Let’s Get This Party Started

by Gurpreet Sihat

Three days…

Sixty-Two Hours…

Three thousand, seven hundred and twenty minutes…

…and then the party officially begins!

That’s right! NaNoWriMo is coming, and I am beyond exciting for this year.

After finishing the second draft of the first instalment in my YA trilogy at the start of October, I’ve kept myself as far away from writing fiction as possible. It’s been a difficult few weeks with the writing itch scratching away at me every minute, of every hour, of every day but a month away from a story I’ve been living with for the past year has given me much needed time to reflect upon what’s already been written and plan (in the loosest of terms) the next. And now?

I. Am. Ready!

To help you get ready for the most exciting, challenging, slightly aggravating month on a writer’s calendar, I’ve put together my top pieces of advice to survive NaNoWriMo.

Remember that it’s okay to fall behind.

One of the quickest ways to lose NaNoWriMo is to succumb to the disheartening emotions that come with falling behind. It sets off a domino effect and, bang, you’ve given up. Writing 1,667 words a day is the most difficult thing this month. Often it’s not something you can realistically commit to. Life gets in the way. Writer’s block hits. I recommend scheduling catch-up Saturdays to make up for the days you miss (and, if you don’t miss a day, then I like to try and write extra on Saturday so that I can take off Sundays for a reading day!). Either way, remember that it’s okay to fall behind as long as you don’t give up.

Publicly upload your word count.

I recommend you upload your word count in two major places: on social media and on the NaNoWriMo website. Updating the writing community on your social media is one of the surest ways to receive much needed words of encouragement, help and advice, while also encouraging plans to have writing sprints. As for updating it on NaNoWriMo.org, seeing the graph on your dashboard changing is one of the most satisfying experiences of the month, especially on days when you’re struggling. It doesn’t matter how slowly that line moves further towards your 50,000 word goal, it’s enough that it’s moving!

Reward yourself every time you hit a goal.

NaNoWriMo rewards writers with badges on their profiles. There are five word count badges you can earn – hitting your first 1,667 words, then 5,000 words, 10,000 words, the halfway 25,000 mark and, finally, 40,000 words before your big 50,000 word win. Along with my badges on the site, I like to celebrate with something in the physical world too. A tub of Häagen-Dazs’ Cookies and Cream. Three back-to-back episodes of a TV show on Netflix. A trip to one of my favourite museums in London. I like writing suggestions down on pieces of paper and picking one at random when I hit a goal. It’s one of the best ways to watch your motivation shoot through the roof!

Tell your inner editor to take a hike!

You don’t win NaNoWriMo based on how mind-blowing and original your novel is. You don’t even win it by finishing it. In fact, some people don’t even write novels – they write short stories or screenplays or a collection of articles. You win NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words. So, with that in mind, tell your inner editor you don’t need him/her for the duration of the month. Get your 50,000 words onto the page, however terrible, and we can figure out the rest after you’ve won.

Remember that you are not alone.

The online writing community is incredible. Since leaving university, it’s been my rock. I’ve made so many incredible friends through social media thanks to NaNoWriMo and they’ve made every year easier and easier. Not just through the month, by throughout the entire year. They’re always there to give words of encouragement, to help you through binds, to bounce ideas off. During NaNoWriMo, they’re there to sprint with, to curse word counts with, to celebrate with when it’s all finished. They know your struggle, so get to know them! Not only will you make lifelong friends from across the globe, but it’s always more fun to go on a perilous journey with a fellowship.

∞ ∞ ∞

NaNoWriMo can eat you alive if you let it, so remain positive, build your writers community, and have fun! I’ll be sprinting every other day so, if you’re free, come find me on Twitter at @GKSihat and join in! Good luck!

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