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.

What to Do When You Have Too Many Story Ideas

How can you cope with idea overwhelm? Through using these four fun and creative methods. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comYou’re a writer so your head is probably brimming with ideas (most of the time, anyway). And that’s a good thing. We’re a creative lot, with story ideas sneaking up on us at the most random and often inconvenient of times—like in the middle of our current works-in-progress.

But what if you have too many ideas? So many you just can’t decide which to write next. So many you keep hopping from project to project because you just have to write those shiny new ideas now.

Okay. Deep breath. Here are four methods that could be just the ticket to saving you when you have too many story ideas swirling around your noggin.

1. Summarise your idea so that it fits on an index card and put that card safely away in an “idea box”.

When inspiration first blossoms, it can be tempting to dive straight in with writing that new story. The problem with this is that these ideas tend to be undeveloped. They haven’t had time to mature, to grow into fully fledged plots, so you hit a brick wall after a few chapters of furious writing and scratch your head, wondering where the story will go next.

If, instead, you write your new ideas down in a few sentences and store them away for another time, you give your muse the chance to work on them at the back of your mind. This method keeps a record of your ideas so that you don’t forget them and gives them a place to grow and develop. In fact, I once heard this technique described as the ‘plot bunny nursery’.

2. Use your ideas as inspiration for shorter fiction.

If you really can’t wait to start writing your shiny new story, then giving novellas, short stories or microfiction—stories under 1000 words—a go can help to alleviate this burning desire. This way, you don’t have to spend months, if not years, turning each idea into a full length novel. You can have fun with your story seedlings by writing some microfiction, short stories or novellas about them instead.

I’ve also found this method particularly useful for experimenting with different genres, voices and styles of writing. Because you’re not dedicating yourself to a 70,000+ word book, you have the freedom to try something new without worrying that you’ll have wasted all that time should it not work out as you planned.

3. Combine several ideas to create one story.

Got too many ideas that you want to make into full length novels? Try weaving them together to create one story. This method’s very effective if you have several ideas that can’t make a story on their own, like a character, a magic system, a conflict, and so on, but can also be used when you have fully formed plots that line up with each other nicely.

For example, a character who can read auras has taken up residence in your head and demands you write a story about her. You also want to write a thriller involving a therapist who manipulates her clients into committing crimes for her. And you really like the idea of setting a story in a futuristic world teetering on the edge of societal collapse. You could write separate books about each of these elements or you could combine them to create a novel about an aura-reading therapist who’s been driven to manipulating her clients in order to protect her family as the world slowly crumbles around her. Interesting, right?

4. Use your ideas as inspiration for subplots.

Subplots support the main story, so there’s no reason not to incorporate one of your many ideas as a subplot as long as it helps to drive the main plot forward.

Maybe you really want to write a story about the adventures of a swashbuckling airship pirate, but you’re also dying to write a mystery set in the Alps. What if, in the course of his daring adventures, your air-pirate stopped to get supplies at a small town in the foothills and was drawn into a murder mystery there?

Is your multitude of ideas slightly more manageable now? I hope so. Have fun with these methods, dear readers. There’s a lot of scope for imagination and that’s what we writers are all about.

~

Do you ever feel like you have too many ideas? How do you deal with idea overwhelm?

A Tiny Guide: Prioritizing Your Writing Time

prioritizing your writing timeSomething’s been bothering me lately about my writing habits and, after a long week of solemn reflection, I came to a realization that I wanted to share with you: it is impossible to do it all.

That’s right. I’m talking to you over-achievers out there. And to those of you that are inundated with responsibilities outside of your writing life.

After switching into a new job a couple months ago, I’ve found that my time for writing has shrunk and my energy and motivation have been steadily declining.

After reaching a point last week where I felt that I could no longer keep up with all my writing commitments, I took a step back and evaluated the situation. What was really going on here? Why couldn’t I prioritize my time correctly and get into a good writing rhythm?

Then it hit me: I was overwhelmed. I’d taken on too much and assumed I could make it all work. And what was more, I had so many writing commitments on my plate that didn’t truly interest me, that I was avoiding them. So, to remedy this issue, I started breaking down my writing commitment and created a guide for myself that I’d like to share with you.

Below is a breakdown of the percent of my writing time that I spend on different kinds of writing (to make sure my time spent writing is manageable, productive, and enjoyable), as well as a list of questions to ask yourself when you need to figure out what you should cut from your writing workload.

