6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

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The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

NaNoWriMo Prep: 8 Things to Do Before NaNoWriMo Starts

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It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start to fall, the crisp air bites at your cheeks, and all of the coffee shops are full of the smell of pumpkin… and crazed over-caffeinated writers preparing for the impending storm. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but for people like me, this is the month of readying yourself for the battle against a novel that seemingly never wants to be written. Ideas for stories or novels swarm my brain on a regular basis, but as soon as NaNoWriMo is in arm’s-reach, it’s like they go into hiding.

There are millions of things we suddenly remember while NaNoWriMo is in progress that we wish we would have thought about before–or, at least, that’s the case for me. So I took it upon myself last year to keep a little ongoing list of all the things that I should have done before NaNoWriMo started. Here are some things you can think about or start working on now to have a more productive November.

Find Character Inspiration and Names:
We all know the struggle of character naming in the heat of the moment. Even if you are a “pantser” at heart, you know the time that building a character can take away from your word count. So why not do some minimal planning and figure out your characters before you have to stress about them?

Create/ Brainstorm your Cover Art:
If you are anything like me, you know the pain of going onto the NaNoWriMo forums and seeing all the beautiful cover art all ready in the signatures of all the eager and prepared Wrimos. You try to ignore them, but in the back of your mind, every sentence you write is backed up with an unbearable longing for your own cover. For me, it was my greatest downfall and distraction in the first week of last year’s festivities, and I will definitely be working on mine before November this year.

Research your Genre and Take Note of Any Applicable Conventions:
This is a great thing to do, especially if it is your first time writing within this genre. Knowing the conventions or other common features of your genre will really help you get in the groove, and it’s one less thing you will need to research when you get started.

Do the Math, Plan Your Numbers for the Month:
If you are a student or work full-time, you will need to work around your life’s schedule to win NaNoWriMo. The lovely word count tool on the website will try to tell you that you need to write roughly 1600 words a day, but for some people that’s simply not doable. So go through your schedule, find the best writing days, and try to amp up your word count on those days. This is also good if you suffer from chronic stress and need to give yourself a little break once or twice a week from novel land. If you need a few days off, just calculate that into your weekly numbers and make sure that you can make up for them on another day. The biggest part of NaNoWriMo is keeping a steady pace and making sure you take care of yourself and life outside your novel, as well.

Book Some Days Off for Catch Up or Damage Control:
This one kind of ties in with the last tip. Slipping and falling behind is pretty easy to do–life happens and you can’t expect the world to stop for NaNoWriMo (not yet at least). If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend keeping at least one day near the middle and end of the month dedicated to catching up. I personally keep a few days closer to the beginning of the month to get ahead so that I can focus on all my duties as a Municipal Liaison, and that works best for me.

Figure Out Your Goals and Rewards:
I’m a big believer in setting goals and planning rewards for when goals are achieved. If you are someone who finds themselves unmotivated often, then you should definitely set multiple short-term goals and rewards, such as for every 10,000 words written. But if you just need that one big push to get to the end, give yourself one big end goal and work towards that. Every year my reward is a winner shirt for the year and a big celebratory dinner with all the friends that had to put up with crazy-NaNoWriMo-me.

Prepare Your Inner Editor:
I want to talk more about this in a later post, but for now, I am going to explain what you can do to get ready for your novel frenzy month. Any seasoned Wrimo knows that the biggest word count killer is your inner editor. That little voice in your head that moves your fingers to that backspace button, makes you read back 8 pages, or convinces you to delete whole chapters. You need to start training yourself to fight against that little voice. I have some tips and tricks to help you beat it once and for all, but right now, you can start by practicing the ever so simple mantra “write now, edit later.” It will seriously change the way you write anything and everything. There are settings for you to turn off your word-processors editing tools if that helps you at all, but just start practicing, I promise it will make a huge difference.

Clear Your Workspace and Computer of Distractions:
Nothing is better than a well-organized workspace. All your references in order, the perfect little spot for your coffee… it all helps everything flow better when things are in place. I always make sure to clean up my computer while I’m in the cleaning mood. I hide all the distracting files or games in a folder and flood my desktop with motivational quotes and inspirational images or references. It’s really helped me out when I am looking around for something to distract myself.

How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? Will you be trying any of these tips this October? Let us know!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Freelance for Beginners: All About Client/Writer Relationships

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This is the next installation in a series of posts on freelancing by Mazie Bishop. You can find future posts on Freelancing and read the rest of the series here.

Clients are not only the most important factor of your freelance career but the main form of promotion for your services. So of course, by default, managing client relationships can also be the most difficult aspect of freelancing. Every client has different expectations, but they all have one thing in common: they are all looking for someone they can trust to convey their message in the best way possible.

In this post I am going to be talking about some simple ways to keep your clients coming back to you and how to make sure you become their go-to freelancer.

Communication:

Since we have already discussed how to get started started with your new freelance career, the next thing to talk about is communication. When a client reaches out to you, you want to make sure that you are approachable, down to earth and that you communicate in a way that they will understand best. Make sure that you are friendly, polite and overall professional. Feel free to make connections and tell your clients a bit about your writing background and anything else that applies to the job. Sometimes you may find that you just won’t be compatible with their project, but it’s important to keep that communication positive in case they have a project in the future that is more up your alley.

