The Nanowrimo Survival and Self-Care Guide

Hello Preptober!-7

Hello everyone!

How is it going!? Can you guys believe that Nanowrimo is just THREE days away!? (And that’s counting today!!!) Who is SUPER excited right now!? Who is freaking out!??!

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Safe to say, I’m a bit of both! My novel is all snowflaked out (as some of you guys may know, I recently began using the Snowflake Method to plan my novels). However, admittedly I am not a big fan of the ending- fingers crossed a Brilliant Idea for a better ending will strike my brain halfway through November!!! #PlantserProblems

Wait… What is Nanowrimo again?

Na·no·wri·mo

ˈnænoʊ ˈraɪmoʊ/

A frenzied month where novelists and aspiring novelists take on the ambitious and crazy goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. For more information, check out the official website.

(And YES, there is still time to commit to Nanowrimo if you haven’t yet!!)

As you guys know, the traditional Nanowrimo goal is broken down into two parts: 

  • Completing 50K words, AND
  • Starting and finishing an entire novel.

Many people stick to this goal, although there are also plenty of “Nanowrimo rebels” out there who are continuing an existing WIP or choosing a different word count goal that works for them.

As for me, I am going with the 50K word count goal and I am starting a new novel. Though I am fairly confident that I can complete the 50K word goal, my novel will likely end up at around 80K. So…………… I’m going to be ambitious and try to finish my novel in November as well. (gulp!!!!)

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This is going to be my fourth year doing Nanowrimo. So today I want to share with you guys some tips & tricks which worked for me! I also want to share some self-care tips as well- since we don’t only want to survive but come out sparkling like vampires :’)

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10. Stay on track

To finish 50,000 words in 30 days means a daily target of 1667 words… which is CRAZY. It requires a lot of dedication and sheer will-power, but since we signed up for it, we got to do it.

From my experience with Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo in the past, once I fall behind, it becomes so much harder to catch up. So the best thing we can do for our novels and our sanity is to stay on track and do those 1667 words per day (or more!)

9. Keep ahead of the game

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There are going to be days when we feel super inspired, when we power through 1667 words like it is nothing and we feel like we can do a bit more. On those days, ride that wave of inspiration and keep at it! Write 1800 words, or 2000 words or 2500 words- however many you have time and energy for! It is going to be super helpful to have some words in the “bank” for those days when life hits us unexpectedly or when we just aren’t feeling it.

I find that I am very excited to start my novel during the initial days of Nanowrimo. For me, I take this opportunity to bank a few extra words!

8. Prepare for the low-word-count days

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There are probably going to be those 500-word days or even zero-word days! Sometimes we can’t predict them, for example, when we just aren’t feeling inspired or when something unexpected happen in our lives.

But other times we can predict them, be it an extra-curricular activity at school, a workplace evening event, or a night out with friends. In this case we need to have a plan for making up for those words! Are we going to write an extra 800 words the day before and the day after? Are we simply going to stay up late that night to reach our daily word goal (a tempting option though not always healthy and sustainable)!?

7. Make time for writing

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If we are going to write 50K words in a month, we gotta have time for it. How much time can we set aside each day to be able to finish 1667 words? If there isn’t that much time in a day, are there any activities that we can sacrifice or streamline? Maybe it means cutting back on social media or TV time, or meal-prepping at the start of each week, or writing during our commute or work breaks.

As for me, I know I am not going to be able to cram Nanowrimo into my regular schedule. Usually I write 800 words a day if I am lucky. So here is my plan: Cut down on exercise to 3 days per week (yikes!!), scale back my blogging frequency (gulp!), eat simple meals with minimal prep time, and a vacation from work for 7 days during the second half of November.

(Psst… check out my post here about how to write a novel when we are super busy.)

6. Keep tools on hand to immerse yourself in your novel

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Do you have a Pinterest board with images that remind you of your characters or your setting? Do you have a playlist that sets the mood for your novel? Do you have character sheets and an outline set up and ready to go? Keep these in mind when you write!

As for me, I have my Scrivener file filled to the brim with my outline, research, character profiles, and world-building tidbits. I have a playlist of songs that remind me of my novel, and I have a few baby Pinterest boards set up. (I’ve been procrastinating a bit on my Pinterest boards- I know, how could I!?!)

