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.

How to Utilize NaNoWriMo When You Aren’t Participating

UntitledEvery November, we flood The Sprint Shack’s blog and Twitter with NaNoWriMo advice. And while that advice is helpful for the many writers who do partake in the annual challenge, what about those of us who don’t? Thankfully, the lessons learned during NaNoWriMo apply to writing throughout the year—first draft writing, at least. And the tenacity, dedication, and supportive camaraderie displayed throughout the month is always a source of inspiration.

I, personally, decided not to do NaNoWriMo this November. When Faye, Taylor, and I posted our kickoff post, I had every intention of participating. I sat down, started writing, almost hit my word count goal for the first day… and immediately stopped. I had no love for the story I was attempting to write and very little time to spend working on one that I did enjoy. I knew starting out that this would not be an optimal time for me to attempt such a large goal, but I wanted to at least try. And while I don’t consider giving up after the first day a real concerted effort, I knew that I was making the right decision for myself this year.

That, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to write at all this month. I still plan on being productive, only on a much smaller scale. So what if you’re like me and aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo, for whatever reasons you may have? What if you’re in the middle of editing rather than penning a new draft? Try using these tips to feed off the NaNoWriMo vibe to still stay productive, even if you aren’t aiming for that 50,000 by November 30th:

1. Read the pep talk emails. One of my favorite things about NaNoWriMo is the regular pep talk emails they send from various NaNoWriMo staff and acclaimed authors. Having your own personal cheering squad can be incredibly exciting, not to mention those who are writing the pep talk emails often have great advice that applies to all stages of writing.

2. Scroll through the forums. Don’t do this while you’re writing, of course, but take a few minutes in your spare time to peruse the NaNoWriMo forums. This can be especially helpful if you have writer’s block since many generous wrimos will often drop unneeded characters, settings, prompts, and entire plots into the Adoption Society for anyone who needs some fresh ideas.

3. Watch your friends closely. If you don’t have any “writing buddies” on the site, now’s the time to get some (the forums mentioned above are a great place to start). Watching everyone else’s word counts climb steadily throughout the month can be incredibly inspiring and can often kick your muse into action.

Of course, these are also great tips for those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo and are struggling with those second week blues. For more on that, check out Taylor’s last post on getting back on track!


Are you choosing to participate in NaNoWriMo this year? If not, what are you working on instead and how are you staying focused? Let us know!


Romance Author Tracey Lyons Hosts “Sprinting: It’s Not Just For Runners!” Workshop!

We at The Sprint Shack, obviously, love all things word sprinting. So when we see an avid word sprinter doing what they can to get the word out to other writers and broaden the community, we get pretty excited—especially when that sprinter is kind enough to mention us as a resource!

Yesterday, romance author Tracey Lyons attended the Romance Writers of America’s New England Chapter “Let Your Imagination Take Flight” conference, where she hosted a workshop on word sprinting entitled “Sprinting: It’s Not Just For Runners!” Tracey reached out to us ahead of time to ask if she could mention The Sprint Shack, which we were of course thrilled by and supportive of.

Tracey discovered word sprinting after signing with a new agent and experiencing anxiety over a tough deadline. “I needed to get her the completed manuscript of a proposal I’d pitched to her. After days of chasing my tail around, a friend saw my angst-filled post on Facebook and suggested I try the sprinting method—and the rest, as they say, is history! I ended up completing that novel in a record six weeks!”

In the workshop, Tracey outlined the pros and cons of sprinting, offered tips on how to get the most out of a word sprint session (whether you’re sprinting alone or with a group), and made suggestions for turning off your “pesky inner critic” and giving yourself permission to write freely. She also provided author testimonials and a handout including websites and twitter handles to help get participants started in the sprinting community (that’s where we came in!). She ended the session with a word sprint and a follow-up discussion of the process and the attendees’ experiences.