Professional Priorities:

In this career, it’s obviously important to make sure that we are smart about our rates and to make sure we maintain maximum financial security. This is one of the hurdles that comes with being self-employed, as we don’t have a company with legal support to back us. This being said, you want to make sure that you focus on getting all of the information about your client’s project before you even think of throwing around budgeting details. Doing this will show that you genuinely do care about your client’s business and that you are passionate in what you do. Once all the details are worked out and you have a great understanding of what your client wants, gracefully throw in a message asking about their budget. Give them an approximation of what you would feel comfortable working for, and make sure to say that you are will to further discuss your rates to better fit their budget. Most of the time they will work within your ballpark, but a lot of clients love to know that you are willing to work with them.

Regular Check- Ins:

Once you have started working for a client, you want to make sure that you check in with them on a regular basis with any questions, comments or just general progress, no matter the size of the project. Whether it is once a week or once every few days, just make sure you are letting them know how things are going. They will appreciate that you are thinking about them.

Classy Finish:

Once you have worked your freelancer magic and completed the project to the absolute best of your ability, you want to make sure you take the time to sincerely thank your client for choosing you. The freelance world is a big one, in the sense that there are a lot more freelancers than there are jobs, and the fact that they chose to work with you is a wonderful thing. Show that you appreciate it with a simple and professional thank-you, and make sure they know you are interested in working with them again in the future.

If you really clicked and think that you really made a connection with your client, make sure to mention that you are always looking for new clients and that if they know anyone looking for a freelancer, you’d love to help them out. This is going to get them thinking about who they can tell about your work, and it’s the best way to make sure your clients are promoting you.

These are just some of the simple ways I have made better, stronger relationships with my clients and have kept them coming back, but every experience is different. If you have a tip or trick you would like to add, please feel free to do so in the comments, and make sure to let us know how your new adventure in the world of freelance is going!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Finding Your Writing Niche (Plus, A Challenge!)

More often than not, when I am writing, I find myself questioning my choice in genre. It can be half way through a project or sometimes even in the middle of a novel, but when it hits, there is nothing more confusing. I haven’t managed to pinpoint the exact thing that triggers my indecision but I think it could be the fact that I, like many other writers, haven’t explored other genres.

I read a wide range of genres and have studied all of the different components that make a genre what it is, but I haven’t used that knowledge as a writer yet. Imagine an ice cream parlour, full of new flavours you could try: you can guess what they all taste like, but you have only tried butterscotch. So you play it safe, and just stick to what you know, but there are so many other possibilities for new favourites out there.

I mainly stick to contemporary fiction or fantasy/warfare but there are so many other genres I want to try my hand at. So that is why I have decided to dedicate this next couple of months to tasting some new genres. I will be exploring many genres as well as some sub-genres in the form of short stories.

I encourage all writers to join in on this challenge, no matter how many genres you have tried your hand at. Especially if you are feeling confused about where you stand as a writer.

Since I am familiar with poetry, contemporary and fantasy, I am not going to include those in my list of genres to conquer, but if you haven’t tried them yet, add those to your list for sure.

Here is my list of genres to try:

  • Sci-Fi
  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Adventure
  • YA
  • Paranormal
  • Slice of Life
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Satire

Everyone’s lists are going to vary, because all of our interests are different. For example, I didn’t choose Horror because I can barely watch or read anything in that genre. I have a pretty crazy imagination and it wouldn’t be good for anyone if I tried to write horror, but I’m going to push myself and try to write a thriller!

Challenge time! Let’s find our niches together.

Since this is going to vary so much from writer to writer, it would be difficult to formalize an actual schedule for everyone to stick to. There are 11 genres on my list, but someone else could only have a few, so I think that this would work better if everyone wrote at their own pace.

To stay connected throughout our journeys in genre, we will be using the hashtag #findyourniche. Whenever you write a post about your challenge or try a new genre, or even if you have some questions, please tweet using that hashtag and also mention @TheSprintShack to be sure we see it, since others use the hashtag for tweets not relating to our challenge.

I look forward to seeing how everyone decides to challenge themselves, and I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures into the worlds of new genres! Let me know in the comments below what genres you are going to try out and if you have ever felt unsure about your genre choices. Time to go exploring!
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Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Freelance for Beginners: Where to Start

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This is the first in a series of posts on freelancing by Mazie Bishop. You can find future posts on Freelancing and read the rest of the series here.


One of the most daunting aspects about a freelance writing career is figuring out where to start. Upon searching this topic at the beginning of my journey, many freelancing professionals claimed that the best way to start is just to jump into it. After taking their advice and not doing the research that I originally wanted to do, I found that this method was not realistic whatsoever.

I found myself hunched over my laptop, scrolling the seemingly infinite list of freelance jobs and trying to submit my bids. I spent endless hours tweeting about my services and my experience as a writer and editor, but after almost a week of no responses, I knew that just jumping in wasn’t the right decision, and that I had to take a different approach.

