Over the years I’ve tried to recreate NaNoWriMo in my own time, outside November, participating in camp and going it alone. Never has this gotten me near the 50k. In this post, I thought I’d outline what I believe are the essentials for succeeding at NaNo:
1. The Forums. The main reason I believe NaNo is different from other months are the forums, teeming with life. There’s other writers around 24-7 for venting, celebrating, or cat videos. How can you not be motivated by that (and the occasional free shrimp dinner)?
2. Local support system. For my first year, I did NaNo ‘alone’, with just some virtual support. After that I moved to a region that actually met near me, so I ventured into the real world of writerly interactions. And I’m very glad I did. Now I know not everyone’s region has people they connect with, and some people prefer to just stay virtual with their support, but I can recommend everybody give it a try. No one can understand what you’re going through like other writers can.
3. Charts. I’ve already made my handy wordcount chart, and I’ve got another wordcount meter in Scrivener and on the website, and they’re a great incentive to keep writing. Every day I have to add to my wordcount, or the charts just look too sad. Can’t have sad charts.
4. Rewards. Next to the ‘reward’ of seeing my wordcount go up, I also use physical rewards for milestones. Chocolate for small rewards, stuff from the NaNo-store for the bigger milestones (30k, 50k, finished draft), maybe a pizza or other kind of treat. Nothing like a little Pavlovian conditioning to keep you going.
5. Glorious failure. Last but by no means least, I think the ability to fail is crucial to winning NaNo. In other months, I get bogged down in the plot points, needing things to be perfect, whereas in November I get that all first drafts are flawed. I let myself write nonsense (and sometimes this nonsense turns out to be good, sometimes it’s the other way around). I let myself fail at writing the perfect novel for the sake of writing a complete first draft of a novel. And that’s how I become victorious.
Anything I’ve missed?