Nine days in, almost a third of the way through, how we all doin’?

From NaNoWriMo prep in October to NaNoWriMo itself to dealing with the aftermath in December, the last three months of the year are a whirlwind of writing and writing related activities. Last week we talked about having a support system during November (you can read the post here), and this week we are going to talk about ways to keep your head on straight as you navigate the chaos that is NaNoWriMo.


Here, in no particular order, are seven tips for staying sane during NaNoWriMo.

  1. Pace yourself. Hopefully you’ve already figured this one out, but pacing yourself as you write can really pay off in the long run. You don’t want to bust out of the gate like a horse on fire at the beginning of November and then burn out by the end of the month. Alternately, you don’t want to start out so slowly that you get to November 27th and have to rush to cram 15,000 words into the last few days of NaNoWriMo. Whether you stick to 1,667 words per day or work with a more flexible plan, pacing yourself can help you set measurable goals and give you room to breathe.
  2. Set guidelines for yourself. Maybe your schedule is flexible, and you can write whenever you want. Or maybe you work a nine-to-five and have to fit writing in during your lunch break or late at night. Whatever the case may be, set guidelines for your writing time. Dictate when you will write, what kind of environment you need, how long you will write for, and how you will keep distractions at bay. Then once you have determined those guidelines, stick to them. Your writing time is precious, especially during NaNoWriMo. If you treat it as such, and take it seriously, then each time you sit down to write you will be able to focus on the task at hand. Sometimes it just helps to know you have given yourself permission to forget about everything but your story for a set amount of time each day.
  3. Set boundaries for your friends and family. If you find that your friends and family are constantly interrupting your writing time or are making you feel guilty for writing instead of spending time with them, then consider sitting down with them and setting up some boundaries. Explain to them what NaNoWriMo is, what it means to you, and why you have to spend so much time writing, and then ask that they support you by respecting your time. Like I said last week, your writing time is precious, and hopefully your friends and family will understand that they aren’t being ignored or rejected.
  4. Create a rewards system. Sometimes a scene is particularly difficult to write or you feel as if you can’t remember the last time you saw the sun, and you just need that extra little bit of motivation to reach your word count goal for the day. Having a rewards system in place can give you the boost you need. Maybe each day you reach your word count goal you can sit down with a glass of wine and your favorite show on Netflix. Or maybe for every ten thousand words you write you can watch a movie or go out with a friend or buy a new book. Essentially, you are bribing yourself to write, but if it works, it works 😉
  5. Give yourself time to relax. You’re scheduling your writing time—and you should do your best to stay on top of your writing goals—but make sure to also set aside some time to relax. Spend time with a friend, read a good book, take a bubble bath—whatever you usually do to unwind. You don’t have to shut off your brain completely, but taking short breaks from your novel to recharge can keep you from becoming too stressed out. You may even find yourself returning to your writing refreshed and newly energized, motivated to tackle the next five thousand words.
  6. Drink water. Move around. Get sleep. These are all nice, normal human activities, right? It’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself, though, when you are so focused on one activity, on reaching 50,000 words. Don’t neglect your health during NaNoWriMo—if your physical health is struggling, then your mental health won’t be far behind.
  7. Get outside. Research has shown that spending even just fifteen minutes outside in the sunshine and fresh air can boost your energy, strengthen your immune system, reduce stress, and help you sleep better. All of these benefits will help you tackle your NaNoWriMo goals with the intensity needed to finish November strong.

Do you already use any of these tips to help get you through NaNoWriMo? Do you have any other tricks that keep you on track and prevent burnout (or temporary insanity)? Leave a comment, and share your wisdom with the class. 🙂

Next week we’ll be talking about why writing 50,000 words by the end of the month doesn’t have to be YOUR goal—see you then!