Pssst…… If you are a pantser and you’re just going to go ahead and start with a blank canvas, that is absolutely all right too. If you just decided to do Nanowrimo today and haven’t started thinking about these things yet, no worries! I’d say these are accessories rather than necessities!

5. Choose a comfortable place & time to write

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We all have a place where we feel most comfortable while we’re writing, whether it is on our couch, at the desk, in a cafe or even in bed. Find your favourite writing nook and make it super comfortable.

We also likely have a time of day when we feel most inspired, creative, and motivated. See if you can work out what time of day works best for you and block out this chunk of time for writing. (If you end up choosing a time based on practicality, that’s perfectly all right too. I’d say make the most of it!)

4. Have caffeine on hand (in moderation)

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Who is a caffeine junkie here!?? *Raises hand*

If you thrive on coffee and if you need it badly to bust out some extra words in the morning or evening, go for it! However, listen to your body and see if it gives you any unpleasant side effects, like headache, palpitations, insomnia or the dreaded caffeine crash. If your body is sensitive to caffeine (like me!) then too much coffee might do more harm than good.

I’ve become a huge fan of tea. In general tea has a lower dose of caffeine than coffee, and for me it has a more gentle effect on my alertness and productivity. What I appreciate about tea is that it doesn’t give me a caffeine crash at all. So if you are looking for a gentler alternative to coffee, I would give tea a try! *not biased at all*

3. Feed your body and mind

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Sometimes when we are super busy, it is tempting to forgo homemade meals for less healthy alternatives, like takeout, fast food or even skipping meals all together. However this is not only unhealthy but can be counter-productive in the long run. Our bodies (and more importantly during Nanowrimo, our BRAINS) rely on a steady supply of carbohydrates, glucose and protein to churn on.

If there is limited time to cook, consider simple meals or meal-prepping ahead of time. And have some snacks on hand to satisfy our between-meal cravings! My go-to recipes during Nanowrimo will be overnight oatmeal and smoked salmon sandwiches. I’ll be snacking on fruits and dark chocolate!

2. Sleep is important

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When we’re in a time crunch, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. I am so guilty of sacrificing sleep while trying to meet a deadline. However, keep in mind that we need a good dose of rest to be in tip top shape for school, work, and (more) Nanowrimo the next day.

My personal plan for this month is to catch at least 6.5 hours on week nights, while giving myself permission to stay up a bit later on weekend nights.

1. Get involved in the community!

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Last but not least, one great thing about Nanowrimo is that we are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are facing the same challenge with us. Don’t forget to connect with the community on the Nanowrimo forums (and even here on WordPress as well.) Depending on your region, there may also be offline events, such as meet & greets and write-ins!

The last 3 times I’ve done Nanowrimo, I’ve always been the “hole up and write” type. However this year I am so glad to have found a handful of awesome peeps in the blogging community who are doing Nanowrimo with me (you know who you all are!) I am also hoping to join some write-ins in my community!

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Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Are you sticking with the traditional Nanowrimo goal or are you going to be a Nano Rebel? What are your survival tips and tricks?

*A small announcement: For November I will be scaling back the frequency of blog posts to once per week. I’ll be back to the usual twice-weekly schedule in December!*

47 thoughts on “The Nanowrimo Survival and Self-Care Guide

  1. floatinggold says:

    I hope the cold I’m fighting will go away tomorrow. My head is not the same in such a state.
    A proud pantser here!
    I’ve decided to give it a go. I’m too curious to see what will happen.
    While a community seems like a good idea for some NaNoWriMo participants, I think it would just distract me and become a great excuse for not writing the actual novel.
    80k? wow. Impressive. That’s great that you get to take a week off work. I think that willl be of GREAT help to you reaching your goal. I plan on using Thanksgiving (and the day after) to spam write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hello! Glad that you decided to give Nanowrimo a shot! We all have a different approach to Nanowrimo and that’s all right. To be honest I never used to be involved with the Nanowrimo community (online or offline) for the reason of distraction as well, though I am going to step out of my comfort zone a bit this year. I’d say, go with what works for you!
      Hahahaha I think 80K is ambitious and to be honest I haven’t ever written that much in one month. I would be honestly happy with 50K words, even if I don’t finish my novel this month (though I will aim to finish, though that is crazy!)
      Wishing you all the best on Nanowrimo! Looking forward to hearing about your progress 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MichaelK says:

    Good luck with this year’s NaNoWriMo! I hope we will get settled glimpses of your progress! In fact I would like your blog posts to be about your progress and how you interact with the community!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marie says:

