Do’s and Don’ts of NaNoWriMo

Are you ready for National Novel Writing Month? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, November feels like it flies by in an instant. It may be the start of the month for you or it might be the end, but it’s never too late to win NaNo.

There’s plenty of posts out there about how to win NaNoWriMo. But you don’t have time to read those, do you? It’s November already so it’s time to write!

Here you go, your list of do’s and don’ts for National Novel Writing Month, simplified so you can get back to writing that novel.

Nano do and donts

Do Write Everyday

It may not be a lot, especially during holidays like Thanksgiving, but get something written every single day.

Don’t Take a Day off

You’ll regret it, and you’ll just have to write double tomorrow.

Do Socialize Online and at Events

These are the people who understand what you’re going through. It’s an amazing community that will provide you with the motivation you need to win.

Don’t Use the Writing Prompts

A lot of times at events or online you’ll see writing prompts being used. If you’re serious about your novel and the story you’re trying to tell, ignore these.

Do Try Word Sprints

Word sprints, or word wars, are amazing ways to increase your word count. You may not have thought that writing could be a competitive sport, but it absolutely can be.

Don’t Delete Anything

Maybe there’s a scene that just doesn’t work, or maybe 10,000 words in you hate the story but have a great idea for a new one. Don’t delete anything! Use it as part of your word count anyway.

Do Work Ahead

Ahead by 3,000 words? Excellent! Now make sure you sit down and write your 1,667 words anyway.

Don’t Edit

If you’re like most writers, editing is soul-sucking and an easy way to get discouraged and lose a lot of time. Focus on editing during NaNoEdMo.

Do Decide You’ll Win

Because you will. Don’t let yourself think otherwise.

Don’t Stop Writing

Once November is done and NaNoWriMo is over, keep writing. Keep working on your novel. If you made the time for NaNo all month, there’s no reason you can’t write at least a couple thousand words every month of the year.

Good luck, fellow WriMos!

Need More Motivation?

Your Guide to a Successful NaNoWriMo

The Used Bookshop That’s Bigger On The Inside

There is no shortage of used bookstores in the country, and each of them have their charms. From the small, niche bookshops covering only psychology to the Half Price Books littered across the nation, there’s plenty of used bookstores to go to.

And then, there’s Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Large long bookshelf with books
Maze of bookshelves crammed with books

My wife and I visited a friend in Arkansas over Labor Day weekend, and this bookshop was one of the places she suggested taking us. But she didn’t warn us that we would be walking into the most impressive bookshop I’d ever been to.

When you first step inside it doesn’t look that different from your typical bookstore. It’s a bit chaotic, there’s books from floor to ceiling, and everything is organized with labels on the shelves.

But then, as you look down one of the aisles, you realize the store keeps going. And going.

Rows of bookshelves

It’s actually a maze inside. It’s possible to get turned around in this bookshop. That’s because the layout does this very unique thing where it splits off into different rooms, which sometimes are only accessible by taking a strange one-way route.

For example, I took a right at a shelf, followed immediately by a second right down some stairs. Suddenly I was in a mini branch of the bookshop, with rows of bookshelves and small gaps between shelves where I could see the main corridor. But there was only one way to get into the section I was in, and it had been hard to find. You can literally spy on people shopping from these little nooks.

Bookshelves surrounding a small stage

I spent the first half hour just wandering around the bookshop, discovering all the nooks and crannies before I even started to browse. Pretty much any topic you’re looking for is covered somewhere in this shop.

The shop also carries a wide selection of rare and out of print books near the front of the shop. These books are absolutely beautiful. I love old books, so I got a lot of joy out of staring at them.

Plus there’s all these fun literary cartoons and odd book advice taped to the walls and shelves.

How to open a book printed paper

There was something just a little bit magical about this bookstore. It felt like one of those places where an adventure could begin.

Bookshelves and handwritten signs

Basically, if you ever find yourself in Arkansas, stopping in Dickson Street Bookshop is worth the time. I could have spent a full day there if my group allowed it. I hope someday a couple copies of my novels find their way into the shelves of this beautiful bookshop.

girl with a coffee surrounded by bookshelves

Your Guide to a Successful NaNoWriMo

How do people write 50,000 words (or more) in just 30 days? If you’ve not done it before it can seem impossible, but I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo for over five years, and I’ve never missed the word count goal of 50,000 words.

And I can make sure you never do either.

I’ve managed to win NaNo in spite of college midterms, full time jobs, and one year, me being away in Europe for almost two weeks where I did not even consider picking up a pen (or sitting at a computer).

There’s no easy way to win NaNo, but the following tips are the ones I live by, and the reason I always hit my word count goals.