Writing Time Spent on Different Projects

I’ve found that most of my writing projects fall into three different categories. I’ve broken down the percent of my writing time that I spend (or would like to spend) on each category every week.

Passion Projects (35%)

Blog Posts/Projects with Deadlines (25%)

Paid writing (40%)

Note: there might be some overlap between these categories – which sometimes makes things easier – or harder – to prioritize.

I’ve found that when I stick to this sort of writing schedule, I’m a happier, more motivated writer.

What Happens When Something Has to Give?

Sometimes there’s just too much. Sometimes, you have to make the tough call and resign from that editor position or give up trying to squeeze an extra blog post in each week. To help you make the decision on what to give up when you need to let something slide, use the below list of questions to determine what is really important to you and what you should let slide.

  • what makes you happy?
  • what allows your writing to grow?
  • what do you look forward to writing?
  • are you under a contract?
  • will you be letting anyone (including yourself) down if you don’t complete this?

The secret to being a great writer is loving your craft, devoting your time, and prioritizing your projects. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with uninspiring work or items that take up your time and leave no room for other projects.

Balance your writing life in order to let it grow.

~

Do you have any tips for prioritizing your writing time? Let us know in the comments below!

Hit an Inspiration Dry Spell? Pinterest Has the Solution

So, what will you write about next?

Usually, having ideas isn’t a problem for most writers. Our brains are brimming with them. They come to us in flashes of brilliance, in bits and pieces, in the form of plot bunnies, leading us down the rabbit hole.

But what happens when those ideas just seem to… evaporate? What do you do if you hit an inspiration dry spell?

First of all: don’t panic. You haven’t lost your spark. There’s an abundance of creativity within you—it’s just blocked right now. Whatever is holding you back, it’s not unfixable, and sometimes all it takes is a dose of the strange and unexpected to get your imagination back in business. The best way I’ve found to do that? Writing prompts. And the best place I’ve found to get them from? Pinterest.

(What is Pinterest? Find out in Pinterest for Writers in 6 Simple Steps.)

With Pinterest being such a visual platform, it’s a great opportunity to find writing prompts, whether they’re stunning images or written prompts. It could be a single pin or a whole board centred around a theme or style that gets the ideas flowing again—you just need to find them first.

So how can you find a wealth of prompts on Pinterest?

1. Search for them.

If you’re new to Pinterest or don’t follow many prompt-related boards, often the best place to start is with the search function. Simply type in a few keywords, like ‘writing prompt’, ‘settings’, ‘characters’, your genre of choice, etc., and search away. See any images you like? Create your own inspiration board and pin them to it!

2. Follow themed boards.

If searching for prompts doesn’t turn out the best results for you, the second option is to scout out inspiration-based boards that have been compiled by others. Found a pin that you really like? Chances are, you could like the other pins on the board it’s a part of.

To find the board the image is from and preview the other pins in it, simply click the image and look at the column on the right (highlighted in the image below). And there you have it.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

My favourite inspiration-based boards:

3. Check out all the pins from a source.

What if you’re looking for pins from a particular source, rather than from a particular pinner? For instance, you really like the images created by a certain artist or writer, but the boards you’ve found only have a few of their many pieces of art or prompts on. What now? Pinterest has you covered.

Every pin has a source, the web address it came from, and if that’s the same source as the artist’s other images (e.g., their website), then you can find them easily. Click on the pin and look at the column to the right of it. There’s the name of the board at the top and the other pins on it, and underneath that there’s a ‘more from’ section. This is the bit we’re interested in.

If you like Sarah Selecky’s writing prompts, for example, you can find one of her pinned prompts, click ‘more from sarahselecky.com’ (highlighted in the image below), and explore all the images various users have pinned from her website.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

My favourite sources for writing prompts? Right here:

4. Make use of Pinterest’s suggestions.

As you start pinning prompts to your own boards, you’ll see more of Pinterest’s ‘picked for you’ suggestions, which is a great way to find more incredible prompts and follow boards that collect them too. In fact, that’s where I find the majority of the prompts I get from Pinterest!

You can spot the ‘picked for you’ pins by looking at the section beneath each image, which contains the name of the pinner and the board it comes from. Check out the image below for an example.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

So now that you have some prompts to get you over that inspiration dry spell, it’s time to get writing. Enjoy your idea hunting on Pinterest! (But don’t get too distracted—you actually have to write the thing, remember!)

