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Seven tips for NaNoWriMo success

I’ve just signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to help me write my next novel. One of my personal weaknesses as a writer is that I think too much in my first drafts when I should just be writing. So I’m using this NaNoWriMo to help me make a breakthrough.

Even if you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo, the seven tips below can help you finish any project:

Tip # 1: Write from the heart. There will be times when you’ll get stuck. Some days, your prose will sound like garbled hamster hash. When this happens, stop and take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself what you love about your project. I have an index card on my desk with my original idea for the story—it’s the tag line that got my juices going in the first place. Then go back to your page and write from that space of passion.

Tip # 2: Keep motivated. Next to the aforementioned index card, I have another that has bullet points. One is “This is easy. I meet my word count quickly and easily.” Beneath that I have three other bullet points that have meaning for me. When I feel down or stuck, this is where I go. I also have a GIGANTIC wall calendar for the month that I’ve decorated with various colored stickers (yes, I’m a girl) where I log my daily word count. In big letters across the top of my calendar I write my daily and weekly word count goals. This not only keeps me focused but inspired when I see I’ve met my goals.

Tip #3: Write fast and in short segments. I find using my timer for 25- to 45-minute writing segments helps me stay focused. I pick one scene or part of a scene and write. I’m nicely surprised at how quickly the words add up. And, though I log my word count at the end of the day, setting timers works better for me. Maybe because I feel less pressure knowing I’m committing to a certain amount of time to write instead of feeling the pressure of a word count over my head.

Tip # 4: Do the dishes. When I need to think about what’s next in a scene or hash out a story problem, I wash the dishes, go for a walk, do the laundry, or clean my office—anything that involves something physical that will get my bum out of the chair and my mind off my project. The KEY is to NOT do anything—e-mail, reading, talking to others—that engages the storytelling part of your brain. Leave that open for your own story to simmer while you do other chores.

Tip # 5: Exercise each day. Moving your body is key to working out the kinks mentally. We need to get those endorphins working for us. Mix it up. Yesterday I did a 60-minute circuit workout at the gym. Today I swim. I try to move my body at least an hour a day, even if it’s broken up into two segments.

Tip # 6: Plan healthy meals in advance.  If you’re in charge of your family’s meals as I am, plan healthy meals in advance. I have two crock-pots going during the month of November. One with a vegetable soup in it for lunch, another with dinner. Make a casserole, chili, or soup that will make several meals or freeze well.

Tip # 7: Plan your writing the night before. I clean off my writing desk, do the dishes, sweep the floor, finish whatever business stuff needs to be done at night so when I get up in the morning, all I have to do is sit down and write. Before you go to bed, figure out what scene you’ll write the next day. If you’re not sure how the scene ends, ask yourself as you drift off to sleep. Your subconscious may have the answers for you in the morning. And, if not? No worries. Go back to Tip #1 and #2.

Good luck!

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