Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tips and Tricks from this Year's NaNoWriMo

No matter what kind of draft I end up with by the end of November (messy melted swiss cheese comes to mind) I always come away from NaNoWriMo having learned something. 

There are some things I relearn the hard way every year, like (1) first drafts always suck, (2) with great stubbornness, I can achieve massive word counts to come from behind, and (3) Holy Everything why can I never learn to properly outline these beasts ahead of time? Also, (4) creative burnout is a very real thing, which is why I’m blogging about NaNoWriMo almost two weeks after it happened and why I still haven’t reopened the Draft of Doom.

But I also always pick up some new tips and tricks every year. I test them out during the chaos of NaNo and then usually continue to use them in my less frantic writing life all year round. Last year it was Rachel Aaron’s Triangle and a few related strategies, which I still use. 

And this year I had two new magical totems of productivity in my writing corner:

The Hourglass

Well, technically it’s a half hour glass, which works perfectly for me. When the sand is flowing, I can do nothing but writing (or thinking about writing, but no internet etc.) Thirty minutes of writing doesn’t sound super daunting, right? Sure, sometimes I’m slogging through and I look up at the hourglass and think HOW IS THERE STILL SO MUCH SAND LEFT ON THE TOP? But I force myself to keep going, and somewhere along the way I usually get swept up in the writing so that I don’t notice when the final grains are tumbling out. Once I do, I'll take a break if I need one and then flip the glass over and keep on writing.

I’ve used this method in the past with the timer on my phone or computer, but the alarm at the end was always so jarring. I also know people who use an egg timer, but the ticking would drive me nuts. The hourglass is soothing and charming and works as office decoration when I’m not using it.

The Sticker Calendar

I’ve been meaning to try this one ever since I saw Victoria Schwab blog about it, and I plan to continue using it every month now. Gotta love visual accountability and cute stickers! 

I gave myself a monster sticker for every 1000 words written on a given day. (And no words were allowed to ‘roll over,’ which is why I have fewer than 50 stickers even though I did write 50,000 words total. You’ll notice that (1) I probably should have chosen smaller stickers or a bigger calendar and (2) there’s a clear sticker clustering trend. Obviously that’s because work got in the way of writing during the week and I got behind and had to play catch up monsters like to party on weekends and the end of the month. 

My creative tank still needs some refilling, so I’m content to let my writing rest for another week while I travel for some pre-holiday family time. But then I will be right back at it, hourglass and sticker calendar at the ready. 

How about you? Tips? Tricks? Epic NaNo stories of triumph and/or exhaustion?


  1. I hear you about the creative burnout. I love the hourglass! I might have to get me one of those….

    I've been doing the calendar/sticker plan for a few months now and it really works for me. I tailor it to the project/month, and I've learned to get smaller stickers so they fit better in the squares. :)

    1. Nice! I'd love to hear how you tailor it, since I definitely need to figure out a similar sticker system for when I'm in revising rather than drafting mode. And the hourglass is actually from Target, so quite convenient and reasonably priced... though I did drool over some fancier and more expensive ones online too :-).