~

Where do you find your writing prompts?

Stay Inspired: How to Maintain a Writing Mindset

Stay InspiredIt can be hard to stay motivated to write day in and day out. Aside from the demands life makes on our time, there are obstacles like writer’s block or self-doubt or – worst of all – obscurity. It’s impressive that any author ever has the mental strength to get anything done.

But many authors get a lot of writing done. A LOT do, in fact. Tons of writers produce large quantities of work every year (which, coincidentally, I think may be the secret to writing success…but that’s for another post).

So what’s the secret? How do you stay focused? How do you produce multiple pieces a year? Here’s my answer: find a way to maintain a writing mindset at all times. Albeit, it’s easier said than done. So here are some tips to help foster a lifestyle that will keep you writing.

Read with a critical eye. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to just lose yourself in a book. Book every now and then, delve into a book with the intent to examine it. See what you like and what you don’t like. Think about how you can apply some techniques to your own writing. Or what you want to avoid. Being conscious of what other authors have put out into the world means you’ll be conscious of what you write – and it’ll make you WANT to write.

Socialize… with other writers. Find a writing group in your area – or a writing buddy. Or take to Twitter, Facebook, or the dozens of websites out there that allow you to connect with fellow wordsmiths. Talking shop and seeing what others are doing will inspire you to keep the words coming.

Socialize some more… with your readers. If you have readers – whether it’s 5 or 5,000, take some time to interact. Social media, your own website, and email are great ways to stay in touch with your readers. You’ll find that the more you talk to people who love what you’re writing, the more you’ll want to write great stuff for them.

Talk about writing. A lot. To your writing friends, your readers, your family. Anyone who will listen. Talk about something you are writing – or something you want to write. Talk about why you write, or what you’ve learned from writing. Talk about it when you can. More often than not, you’ll start to hear some pretty good ideas come out of your mouth. And then you can move those to paper.

Study up. Read books about the craft of writing. Or marketing or publishing. Or listen to podcasts on the same subject. Let other people get you excited about the process. Let their ideas spark your own. Or re-purpose their brilliant ideas (DO NOT plagiarize or steal – just let yourself be inspired). Enthusiasm is contagious, so go out and catch it.

Take a walk down memory lane. Revisit some of your greatest hits – your favorite past pieces. Or pick up a project you never finished and start breathing more life into it. Remind yourself how far you’ve come with your writing. And then set your sites on where you want to go.

~

So go on. Get out there are find ways to keep yourself inspired. And, as always, keep writing!

~

Got any suggestions on how to stay in the writing mindset? Share your knowledge in the comments below!

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Taylor Eaton

Why Do I Write

A while back, our co-founder Faye Kirwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? This month’s answer comes from Taylor Eaton – look for Cristina R. Guarino’s answer in February!

Why do I write?

It’s not something I think about often – I mean, I think about writing A LOT. I think about writing while I’m at work and when I’m falling asleep. And I think about how excited I am to write when I wake up in the morning. But I don’t really give much thought to why I write very often.

So why do I write? The short answer is that I love it. And that I can’t imagine not writing. I feel better about myself when I write – it’s something that makes me happy and something that makes me feel good at the end of the day. I get in what some call a “flow state” when I write. When I’m interested in the story I’m writing, time slips away and the words just come. One by one. I lose sense of my surroundings and I’m focused in on this one story that, in the moment, seems like the most important and exciting thing I’ve ever written. But that’s such an esoteric answer. Maybe the better question is: Why do I write what I write?

Why do I write fiction? I write fiction on my personal site because I think that my observations and beliefs about humanity can be more easily accessible to readers if told in a clever story.

Why do I write flash-fiction/micro-fiction? I write tiny, tiny stories in order to hold the readers attention (plus, I get bored when I write about the same thing for a long time – some sort of a writer’s version of attention deficit disorder).

Why do I write mostly dark, surreal, prose-y stories? The prose comes naturally, because if I’m going to say something, it should be said beautifully or with care. And most of my writings are dark because I think the world is a dark place. But my stories aren’t meant to depress or anger. They’re meant to shine a light on what is difficult or sad or horrible, all so that we can either change those things or accept them as they are and appreciate the things that are good. I write because I love it and my life is noticeably more boring when I don’t. I write the things I write because I want to give my readers something worth reading. Not just a jumble of words.