NaNoWriMo Day 8: How to Survive the Next Three Weeks

When I first attempted NaNoWriMo, way back in 2008, I had never written so much in so little time. I was seventeen years old, in the middle of my final year of school, and I had only ever completed one novel before then. (Okay, back when NaNo wasn’t so well known, there weren’t a lot of seventeen year olds with novels written.) But I managed it. Just about.

Seven years later (let’s not talk about how old I am), I’ve done word count challenges several times over. I’m used to them. Arranging the time to do them, planning out my day to make sure I don’t fall behind, or completely miss out on every other aspect of my life, is difficult. I’ll admit that. This is not an easy thing to do, and when faced with obstacles along the way, the challenge only increases in intensity.

Having all of the experience that I do – and starting to write at a young age helped immensely – I’ve been able to isolate and recognise the things that make reaching word count targets a little bit easier and more consistent.


1. If it’s late, and you’re tired, it’s better to stop writing and get some sleep. It feels counter-intuitive, I know, but this isn’t a novel-in-a-day challenge. You’ve got a full month. Recognising that your energy can be better spent when you have more of it is vital towards increasing your productivity overall. Think of it like saving up money for something when you were a kid – you could have one small toy if you spent your money now, or you could wait a little longer and save up and get a bigger, and better toy. The wibbly wobbly nature of time and energy allow for similar exchanges to be made.

2. Update your word count, and set yourself goals to reach. NaNoWriMo lets you do this easily, but it’s word count goals aren’t always reasonable. This is especially true if (a) you’ve fallen behind, or (b) you’re way ahead.

wordsperdayIf you’re behind, you can’t necessarily catch up in a single day. You should instead look at the “Words Per Day To Finish On Time” section of the Stats page. If you want to win, you need to at least reach that point. But if you want to help give yourself some back-up time in case you don’t get to write, aim to write more than NaNoWriMo suggests.

If you’re ahead, and you want to write more than 50,000 words (like me), you’ll need to reconsider your goals. As I write this – before another writing marathon, mind you – NaNoWriMo is telling me that I need to write 869 words per day to finish on time. Alternatively, I can look at the “Total Words Written” or “Words Remaining” sections, and set myself goals from there.

wordsremainingAt 30,000 words, I’d like to reach 35K by the end of the day. That’s another 5K stretch. With a time goal in mind, too – to write it before one of my favourite television shows comes on – I know how hard I need to work to reach that goal. Writing a blog post in the middle of it all is also a little bit crazy, but I’ll take that as a compliment if you’re planning on saying it.

3. Do other things with your time. And I mean specific things. While watching television isn’t going to kill your word count, if you didn’t intend on watching something, you’re only wasting your time. Choose what you want to do, and you’ll find that you can get a lot done in a day. I’ve already spent large portions of the day reading articles and a book, and writing down some notes for myself on story structure and future goal orientation.

I’m still confident that I can reach my word count goal. If I don’t, I’m going to blame the personal circumstances surrounding the house alarm singing me the song of its people this morning (which, according to my mother, was before half five), resulting in me having to run down the stairs to turn it off.

4. Don’t actually make excuses. While I might blame the house alarm, the truth is that I could have spent my time and energy better at different points in the day. Don’t make excuses, when most likely you simply chose to do something else. (Even if that thing felt extremely productive, if you didn’t have to do it, but instead chose to do it to avoid writing, then you probably shouldn’t have done it just yet.)

5. Look to other writers for encouragement. If someone is doing “better” than you, either ask them how they managed it, or try to “catch up” with them. But don’t resent that they’ve written more than you. Everyone has their own pace, and their own circumstances to work around. (I’m a faster writer now, with fewer obligations in terms of study, than I was any other time I’ve attempt this, for instance.)

If none of that helps – and I wrote a lot of it for myself, too, just in case I need to look back for some encouragement later this month, or even next year – then leave a comment below and let me know how I can help. Or, you know, get off the Internet and get back to writing!


About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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