NaNoWriMo Survival: Week One

Here’s the little tricks I’ve either learned or put to good effect this week; I’m posting them as advice to myself, because I am dense enough to have to learn these things over and over.

  1. Start small – a half hour on and five to ten minutes off is a great way to get started, and yeah, even a half hour’s worth of words adds up!
  2. Allow yourself to write whatever, including your current frustrations. Likely doing so will help you through a problem, or at least warm up your writing muscles.
  3. Periodically keeping track of words/time spent is a great way to give yourself a pat on the back and keep you going, but don’t get obsessed with it. Writing comes first.
  4. After you hit word goal, do something else besides writing.
  5. Write in small increments. I know I kind of said this already on #1, but this is a BIG DEAL. Writing in 4 half-hour sessions may be more effective than trying to block out 2 hours of uninterrupted time.


As a writing tutor, I run into this a lot with students. They often feel like they are bad writers, and they obsess with fixing their first draft. Can I share with you a piece of writing wisdom that may transform your life? Do you think you can handle it?

First Drafts are not for fixing, but for rewriting entirely.

Now that I’ve given you the scary part, let me soften it. The second draft is MUCH easier. It’s soooo much easier. The thing is, you already know what you want to say, and now you’re saying it better.

Once you’re able to get past the scariness of “more work”, you may find this fact to be liberating. You mean you don’t have to get it all perfectly the first time? No. Far from it. Stephen King includes an exerpt from his short story 1408 in On Writing. Pick it up in the bookstore and look at it. It’s amazing to see how much this seasoned, professional writer transforms his drafts.

Credit yourself for ANY WORK DONE. This means those pre-writing sessions, or the rants about your frustrations. All work done sitting down, in the word processor. (Sorry, Facebook and other internet distractions don’t count as work, but with a timer they can serve as a great breather! Use your phone or ipod to keep your internet time-wasting under strict control.) This is why I like to keep track of my hours spent writing as well as the words; because those hours are work, even if they were less productive than some. We get paid at our office jobs by the hour, although only an average of 30% of our work day is actually spent on productive work. The rest is pre-work, organization, and activities that help us recharge.

During NaNoWriMo, it will not be to your advantage to make sure that you keep your manuscript orderly and neat. It won’t help you to keep rants out of the manuscript. What will help you is anything that keeps you writing, keeps your hope up, and keeps you sane. Get to it. If you are writing, you’re a writer. That’s what NaNoWriMo is all about.

Good luck on Week 2!


2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Survival: Week One

  1. Your killing my perfectionist dreams here! 😛 I love fixing things through the first draft. I find it so much less overwhelming and I get overwhelmed very easily. I also love writing in huge blocks of time. I think it has something to do with OCD cause once I start something, well, I might become a tad maniacal about it. Maybe. I MUST finish it.

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