Three Ways to Stop Stressing About Your NaNo Novel

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbSince NaNo 2014 began (aka this past Saturday), I’ve accomplished plenty of non-NaNo tasks. I’ve slept (a lot), reviewed two research articles – one about GMOs and the other about the biochemical affects of caffeine intake during high points of stress, you’re bored already – read 50 pages of The Tenth Circle, watched all five episodes of Red Band Society, took twelve pages of notes on DNA, RNA and HIV and tweeted mindlessly. That’s all in addition to the almost 8,000 words I’ve managed to crank out since waking up Saturday morning.

I’m not even stressed about The Unknown. Probably because this sequel is so captivating to my very scattered brain. That, and the further I venture into this story, the more material I have to finish the first book in the trilogy.

Bear with me. It’s complicated.Keep in mind that I’m in a very awkward stage of young adult life. I don’t have a full-time job, I’ve technically graduated from college but sort o only halfway, I’m only taking four credits and basically all my friends have moved across the country (and the world). I have a lot of time on my hands, probably more time than I know what to do with.

Don’t think I’m just sitting at home living vicariously through my characters (okay, maybe some days). Believe me, I’d love to have a job, not even a dream job, just SOMETHING. Fine, I’m like most college graduates in that regard, and I’ve come to terms with that. So on top of everything else, I intern here and there (everywhere), job hunt, draft query letters in my spare time … you know. The usual.

Is my chill NaNo attitude getting on your nerves? Then my strategy worked. Grab another cup of coffee and read my tips. You, too, can mosey your way through November without waking up in the middle of the night terrified you won’t hit 50,000 before November 1. Nope. You’ll just wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea for a plot twist, tuck it underneath your pillow and sleep on it. (Literally.)

Tip #1: Stop looking at your word count as you write.

My laptop recently “recovered” from a spontaneous hard drive failure, which means the software I installed four years ago, MS Office for Mac, is currently not on my laptop. Because I haven’t taken initiative and torn apart my room looking for the software yet, I’ve been writing my current novel in a Google Doc. What’s the best part about this? My word count doesn’t sit at the bottom of the screen automatically like it does in Word. Which means I’m a lot less tempted to check it every five minutes.

Type in a Google Doc or hide the word count on your Word toolbar while you write. It’s much easier to get lost in your story when you’re not so focused on how many words you wrote in the last 30 seconds. You’ll write faster, you’ll write more, and honestly, you’ll probably write a lot better.

Tip #2: Set your daily word goal to 1,667.

While it’s tempting to set your personal standards a little higher than the average daily word count needed to win by the end of November, this is one case in which settling for the minimum is in your best interest, especially if you want that winner badge (I mean REALLY want it).

If you say you’re going to write 5,000 words today, and you only write 3,000, you technically won’t have met your goal. That’s not very satisfying, is it? No matter who you are or your personality type, crafting a goal and falling short is disappointing and stressful. But guess what? YOU WROTE 3,000 WORDS IN ONE DAY! That’s almost double the daily average. Allow yourself the chance to pat yourself on the back (or buy a venti instead of a grande PSL) for going above and beyond even when you didn’t plan on doing so in the first place.

Tip #3: Keep your eyes on your own word count.

I’ll be honest: during JulNo, I compete. I really do. I keep my eyes glued to those stats and see how close I can get to the top 10, for a few good reasons: one, because JulNoWriMo usually only has a few hundred participants, so it’s very laid-back and easy to communicate with other writers throughout the month. Two, summers are obviously a lot less busy, and the past six years, I really haven’t ever had that much else going on. So it’s fun to engage in a little friendly competition with my fellow Wrimos, because I’m very set on keeping writing a fun pastime in my life and never making it feel like work (even if it is). I like to have fun.

NaNo, as you know, is a large-scale writing marathon with thousands upon thousands of writers all over the world. Stats are there, regional and overall, but I very rarely look at them throughout the month. I have a few writing buddies and occasionally pop into the forums, but there’s a solid reason why I’m not a frequent forum-er: I don’t want someone else’s word count to intimidate me.

I don’t care how many years you’ve done this, other writers can be intimidating. No matter how kick-butt you think your story is, hearing someone else’s idea can totally squash your confidence (if you let it). While connecting with other writers is important (I am advocating because I do believe this), I write more, and better, when I’m not constantly trying to one-up someone else.

Of course, that’s just me. Maybe you need sprints and word wars to make it through that 30,000-word slump, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am an introvert, through and through. But I mean, if you want to connect with me (GodRoxMySox92) I won’t pretend you don’t exist or anything.

Don’t stress. I mean it. NaNo is FUN. Even on your worst writing days, at least you’ve started. That in itself is pretty impressive.

Take a deep breath. And write. It’s not always easy. But if you let it, it does come naturally.

Love&hugs, Meg<3


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