How To Win NaNo In Sixteen Days

In the beginning of November, Cait wrote a post entitled “How To Win NaNo In Three Days.” Alas, I have not yet attained Cait’s superhuman writing skills. But I did finish my first NaNo in sixteen days. And that is not too bad, if I do say so myself.

So I’ve identified six keys to NaNo success.

Step 1: Add Cait, Mary, and Christine as buddies on the NaNo site

This is clearly a crucial step.

I blame these three lovely ladies with my sixteen-day NaNo victory. Wholeheartedly.

Without their motivating presence, I would have been content to chip away slowly at my wordcount. My original plan was to write about two thousand words a day.

But when I saw their wordcount tubes filling up at around one week, my competitive side kicked in. At this point you are probably thinking, “Your competitive spirit must not be too strong,” because, indeed, all three ladies hit fifty thousand long before I did.

As much as I would’ve loved attempting to beat them at their own game – actually Mary was a first-timer like me – I resigned myself to the fact that I had to make school a priority. I simply couldn’t fall behind… I agreed to do NaNo with the understanding that it had to come after other things, not before. If I had thought my schoolwork would suffer, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it all.

So yes, they beat me.

But they also motivated me.

Step 2: Clear Your Schedule

Perhaps the biggest key to my NaNo victory was how much time I had one my hands.

I did not clear my schedule for NaNo. Not a bit.

However, I have a clearer schedule than most people. I have exactly three outside-the-home activities. I go to church on Sundays, volunteer with local children on Wednesdays, and play volleyball on Thursdays.

I’m sure that most of you have busier schedules than that. So you have to clear it. Cut down on your social life just a bit. I know it’s painful. But I believe in you. You can do it.


Step 3: Make A Daily Goal

As I said, my original goal was to write two thousand words each day. This seemed reasonable, though difficult, and was even a bit over the suggested daily goal. I assumed I’d have to skip a couple of days… If I got sick, and obviously I anticipated getting nothing done on Thanksgiving.

Goals are important to me. I am excessively goal-oriented. So I can’t say with utter certainty that this will work for you. All I know is that having something to aim for was one of the reasons I won NaNo.

Step 4: Never Skip A Day

I never skipped one day. Not one.

I wouldn’t let myself.

Of course… I did skip all those days after the 16th of November? But I was kinda done at that point, so…

The point is that you can’t let yourself slide. You can’t say, “I’m too busy today,” or “I’m too tired today.” You can’t.

Even if you don’t meet your goal, you must write something. Chances are, once you start writing, you’ll knock out a decent portion of your goal anyway.

Step 5: Keep Raising The Goal

If you find that you can reasonably meet a certain goal, raise it and try to meet that one. For example, I knew that in order to finish on time, one would have to write 1,667 words each day. So I set out to write a nice, even 2,000. But as soon as I realized that I was able to meet that goal with ease, I raised it to 3,000. I hovered there, but on weekends I pushed myself to write 4 or 5 thousand words. I accomplished this at least three times.

Step 6: Slow And Steady

Don’t go crazy with trying to knock out a huge portion of your novel on the first day. I know some people recommend this – apparently it works for them – but I don’t. You don’t want to get tired of writing before you’ve quite begun.

And that’s it.

You are befuddled. Don’t try to deny it. I can see the befuddlement written all over your lovely face.

“Where is step about doing wordwars with friends? The step about doing word sprints until you drop? The step about doing every word crawl ever created?”

I didn’t do any of that stuff.

It’s true.

I didn’t even try any of it. And while I am fairly convinced that they wouldn’t have worked for me anyway, I can’t say they are no good if I haven’t put forth the effort to at least attempt them.

Perhaps another year…

You see, I knew that I couldn’t allot a certain block of time to writing and know one hundred percent that I wouldn’t be interrupted, called away to do something else. Like dishes. Or school. Or helping my little brother with his homework. These things happen.

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And so I thought it would be more awkward to start a wordwar and then come back three days later to my bewildered friend to explain that I had quit about two minutes in to attend to an urgent matter. Called “family.”

Or to start a word sprint that I would have to walk away from right when I was getting into a groove.

Or to begin a word crawl I probably wouldn’t finish. Even though that Hamilton one was tempting in the highest degree.

You might consider these excuses.

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They probably are. After all, even word sprinting for five minutes would have been better than nothing, right? Definitely. You are wise, my friend. Go heed your own advice and ignore mine and proceed to be an excellent writer. I admire you.

The truth is that I am just a smol baby writer and I don’t have it all together just yet.

I probably should’ve tried out some of these lovely tools. But I was too lazy.

I tried word sprinting informally a few times… And found that I was writing drivel, scenes I will almost certainly scrap when it comes time to edit this ugly beast.

So I just plodded along at my own weird pace and followed my own made-up rules… and, heck, it must have worked, because I wrote a book, friends. And I’m happy with how my NaNo went.

Alright, spill it! What sneaky tricks got you writing back in November? Did you do the word crawls? How did they go? Did you like them? Hate them? What tool on the NaNo site did you find most helpful? Are you a word sprinter? Did you do any wordwars? Any tips you’d like to share?