No. 1: Stop Being So Critical
Give yourself a break while you're working on your first draft. "We call it turning off your inner editor," says Katharine Gripp, Programs Associate of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). "When people sit down to write and they're like, 'Oh, I need to write something really good,' we say, 'Forget about writing something good. You just need to write something.' Even if it's terrible, just get it down on the page." Save the editing for later, and you'll be able to reach your word count faster.
No. 2: Go Hard on Day 1
If you're trying to write a novel in a month, your motivation can seriously wind down after a while, so be sure to start off strong. "On the first day of NaNoWriMo, I get as many words on the page as I can," says YA author Nita Tyndall. "Sometimes I'll stay up until midnight on Halloween and immediately start writing as soon as the clock turns. That first day is where all the fun comes in—all the excitement, really."
No. 3: Write Every Single Day
"If you have a deadline for a paper or something, a lot of people will put it off until the last second, but here, nobody else is enforcing a deadline," says Gripp. "You're the one pushing yourself toward that goal. Make a schedule, try to write every day. Because once you get into the habit, it's a lot easier."
No. 4: Don't Worry About Writing in Order
If you find yourself with a bad case of writer's block, feel free to shift your focus. "Typically, I just keep going or skip around," says Tyndall. "If there's a scene later in the book that you know you're really interested in writing, go ahead and write that—even if it's out of order—and get back into enjoying the fact that you're creating something."
No. 5: Figure Out What You Need to Get Started
Some people need to make detailed outlines before ever putting pen to page (or fingers to keyboard); others enjoy writing on the fly. Both are valid writing styles. "In our organization, we have something called a planner and a pants-er," says Gripp. "If you're a planner, then you're somebody who likes making outlines and you know exactly where your novel's going to go. If you're a pants-er, you fly by the seat of your pants. You know you're going to write something, maybe have a big idea, and then just dive into it."
No. 6: Be Realistic About the Task
"I think people might not realize how much work writing a novel in a month is," says Tyndall. "Fifty thousand words, in the grand scheme of novels, isn't that much. It's about the length of To Kill a Mockingbird. When you're in the middle of it, you're like, 'Oh my god, this is so many words!' I think it's important to realize that you are going to get stuck, and you are going to have days when your word count just doesn't happen. Remember to go easy on yourself, and remember that this is supposed to be fun."
No. 7: Find a Writing Group
"One of the best resources that we have is the forum on our site," says Gripp. "There are lots of different threads. There's a writer's block thread, so if you go in and say, 'Hey, I'm having writer's block, somebody give me an idea,' somebody will be like, 'Oh, put a penguin somewhere in your novel,' or something like that. There's a really great community of people who are just throwing around ideas and helping support each other, so everyone can write the novels that they want to write."