So, if you’re looking to start a career in freelancing, here is my step-by-step guide on how to get started!

Step One: Do your research

Find out what kind of freelance you want to get into. Do you want to write fiction, non-fiction or maybe even reviews or news? Do you want to edit or transcribe? There are so many options for us because as writers we have a wide skill set; not only do we have the ability to write, but we also have the ability to edit and type fast!

Step Two: Pull together a writing resume

Now this isn’t going to be as structured as a normal employment resume. Instead of selling your skills as an employee, you are going to be selling your service as a writer. This resume is to include all levels of education, all non-institutional education that has contributed to you as a writer, and any and all writing experience. Your goal is to show people why they want you to work for them. They want to buy your skills, and you want them to come back to your service with all future projects.

Step Three: Find a secure venue

For your first couple of freelance gigs and beyond, it’s important to find a venue where you will will be securely and regularly paid for your services. You need to make sure that there are contracts and that there is someone watching your transaction to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Hopping on Twitter and finding a client that wants to work with you over email and PayPal is not the ideal first gig, but there are tons of other websites that make for a safe freelancing environment.

One example is Fiverr, which is a simple marketplace style website with tons of traffic. You create an account, build your profile and offer your services. The catch is that the base price for each gig is $5, so you want to consider this for how much you want to get paid in the end. On my profile, I have a very popular service that says I will proofread 2000 words for $5, but other people on the website sell their editing of 700 words for $5. There are so many options for gigs, from press releases to copywriting; all for $5 and the clients come to you! The best part is that you can create custom offers for customers that want larger projects done.

Step Four: Build client relationships

In my experience on Fiverr, most of my bigger projects have come from the same clients I had when I started. They liked my work and they came back. So I started thinking about ways to get more business from them. I started messaging them occasionally, asking them if they needed any work done for their books, websites, or projects and 9 times out of 10, they would say yes. Then I took the step to letting them know that they could refer their partners and friends to my service as well. This is all based on the workload you are interested in taking on. Sometimes it gets a little bit stressful, but it’s worth it in the end.

Step Five: Don’t get discouraged

If freelance is what you want to do, than you need to know that it’s not going to be easy from the get go. Even after these steps, I had a hard time with a few set backs. You just have to keep telling yourself that it will get better, business will pick up, and in a year from now, maybe even a month from now, you will have a successful freelance career as a writer. As long as you keep working for it.

In my next post, I’ll be clearing up any confusion you might have about what to charge for your services, how much is too much, and how to get your client to keep coming back! I hope this helps inspire you to try professional freelancing and I look forward to hearing any stories or experiences you have along the way! Feel free to leave any questions below and I will try my best to answer them for you!
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Mazie-BishopMazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Writing for a Living: Coping With the Strain of Multiple Projects

There is a fine line between writing for life and writing for a living, and sometimes it’s easy for us writers to get caught up in the middle of multiple projects. Sometimes we don’t realize just how thinly we are spreading ourselves out to make other projects happen, but that’s what makes us so different from any other worker: writers are resourceful and resilient.

Unless you have a full time writing career with a firm, a paper, a website, a publisher or an agent, you will need to be prepared to hunt down big writing jobs or a lot of little projects in order to make a living . Being a new writer in the industry can be especially difficult, as sometimes the only option is to write what we are told to.

Now I can speak for a lot of writers when I say we try to justify taking extra projects on. We play that shuffling game in our heads, where we move around all of our current commitments and try to squeeze that extra project in. We make excuses for ourselves that sound a lot like, “Oh, It’s okay, I’m a writer! I love what I’m doing!” But little do we realize that we are draining our brains and exhausting our skill.

It’s important for writers, especially those who juggle creative and non-creative work, to find that perfect balance. Without a balanced schedule, our passion will easily become our stressor and that’s how writers lose momentum. Here are some tips and tricks I have found useful while balancing my novel, my freelance writing and my writing for school:

1. Every morning, create a writing plan:
Each morning I wake up and I curate “The List!” This is a list of all the tasks I need to complete that day. Sometimes the list is long, sometimes it only has one thing, but no matter what, I always have it near my computer. On this list, I make sure to include deadlines, priority tasks and scheduled 10-20 minute breaks.

2. Make sure you are distributing your time evenly:
Obviously some jobs are going to take a little more precedence over other personal projects, but always make sure to give yourself the wiggle room to write at least a little bit for yourself during the day. It’s not only going to be a huge stress reliever, but sometimes it actually can help your brain function better when writing for work.

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew:
It’s easy to tell yourself, “I can do one more thing and I’ll be fine,” but you need to make sure that you physically and mentally can handle another project on your plate. It is completely alright to tell a client that you are busy–they more than likely understand that you’re busy because you’re talented, and they can wait until you’re available.

The most important tip I have to give is to always remember that, though you are a writer, you are still a human. Don’t feel bad if you can’t handle everything that is being thrown at you. It takes a skilled writer to work well under pressure but it takes a strong writer to know where to draw the line.


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com. Follow her on Twitter at @maziebones.