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21 Tips For NaNoWriMo Success Or Any Type of 30-Day Project

I like NaNoWriMo.

For one thing, I heard the creator, Chris Baty, speak at Tools of Change for Publishing a few years back, and I feel that he has good intentions for writing productivity.

For another, I said in three of my last four posts that writers need to put writing at the center of their careers and NaNoWriMo helps you do just this.

Also, NaNoWriMo is not just for novelists anymore. Any writer can use the premise behind NaNo to accomplish whatever goal they want to accomplish in thirty days.

Think about what big goal you might be able to accomplish in 30 days if you broke it down into 30 steps and then attempted to do it.

Got any ideas?

Once you do, here’s 21 tips for getting your work done alongside the rest of your busy life:

  1. Up and at ’em! Get up earlier (or go to bed later).
  2. Exponential productivity. Consider your most productive time of day and work then.
  3. Keep it simple. Don’t make a big “Look-What-I’m-Doing!” festival out of your work. Just feel good about getting it done each day.
  4. Stay grounded. Share your satisfaction with getting your work done in a low-key way. Hopefully, it’s contagious.
  5. Choose support wisely. Talk to supportive people about your writing success, but don’t mention it to people who have historically proven incapable of cheering you on towards your creative goals.
  6. Steer clear of “Crazy-makers.” Short definition: folks who interfere with you getting your work done. Just stay away from them for 30 days. It’s good practice.
  7. Team up. The team you want to join is the most focused, committed, productive team. Take care of your own emotional needs.
  8. Don’t get fanatical. Be of NaNoWriMo without becoming a NaNo maniac. If NaNoWriMo takes over your whole life, your friends and family might start getting annoyed.
  9. Be as social or anti-social as you like. Don’t bow to peer pressure. Trust your gut in all things. If adding writing a novel to your daily routine is as much as you can manage, it’s enough. You can make the decision daily to suit your comfort level and needs.
  10. Balance your act. Recognize that big writing goals require communication of your intentions and needs, while still requiring you to be mindful of other’s goals and needs. It’s all a big balancing act—so keep your balance.
  11. Have a rough, flexible outline. Remember, that it’s not written in stone. Play with it as you write.
  12. Think in scenes. Write the scene or chapter you really want to write today. Who says you have to write the darn thing in order? Nobody. That’s who.
  13. Break it down. Break down the things you want to write into 30 parts. Start each section freshly each day to accomplish the maximum number of drafts.
  14. Break it out. When you “accidentally” create a new direction in your WIP, just break it out into a new section on your list, jot down what you know you want to say, and get back to what you are working on today.
  15. Update your progress. Once a week look over your outline again and tweak it as needed.
  16. Be a pro, this might get published. Start considering yourself a writing professional as soon as possible, because if you are working steadily towards a big writing goal, you are acting like one.
  17. Check it off. Have a method for noting what you’ve drafted in your outline that feels festive to you. (Gold stars, anyone?)
  18. Carry it over. Once you discover you can get and sustain writing momentum, start asking yourself why you don’t stay as productive and engaged the rest of the year. Start to consider that maybe you can!
  19. Consider this a practice writing workout. Think about the marathoner. How does he get and stay in shape? It’s all about the daily workouts. So is this.
  20. Make NaNo-think part of your daily life. What do you want to keep and what do you want to leave behind? You will know when you are done.
  21. Enjoy the writing ride! Whatever you are writing, whether you “win” or not, you are learning things about your creative capacities and they are worth their weight in gold. Walk away with a clearer understanding of what makes your creativity hum, and you will definitely win.

Happy writing productivity, writers!

• • •

I am a veteran journalist, author and coach with over a decade and a half of experience and a wealth of techniques to share. I am focused on making the world a saner, more expressive place. I help folks become more creative for personal enjoyment, professional development and transformational growth. Whether you are a professional creative or hope to become one some day, I can help you embrace your personal strengths, explore your creative possibilities, and evolve incrementally into your most inspiring self. If you are ready to achieve creative consistency in your life and career, email me about monthly coaching calls. To learn more about increasing your creative confidence, please check out my online school. Stay tuned for ways to save money by becoming a Beta User for my next new course by subscribing to The Prosperous Creative. And don’t forget to get these blog posts delivered to your inbox, so you never miss a post. If you appreciate my work—school, products, blog and social media posts—you are welcome to make a contribution of any size at any time. Thank you for your support!


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  • Rowena Murillo November 1, 2011, 3:20 am

    Thanks for the advice. I find that I do some of these things, but it’s good to remember. And I would like to find ways to keep my productivity up in the months after nanowrimo, and to stave off burn out in November.

  • Janet Norton Bettag November 1, 2011, 10:29 am

    I really like the “carry it over” concept. As a writer who has spent decades in the workforce being satisfied with inherent non-fiction writing connected with my various positions, NaNoWriMo (This is my first!) is just the challenge I needed to force me to make time to fulfill my dream of writing a novel. I’ve devoted 8 hours to NaNoWriMo today and my word count is already over 10,000. I know that pace will slow on the days I’m at my full-time job, but my personal goal is 80K in 30 days. I plan to write a couple of hours most days and I have more vacation scheduled. What with holidays and weekends, I should have ample time to reach that if I don’t get sidetracked.

    With just one day in, I feel so rejuvenated that I am ready to “carry it over.” Maybe not on the same scale, but I have a feeling that after 30 days on a writing high, I’m going to be hooked on fitting at least an hour of writing time into every day.

    This is what I was born to do and it’s so uplifting to finally be doing it!

  • Brit St.Clair November 1, 2011, 3:44 am

    Your posts never fail to inspire me to increase my productivity in reasonable ways, without adding unwanted stress to my day. Thanks! 🙂

  • Engrid (Penny) November 1, 2011, 3:54 am

    Your advice is spot on!  I’m part of a Facebook NaNo group that was started just before NaNo2010.  All your advice plus that “village” of a group had me at 50,000 words by 11/13.  Writing it was the easy part, editing & revising – not so much!

  • Billie Williams November 1, 2011, 4:21 am

    Thanks it sounds like fun instead of overwhelming = ) Billie

  • Carrie Minns November 1, 2011, 4:34 am

    Thank you for the inspiration Christina!!

  • Anonymous November 1, 2011, 8:05 am

    Aw shucks, Brit. Thanks!

  • Judy November 1, 2011, 10:47 pm

    I’m using NaNoWriMo as inspiration for my next project. 😉