    This is such a fantastic post, Sophie, and thank you for sharing all of this great advice, too 💖 I only did NaNo twice and won once, but I have to say I followed these recommendations, too 🙂 I agree that making time is the most important thing, especially if you want to meet your goals! It’s complicated sometimes, but it’s also exciting to see all of these people joining together to write. 🙂
    Also, you mentioned a Scrivener file and I can’t recall if I asked you: what do you think of Scrivener? Is it useful / worth the investment, do you use it a lot? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hi Marie 🙂 ❤
      Thank you! And yes, making time is absolutely the most important part. I feel like when I don't meet a goal (writing or otherwise), it is usually because I didn't make enough time for it.
      I LOVE Scrivener so much. Ever since I got Scrivener, I've ditched Microsoft Word altogether. I love that I can keep all my world building, research, character sheets, outline, etc, in one place and I can quickly flip between these references while I am writing without opening a new document. I paid the full price for it ($45 USD), though for Nanowrimo and Camp Nano winners, there is also a 50% discount which I think is a good deal. I think even without the discount, it is worth it!!! In general it made my writing feel much more organized 🙂 I use it every time I write!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marie says:

        That’s SO good to know, thank you Sophie! I tend to open 4 Word documents when I write so that could be useful haha , but then again I guess I’ll have to see if I can do NaNo and win to get that good discount haha 😀 Thank you!! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        I think if you tend to open up many word documents at once, then Scrivener would definitely be a worthwhile investment! It also allows you to split the screen between two documents which is helpful for me at times! Let me know if you do decide on doing Nanowrimo 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sieran Lane says:

    Hey I started Nano since 2012 and have won every year (so six wins so far). I keep fearing that “this year” might be the one where I can’t beat 50K, but who knows! Maybe my great desire to win will override everything, lol. (Last year, I beat 50K, but fell behind on client notes and upset my supervisors. :/ Well at least I won Nanowrimo.)

    Haha well I’m starting a new novel, but it’s the fourth book in my WIP series. Also, 50K is never long enough for my novels. XD So it’s a mix of the traditional and the rebel mode.

    I’m somewhat confident because I realize that I spend much more time on Facebook than I should, even though my FB time is usually meaningful time spent connecting with friends, having in-depth discussions, sharing or asking for information, giving or receiving emotional support, etc. But I will cut down on that and write more!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Wow that’s awesome that you’ve won Nanowrimo six times in the past! I know how you feel. I’ve won Nanowrimo all 3 times that I’ve done it before, but I feel like there is a chance that maybe this is the one year that I won’t be able to do it!? However I do think that the more we succeed at something, the more we are likely to continue to succeed. My pole dance instructor once told me that our mind and bodies remember our past successes and failures, and that the more we succeed at something, the more we remember how to succeed and continue at it. I hope that this will be true for both of us!
      I’m with you in that my novels are never 50K (the shortest I’ve written was around 60K but it was on the underdeveloped side!) However life-wise it would work out best if I finish this novel in November……….. so I will give it my best shot haha, although I would be happy with 50K words even if I don’t finish the novel.
      I think Nanowrimo is also about connecting with other writers, so I don’t think we should forgo social media all together! This coming November I’ll be continuing my blog posts (though a bit slower) and dabbling more on twitter 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Sarah Stubbs says:

    I’m one of the Nanowrimo rebels writing the last 50k of an existing WIP! I can’t wait to have it all wrapped up and done. My goal is to sit down today and tomorrow and schedule as many blog posts as I can ahead of time to make my blogging load a little bit lighter so I can crank out as many words per day as possible. I’d love to finish 50k before the end of the month if I can!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hi Sarah!
      That’s awesome that you’re planning to finish an existing WIP in November. It is definitely an exciting feeling to complete a project right? It is such a good idea to schedule some blog posts in advance- now that you’ve reminded me, I should get to it too! Best of luck to both of us for November!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ruthannr75 says:

    Searching today(!) for Nano inspiration,
    I found WordPress.
    Which led first to ‘In the Flow with Otto’,
    And now to your cozy corner…
    This year, I believe I am really here!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ivysbooks says:

