Flowers and notebook that reads "make it happen"

NaNoWriMo: Tools for Success

Last week, we talked about how to make the most of the NaNoWriMo community. But what about the actual writing bit? Both Sarah and I have participated in NaNoWriMo a handful of times and have been around the block in terms of testing out different tools for success each November. So grab a cup of tea and keep reading for a variety of tips and tools to help you “win” NaNoWriMo:

Use the Right Word Tracker
Knowing where you are in terms of your 50,000 word goal is super important when it comes to NaNoWriMo. Whether if you only manage to write one word or 2,000 you’ll know exactly how much further you need to go. While many writers like to stick to the tried and true method of 1,666 words per day, I find this super overwhelming and sometimes it’s not a realistic goal when my schedule gets crowded. Pacemaker is a unique tool that allows you to customize a writing plan that works for you. Know you won’t get any words in on Saturday because you’re going to a Gilmore Girls trivia night? No problem! Schedule it in as an off day and watch your word count adjust. Pacemaker even offers different plans that vary your word count from day to day. I’m a fan of the oscillating novel plan since it outlines a mix of lighter or heavier word counts each day. This variability not only keeps it interesting, but it also allows some flexibility. For example, Sarah and I are going away on a writing trip mid-November, so I know I’ll be able to hit a high word count goal. Other days, maybe not so much (there’s just so many Try Guys videos to watch with Sarah). This tool is super helpful for NaNoWriMo because it keeps things interesting and allows you to take a break when you need it.

Decide on a Word Processor
Making sure you take the time to figure out what word processor works for you is integral in reaching your word count goal. I would know—it took me a long time and many half-finished novels to learn what worked best for me. While many writers flourish in Word or love that they can access their novel anywhere with Google Docs, Scrivener is my one true love—not only during NaNoWriMo, but always. Having all my planning, research, and the actual manuscript in one well-organized program is super helpful when you’re trying to produce so many words in so little time. You can separate your story by acts, scenes, chapters, and can easily compile your manuscript into a Word document or PDF for sharing with beta readers and critique partners long after NaNoWriMo is over. Plus (and this is a major plus), there’s also phone app that lets you sync projects to your phone via Dropbox for on-the-go writing sessions. While it’s not everyone’s jam, I’ll never stop loving the sound of Scrivener’s word counter telling me I’ve hit my daily goal.

Know Your Resources
Somehow, no matter how hard I try, I’ll always get caught up on the tiniest details while participating in NaNoWriMo. What is the name of my fantasy country or the traveller from the distant land? How do I stop my characters from shrugging and constantly wiggling their eyebrows? What does the cathedral on the mountain actually look like? This is why I like to keep a list of resources bookmarked on my browser or stacked underneath my coffee cup, ready to grab while writing, to make sure I can easily navigate my idiosyncrasies that are determined to throw me off track. While Pinterest and Tumblr are excellent for when I need creative inspiration or a setting idea, here’s a list of my other favourite go-to’s for when something small has got me blocked:

Use Your Bookshelf!!!! (!!!!!!)
NaNoWriMo is hard and it can be creatively draining. Reading the books on your shelf or exploring your local library is an integral part of the creative process and also will give your brain a break from your own story. You’ll find the next time you sit down to bust out another round of words so much easier when you’re also engaging with the work of other creatives. My favourites are books that were written during NaNoWriMo because it reminds me of what is possible, especially when I’m struggling.

But your bookshelf is helpful for another reason. Even if you do manage to turn off your inner editor and just write, sometimes the words are still tough. Writer’s block happens even in NaNo and that’s okay! So, use your bookshelf as a resource. Can’t figure out your beginning? How do I write this action scene? Why are endings so difficult? All of these questions can be made easier by those books on the shelf and can help push you further toward your end goal.

Staying Focused
If you’re anything like me, I spend most of the day thinking about writing—until I have to sit down and actually write the stupid words. With social media constantly at our fingertips, distractions like 30 Covers, 30 Days, and the lure of the forums, sometimes it can be difficult to focus. Using apps like Self Control, Freedom, or Forest you can block access to websites that disrupt your productivity (looking at you, Twitter). If you want to get really intense, apps like Flowstate will delete everything you’ve written if you stop writing for more than five seconds. These apps are perfect for turning off your inner editor and letting yourself get the words on the page.

Learn What Works for You and Explore!
Regardless of what our experiences are or what we recommend, at the end of the day NaNoWriMo is a great way to learn what works best for you or return to favourite methods. If you know you work better as a plotter, maybe check out some planning tools that will make your NaNoWriMo journey a bit easier (Ready, Set, Novel! is a favourite in the Toffee & Fudge household). If you’re a pantser, follow your gut and see where it goes. But don’t be afraid to try something new—I’ve never followed the same NaNoWriMo routine and each time I unearth more about my creative process. NaNoWriMo is a time for experimentation, so channel your inner Elsa and let it go to create something that you can really dig into at a later date. Whatever methods work for you, don’t forget to have fun and push yourself.

So, what about you? Do you have any favourite tips or tricks to share with your fellow writers to “win” NaNoWriMo? Share in the comments below or on social media. And don’t forget to follow Sarah and me, we can’t wait to see you out there.


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