When you’re just starting a new story, emotions and creativity are basically a colorful explosion of glitter and rainbows inside your head (sorry, it’s Monday, I had to reference something sparkly). You just want to write ALL THE WORDS TODAY RIGHT NOW LEGGOOOO!
I know. I’ve been there. Going on eight times now. NaNoWriMo does that to you. Run with your creativity while it’s fresh – do it! But also do what you can to avoid something I like to call “word count burnout” – that empty feeling you get when you accidentally write too many words in one sitting and can’t recover fast enough to keep up your momentum.
Here are a few tips.
First, just get to your daily word count goal.
Generally this is 1,667 words per day (NaNo even gives you a “words you must write today to finish on time” schedule). Whether you write 500 words at a time or are brave (or motivated) enough to crank it all out in one sitting, this should be your focus. The only one you’re racing against is yourself, unless you have a sprint partner, but that’s another story (hahaha novel puns). You choose whether writing is the first or last part of your day, or maybe for you it falls somewhere in-between.
When you hit that goal and you get to a point where you can stop, stand up and take a short break. Get a snack or go for a walk or something. Then come back and reevaluate.
Decide whether or not you want to keep going.
Especially the first few days of NaNo, you might feel really good about your new story. Like, really good. So good you write 2500 words in the first day (not that I know what that’s like or anything). Keep in mind, however, that this won’t be the case for 30 straight days. There’s the 30,000-word slump, which I’m convinced is absolutely a real thing. There’s Thanksgiving, for all my USA readers. There’s that day or two you just won’t feel like doing anything, especially writing. So do you give yourself a buffer, just in case, or try not to go overboard in the beginning?
Honestly, I always go overboard, but that’s not to say a small buffer, such as writing 2,000 words per day instead of 1,667, isn’t a good idea. I’d recommend it. I wouldn’t recommend writing too much in the beginning though. Yesterday I could have kept writing long past 2,500, but I stopped. Why? Because I woke up this morning SO PUMPED to keep writing, and I’m looking forward to it, and that’s the kind of feeling, especially in the beginning, you want to hold onto as long as you can.
A little burnout will happen to everyone, so don’t get discouraged.
There are a lot of things you can do to avoid frying the creative part of your brain, but you’re still going to feel the effects every once in awhile as you move through your story. Writing almost 2,000 words a day is a lot. It’s the same as writing four short blog posts a day or a short report for a class 30 days in a row. It’s a bit more creative and you can do whatever you want with it, but your brain can only handle so much. It will need a little rest here and there.
If there’s a day you’ve written only 300 words and just can’t go any further – stop. Let your brain have its rest. Everybody has their off day (or two, or seven). You will catch up, especially if you give yourself a break now. The closer it gets to the end, the more motivated you might be to write more. I wrote 8,000 words the day I finished my most recent book. Do I recommend that? Uh, no. But I gave myself a deadline on purpose, because I knew, no matter what, I was getting that thing done and putting it to bed.
So go hit your daily goal! I will too, after I write a paper for my marketing class. I’m debating whether or not to have my character write it, but she’s in high school, so having her write a graduate-level paper might not work out so well.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.