“My hope is that the writers who attend these types of workshops will use the sprinting method of writing as another tool to help them achieve success,” Tracey said prior to the workshop. “Even if you’re only doing a few fifteen minute sessions a day, the word count adds up, giving you the confidence to keep moving forward.”

We hope everyone who attended the workshop had a great time and took something away from it. If you were there and found us through Tracey’s workshop, feel free to contribute to the conversation by letting us know your experience in the comments below!


An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author, Tracey’s books Tracey Lyons-1345-LR-Colorhave been translated into several languages. She has appeared on the award winning Cox Cable Television show, Page One and at the famous Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC. She holds membership in Romance Writers of America and Novelists Inc.

Tracey writes historical and contemporary romances. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website at www.traceylyons.com and follow her on twitter at @traceyjlyons.

Revive Your Writing Resolutions with S.M.A.R.T. Goals!

UntitledIt’s that infamous time of year: the end of January and, for many, the well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions. Those of you who work out may notice that your gym is starting to empty out again as resolutioners lose their resolve, for example. Those who promised themselves a break from a bad habit like smoking may be falling back into their old routines. And, where writers like ourselves are involved, the countless resolutions made to write, edit, and/or publish our words are beginning to feel a bit ambitious.

But, thankfully, there’s one solid way to fix that lack of motivation and get you back on track (besides, of course, partaking in regular word sprints)! By making what are called “S.M.A.R.T. Goals”—or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely—all of us can make those resolutions a habit and not only achieve our goals, but feel productive and successful in the process.

So how does a goal qualify as a S.M.A.R.T. Goal? Take your resolutions and hold them up to this standard to see if they’re up to par.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals are…

Specific

Any resolution that’s too broad or vague is sure to fall short of your expectations—often because you aren’t entirely sure what your expectations are. In order to achieve the next step, which is to make the goal measurable, you first have to have a goal in place that’s able to be measured. Here are some examples.

Vague goal: “Write more in 2015”
Specific goal: “Write a minimum of 200,000 words in 2015”

Measurable

This is where it’s helpful to create goals that can be broken down into smaller progressive segments, such as monthly or weekly tasks. For a goal to be measurable, we have to be able to pop in at a checkpoint and assess our progress without great effort or backtracking. If you’re trying to write more, for example, the above 200k goal can easily be broken down into a monthly word count target of approximately 16,667.

Here are two more examples:

Unmeasurable goal: Get a short story published (a vague and unmeasurable goal I made the mistake of making, myself, last year!)

Measurable goal: Dedicate 1/3 of the year each to writing, editing, and submitting a short story

Attainable & Realistic

The lines are blurred between these two, but essentially, your goals should be fathomable. It’s easy to look at a promisingly full 12 months an entire year in advance and make wild promises to ourselves—and there are unattainable and unrealistic goals that come much more disguised as the opposite than, say, determining that you’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling by 2016.

Unrealistic/unattainable goal: Write, edit, and (traditionally) publish your debut novel in one year

  • (Author’s Note: It can and has happened, I’m sure, but my guess is very rarely. This is not to dissuade anyone from achieving their goal of publication, but just to encourage you to take a step back and understand that traditional publication can often be a long and unpredictable process that you don’t always have complete control over).

Realistic/Attainable goal: Finish draft 1 of your novel by X date/month, send to beta readers by X date/month, and pursue publishing endeavors by X date/month (remember, you still have to keep it measurable).

Timely

Of course, the whole point of a New Year’s Resolution is that it can be completed and celebrated by the next year. All of the preceding examples have shown the difference between timely and untimely goals inherently by their being S.M.A.R.T. Goals, but here are two more if you need them:

Untimely goal: Write a collection of short stories

Timely goal: Write and edit one short story per week until December; take the month of December to comb through stories and decide what will be included in the collection and make any further edits

And that’s the basis of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal! Do your goals meet all the criteria? Or do they need to be revamped? Let us know, and—if you’re comfortable sharing your ambitions for the rest of the year—give us an idea of how you’re improving your resolutions!