    Great post! I will try to do all of these. Like you I dont think my novel will be finished within 50k but i’ll stick to the challenge of 50k in 30 days and then the additional words in December to finish the story 🙂 Good luck with yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    I can’t believe NaNo actually starts tomorrow! I feel like I am nowhere near prepared enough as I wanted to be but at the same time I am so excited for it to start so I can start writing you know. My WIP feels so clear in my head and I’ve been holding off writing anything until November 1st so everything can go towards my word count! I always go for the full 50K goal, and yeah I always have slump-y days when i don’t want to write anything. I normally try and get as much writing done on the weekends as I can so I can have slump-y days during the week when I may be tired from work or have too much going on to write anything at all. 🙂
    I’m not really a caffeine junkie, but I will be drinking plenty of tea to keep myself going, and I never normally get enough sleep so November will probably be no different and not just because I’m trying to write 50K in one month! 😀
    Great post Sophie, and good luck for the start of NaNo tomorrow, are you ready and excited?! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sophie Li says:

      Hi Beth!!!! I’m SO excited and nervous at the same time!! I am with you in that on one hand I am feeling excited to start writing the novel that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while, and on the other hand I am feeling a bit underprepared haha!
      That’s great that you have your WIP clear in your mind and that you are excited to begin!
      Looks like we’re both going to be sipping tea during Nano 🙂
      All the best for the first day of Nano!!! I am planning to do a bit of writing during my morning commute, which I haven’t done ever before but we’ll see how it goes!!! Good luck! Looking forward to hearing about your WIP 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        There’s nothing like that ‘start of NaNo’ feeling is there? It almost feels strange it’s here but I bet once we start writing we’ll get in the flow of it very quickly.
        I’m always excited for NaNo to begin, and yeah you need loads of tea during this month. 😀
        Thanks, I’ll wish you luck too. I don’t always write in my morning commute but every so often I will if I want to get a little ahead. Like now on the very first day! 🙂
        Thanks, and good luck to you too. Will you be talking more about your WIP as November continues? I’d love to hear more about it. 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Haha yes! The past few days I was a bundle of nerves 🙂 I enjoyed the short writing sprint during my morning commute, so I think I will continue! Part of it is also because I like to get a head start like you mentioned haha 🙂 Then I will continue writing after work today.
        Did you get to write a bit this morning as well? Yes I will be posting updates every week in November! How about you? I would love to hear updates about your WIP as well ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Yeah I wrote a little this morning, but not sure how much writing I’m going to get done this afternoon as I’m out drinking with my work colleagues, and drunk writing is probably not advisable. 😀
        Don’t worry, I’ll be posting plenty about my WIP as November continues. 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Going out for a drink sounds fun too haha! I think especially during Nanowrimo it is good to have some fun so that we don’t burn out 🙂 Maybe drinking a bit will help to quiet down the inner critic? I find that drinking then writing is a hit or miss for me! xD
        Hope your day went well 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        It was needed too. It didn’t manage to tone down my inner critic but I still managed to get more written than the daily goal so I’m happy with that, and happy with how my WIP is going so far as well. 😀
        Thanks, how’s your second day of NaNo going? 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Yay! That’s great that you’re liking how your WIP is going so far!
        I did a bit of writing during my morning commute, but like yesterday I will have to catch up in the evening haha. Overall I am liking my WIP…… although I’ve already started to deviate a bit from my outline lol 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        Well I haven’t wanted to change anything so far, which is a good sign because normally I start writing and come up with twenty ways I can change my story to make it better.
        Ha, yeah it’s a dangerous thing deviating from the outline, but if it makes your WIP better then go for it! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        That’s great! Sounds like you’re sticking to your outline which is your plan all along.
        As I write, my brain comes up with new ideas and I just go along with it haha. So far it’s just been small changes in the scenes which don’t have a lasting impact on the story but I think enhance the scenes overall so I am just rolling with it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        It really was, I haven’t even wanted to go off on a tangent (but I have started planning and plotting a new WIP so I’m a little off topic there).
        Small changes are all right for sure, it’s when you have massive changes that alter the plot and all the characters that you have issues I guess. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        Ooh a new WIP?? (Different from the one your currently working on??) That’s good that your writing is sparking other ideas that you can use later on!
        Haha yes. So far no major plot changes yet, and things are going according to plan!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Caro @ bookcheshirecat says:

    Such a great post, I love all your writing posts and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of them 💕 Getting involved always helps me as well, but for me it’s the NaNo Word Sprints that really get me writing and motivated to hit my daily word count 😃

    Liked by 1 person

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