year, there’s a weekend near month’s end. That might help some.
You have to think this way if you’re really serious about 50K. If your goals are different, no worries. Last year, I planned my month to write a bit less on workdays and planned for much more on the weekends. I also took a few extra days off.
It all comes down to how dedicated you’re prepared to be, or can afford to be.
If there’s anything you can reschedule, do so. I just couldn’t say “no” could mean an unfinished book. Delayed books are more difficult to finish (not impossible).
Are the kids home? Are friends and family aware of what you’re attempting to do? Are there harsh realities standing in the way of writing? Be honest with yourself. Babies cry. Children need their parents. Unexpected visits happen. If someone who’s supposed to host a dinner each year always backs out of the work don’t think it won’t happen again.
That lie that characters tell themselves? Don’t do that to yourself.
In fact, if possible, try to enlist as much aid as you can. Can someone else pick up cooking, cleaning, or anything else you’re responsible for (or think you’re responsible for) at home?
Speaking of which…
Remember in late winter when people were over-stocking their homes because of Covid-19? Good, that means you know how to prepare for NaNo. Well, maybe not a thousand rolls of toilet paper, but you get the idea.
Thirty days in November mean thirty meals. Before the month arrives try to have as many of those accounted for as possible. That might mean freezing meals, having easy meals on hand, ordering out, or some combination of the above. Think about it now. You want trips to the store (assuming you can’t hand off that duty) to be as brief and simple as possible.
Basically, treat yourself to every convenience possible in November.
Your home? Clean it like a hospital before November so you can coast on cleaning as much as possible through the month. Scrub and vacuum. Have your laundry caught-up. Be prepared to live with your home not looking as great as you might like at least some of the time.
Again, because this is important, try and have all the makeup, medications, vitamins, TP, and other items on hand that you can.
I admit it. Even my isolated writer self can be vain, which brings me to my last point…
I’ve alluded to this prior, but I want to raise it again. Know how much dust you can live with. Know how many improvised meals you’ll be able to stand. In short, know what you can live with and without.
Need chocolate? Coffee? Tea? Have it in ample supply.
More important, know your level of dedication. Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary? Can you put off particular shows and movies until the following month? Might you limit them?
The flip side of this topic is to take care of yourself. Yes, for all that I’ve said thus far, you also will need time for you. That means you want to make sacrifices, BUT not self-care. In 2020 it’s extra important to pace yourself physically and mentally. Take time with family. Indulge in entertainment.
The key word, though, is moderation.
Think ahead. Being honest with yourself. No self-deceptions. Don’t expect more from others than they’ve ever been willing to give in the past. This is 2020, the year of, well, too much to mention. You can always lower your expectations.
On the other hand, NaNo is worthwhile beyond winning. It’s about creation, and that’s a great feeling.