Picture of person typing

 Remember If You Don’t Write Today, You Have To Write Double Tomorrow

This is by far my most successful pep talk, and it’s literally only a sentence long. If you don’t feel like writing now, what makes you think you’re going to want to write double the amount tomorrow?

You won’t. I can tell you right now that you will almost never feel like writing over 1,000 words. You’re busy. You have your daily life and responsibilities to deal with, which makes it really easy to put off writing.

Just remember that every time you don’t write, the next time you do you’ll be writing over 3,000 words.

Powerful motivator, right?

Start Early – Like 12:00 AM

Getting a head start by writing the moment November 1st starts is an amazing way to start off the month. I usually go to bed with at least 1,000 words done for the day. It makes the rest of the words I write later in the day feel like bonus words.

This may not be possible for you. I start work at 8:00 AM during the week, but this year I’m going to stay up and do it anyway. That’s why they invented coffee, right?

Speaking of coffee…

Write at Cafes, or Libraries, or Anywhere that’s Not Home

Unless you have a dedicated office space, writing at home is a lot more difficult than writing when you’re out. At home you wander to the kitchen for a snack, you have chores to do, and since it’s your home you feel like you can relax.

There is no relaxing during NaNo.

The change in environment can make all the difference when you’re writing. I get so much more done when I write away from home. If I’m home, I end up putting Netflix on for “background noise.” You can imagine how that turns out.

Go to the Events

There’s tons of events being held during NaNo, and they’re fun. I’ve met some of my best friends by attending NaNo events. In fact I host events myself now, at least one a week.

Events are places where other writers have the same goal as you. They’re a great place to socialize, be inspired, and get motivation. Writers at events will push you and encourage you.

Plus events usually have word wars and writing sprints to keep the words flowing. Also there’s often snacks.

Don’t go to Events Just to Socialize

I’m definitely guilty of this one, but don’t fall into this trap!

NaNo events are a lot of fun, but if you aren’t careful they can turn into social gatherings instead of a place to write. If your group is too chatty and no one is getting any writing done, suggest a word sprint. If all else fails, put in your headphones and do a sprint by yourself. You can always socialize after.

Have an Outline

I understand there are plenty of people out there who are pantsers, and that’s fine, but from my experience NaNo is a lot more enjoyable if I have a rough outline.

When you have a day where your creativity is stuck, an outline shows you what to write next. My outlines don’t list every single scene, but they do list the major points I need to happen during the novel.

My manuscripts without an outline are sitting abandoned in my documents drive. My manuscripts with outlines, like FanFact from last year or Seeking Utopia, are in the editing stages.

Don’t Edit or Proofread

Just don’t. Accept it right now that your manuscript will be a mess of typos and incomplete sentences. The goal is to write words you can work with, but going back to fix typos is an easy way to get hung up on your writing style and suddenly be three days behind.

Get Competitive

Do you want to have a higher word count than your friend? What about your ML? Of course you do! Now don’t go around declaring word count wars on people, but having the mental goal to have higher word counts than other people is another great motivator.

You might also have a goal of being the fastest writer (which I almost always am, just saying). It’s surprisingly easy to be competitive about writing.

You’re Ahead, Great… but No Breaks Allowed

If you’re ahead of the target word count, you may think this means you can take a break.

Do Not. Do This.

I don’t care if you don’t feel like writing, make time to write even if you’re five days ahead. Why? Because inevitably, over the course of 30 days, something is going to come up when you really can’t write.

Maybe you have a wedding to attend, or a long weekend of plans for Thanksgiving. Maybe you get sick and get stuck in bed for days.

Trust me, you’ll be glad to have a couple days’ worth of words banked for the occasion.

Don’t Write Fluff

By fluff, I mean don’t sit down and write two full pages of descriptions about the exterior of your main character’s house. It’s excessive and you’ll cut almost all of it when you go back to make edits. This is where having an outline is a big help.

If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, you can get away with this because of how much world building you have to do. If you don’t plan to pursue publishing you can write all the fluff you want, but save yourself a headache later if you plan to edit your story.

Ignore My Tips!

If these tips don’t work for you that’s perfectly fine, but these are the reason I’ve been able to be so successful at NaNo in the past.

During November I’ll probably do shorter, less involved blog posts since I’ll be busy writing. This November I’ll also be out of town for a long weekend to attend Youmacon, and I have a wedding to go to. I’ll need to account for this and try to get extra writing done ahead of time.

Hopefully these tips will work for you, and good luck hitting the 50,000 word count goal!

Resources for NaNoWriMo Participants

NaNoWriMo Website – The central hub

Write or Die – For extra motivation

NaNoWordSprints – Twitter to keep you writing