Since Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up soon, I figured I’d use this chance to use the final days of March to give a little bit of advice. Not just for you, I might add; I sometimes find it helps me out when I can read my own advice. It’s sort of like being my own accountabili-buddy. Like, “Oh, hey, I said that. I guess I should do it and not let myself down.”
A lot of this advice comes from the pooling of knowledge over the years. Keep in mind I’ve never personally finished NaNoWriMo myself, either. More on that later. Much later, probably. If at all. I kinda make this all up as I go.
I. Recognize Your Distractions
I, for one, am an Internet junkie. And I know many others who are, as well. The Internet has lots of nice (and not-so-nice) things on it that suck away millions of people’s time. I assume it’s millions anyway. I don’t think I’m wrong.
From Tumblr, to Reddit, to video game fansites, to forums, to Facebook, to, uh, more salacious things, there are a lot of shiny things on the Internet to keep you from doing the things that are important to you. I know it happens to me. Personally, I spend way too long on Imgur, where one picture can lead to the next and the next and suddenly it’s midnight.
I also play lots of video games, and I have a huge group of friends on Skype. Because of my dual-monitor setup, I’m able to keep Skype in its own screen, so it’s there all the time, and there’s no way to ignore it.
If any of these things, especially to do with the computer and Internet, are common distractions to you, go ahead and admit it to yourself. It’s only the first step.
II. Minimize Your Distractions
The second step is figuring out what to do with these distractions, now that you’ve admitted that they exist. As far as video games go, I didn’t say much about them because I don’t play them quite as much as I used to, though they still are a problem. I have a lot of PC games, too, just a couple clicks away from my word processor. Temptation is always very close at hand.
A simple solution is to uninstall the PC games you have on your computer that you play the most. That way, the next time you want to play it, you have to go through the hassle of re-installing it. And while you’re doing that, you can’t even do anything else to pass the time (might as well write).
As far as console games go, the fact that they aren’t directly part of the computer is kind of a helpful factor to note. If you really need to, though, just put them in a box or something.
Regarding Internet distractions, there are various things you can do. A possibility if you have a Mac (I don’t, though there may also be a program like this for PC) is the Self Control app. It works simply, just deactivating your access to websites (and maybe programs?) that you don’t need for writing. At least, I assume it’s simple, since I don’t have a Mac, like I said. A google search brought up a similar program called Self Restraint, but I’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s worth it.
For Skype, I found that I had to change the settings so that it wouldn’t launch automatically when my computer booted. This helps until I decide I actually want to turn Skype on again.
All in all, though, anything you do to minimize the above types of distractions will fall on you, since you can easily reverse or circumvent any measures to not be distracted. If you need to, take a bit of time before NaNo starts to wean yourself off of such habits. If you find yourself on Reddit for too long, turn it off and set a timer for an hour before you can go to it again. Little things like this will ultimately help you to get ready to just write.
There’s also the technology route. I found a Chromebook for $200 at my local Office Max. I know, a lot of people can’t spare that kind of money on a whim, and I couldn’t if you asked me to buy another right now, but it’s really useful. Why, you ask? Well, it’s small, I can’t install hardly anything on it (including Skype), and with Google Drive I’m able to synchronize all of my writings across my laptop and my desktop.
This blog is not endorsed by Google. Just thought I’d throw that out there because it seems like I’m advertising.
What I’m trying to say is that this was my solution to keep myself from the shiny things that beckon to me on my desktop. You may find this another way. For example you can go the analog route and use a notebook. Or you can use a computer at a local library.
However you decide to do it, you need to minimize your distractions.
III. Find What Motivates You
Why are you doing NaNoWriMo? Is it for fame and glory? Is it because you’ve never finished a novel? Maybe you have finished a novel but haven’t found yourself able to do it again? Maybe it’s just a challenge issued by a friend, or your English teacher turned you onto it.
Whatever your reason for doing NaNoWriMo, write it down, and don’t forget it.
Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why you want to do it. Maybe you just want to. That’s a valid reason. Mine is because I don’t want to disappoint the people I’ve had waiting for the completion of this story for months (since my Camp NaNo story is a continuation of the story I started for NaNo back in November). Also, I want to finish this one so I’m comfortable with starting a new story.
I’m probably a bad example. I can’t actually pinpoint what it is that motivates me. I do, however, keep my first two novels printed and bound, reminding me that I would like those two stories to have enough stories on top of them so that I can simply call it a stack of novels.
IV. Account for Days You Need Off
I made a mistake back in November. I scheduled a weekend off to go out of town, and I didn’t have any means of writing while I was there. It led to me returning home with no new story material and a lot of stress while trying to catch up.
What I should have done was gotten ahead of the curve. It’s easy to look at the NaNoWriMo stats and say, “Well, now I just have to do 2,000 words a day. That’s not so bad.” It’s another thing to actually do that. I learned this the hard way.
I found out (too late, unfortunately) that some people try doing different word count goals each day. The standard 50,000 word goal requires writing 1,667 words a day for thirty days to finish on time. A lot of writers find that they have more steam than expected, though, and stop once they hit the day one goal, satisfied that they’ll be able to do it again on the morrow. Then they start to lose that steam.
So, some people use a reverse counting method like this which gives them the chance to get ahead from the first day, and makes it so they have to write less each day. If you’re among those that loses steam later in the month, this is probably the way to go.
And that’s all I have for today. The only thing I’d like to add is that whether or not you do an outline for a story, it’s close enough that you should have at least a couple ideas for your story. If you don’t, get on it.