Setting Manageable Goals

Note: As we mentioned in our NaNoWriMo Kickoff post, Mazie will be writing with us for a while as a contributor to The Sprint Shack! Give her a warm welcome and enjoy her first non-guest post!


For any writers out there who are balancing a 9 to 5 work week, taking care of their families (or fur babies!), and juggling the other responsibilities life throws at them, goal setting can mostly become overwhelming and–lets face it–faulty. But not if you know how to set manageable goals that are suited perfectly to your lifestyle! Whether you are a full time stay at home mom, working overtime, or finishing up your BA, with the right type of goal setting, anyone can achieve what they want to.

The biggest mistake that people make when setting a goal is immediately jumping to the highest tier as a means to push themselves. I am in no way saying not to shoot high, but while telling yourself that you are going to have your book published by the end of the year is possible, for example, there is no structure to the goal. This will make it super easy to lose momentum, which is something everyone needs to achieve such a hefty feat. Here is my 5 step process for setting effective goals:

Step 1: Define your goal! Example: Write and publish a book by the end of the year or even write 1000 words every day this year!

Step 2: Break down the stages! Example: 3 months: write first draft, 9 months: edit and revise, market, publish. *Note: The publishing stage can be unpredictable, so be sure to account for unexpected road blocks along the way in your timeline.

Step 3: Take it one stage a time. Feel free to break down your goals into monthly, weekly and even daily goals, whatever is more realistic for your lifestyle. If you are working full time, it may be more effective to break your monthly goal down into daily segments–because, let’s face it, it can be very difficult to write 10,000 words a week. But say you have weekends off, and you have free time, 5000 words a day is more than possible. Its all about planning!

Step 4: Divide and Conquer. As you hit your mini goals, you’ll start gaining this beautiful thing we’ve mentioned, called momentum! You’ll feel more inclined to write because you’ve been keeping up, and you’re right on track. As soon as you clear your monthly goal, keep going, plan your next month and just write your heart out! There is no stopping you now! You’re a power house, remember!?

Step 5
: Celebrate your ultimate success. At the end of the year, when your goal is close, keep pushing through until you hit it. It may involve you locking yourself in your room until you write 4000 words, denying yourself of Netflix and snacks until you hit your daily goals, but hey, in the end, you’ll have a book edited and ready for publishing–or whatever your goal might be.

Everyone will have a different goal style. For example, I write better in the morning and research better at night, but I also don’t have a fixed schedule for work every week, so a weekly break down is better suited for me because I never know what to expect. But for someone who works full time and definitely knows when their shifts start and end, daily goals would be best.

If there is any other tip that I could give to you this holiday, it would definitely be the recommendation of getting a separate planner for your writing. I know you might be saying “oh no no, I have a planner, I don’t need anything else! I can just track my writing to-dos in there with every single other thing I do with my life!”  Just trust me on this one: keeping a separate planner for writing will make it so much easier to focus on hitting those goals if all you see every day is a daily or weekly target by itself, not surrounded by notes about that potluck next week or the dance recital tomorrow.

I have so many tips for organizing a planner but alas, that is for another day! I hope this helped you start thinking about your goals for 2015, and maybe gave some insight on how to plan for those goals a little bit better!


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.

#SundayScribes – Sunday Word Sprints

SundayScribesHey there word sprinters! We’ve made it half way through #NaNoWriMo. Congrats! But in order to keep our writing strong, we’ve added a new weekly sprinting event to our roster: #SundayScribes! Every Sunday, Sprint Shack co-founder Taylor will be hosting an hour of word sprints on our Twitter account. Join us at @TheSprintShack every Sunday for some weekend writing.

GMT: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
EST:
1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
PST: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Wrap up the weekend with an hour of creativity-boosting word sprints!

For more information on word sprinting and how to join in, check out our FAQ page.