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Don't Let NaNoWriMo Get The Best of You: Find Your Happy Place

Do you have a go-to writing spot when you need to hit a deadline? Is it a quiet corner of your house or apartment? Or the stereotypical bustling coffee shop? What is it about your favorite writing nook that allows you to focus and write?

Whatever—and wherever—it is, you're going to want to find it and take advantage of it this month. Allow yourself to get into your routine at this spot. Make yourself get into a routine. It's probably the best way to survive NaNoWriMo. Remember: this month is not about writing when you feel like it; it's about writing. Period. 

So find your sweet spot and let the magic happen. Just write.

Below, our NaNoWriMo experts share their writing routines and places they write from. They also share their most satisfying moment from the first few days of this challenging month.

Did you miss our first few posts from WD's NaNoWriMo blogging series? Check out the intro post that our contributors put together, and then pop on over to the follow-up post that explains their motivation. And don't forget to participate in the comments! We want to hear from you: how has your NaNo experience been thus far?

Question: What is your writing routine like? Where are you writing from and what time?

Natania Barron: My routine is almost exclusively evenings. I have two kids and a full time job. I've also decided to try to make 10,000 steps every day that I do this, to prevent the creep that happens when you do nothing but sit at a desk for all day. So I pour myself a glass of wine, turn up Spotify, and let the words happen. Jonathan was very inspiring in having me sketch out the first few chapters in outline form. That means I'm not grasping at straws so much.

Nikki Hyson: I’ve been working graveyards for the past eleven years, so my writing routine is a little varied. During the work week I try to write a little, sleep a little, and then write some more before work. Invariably I fall behind over the week and write from about 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. on my two nights off plus a couple hours more in the afternoon after a nap. My writing nook generally depends on how well the writing is going. If it’s just ripping along I can be found at the desk in my bedroom, or in a corner of the living room when the rest of the house is sleeping. If I’ve grown restless, or crabby from lack of sleep, I haunt my favorite coffee shop. A confirmed “first draft Luddite”, I hand write every NaNo so my top speed is about 750 words an hour (and yes, I do count each word after every writing session). I generally log a minimum of 80 hours over the month of November to hit the 50k finish line.

Regina Kammer: Ha! Don’t get me started about my non-existent writing routine. I’m terribly undisciplined in that regard (also, I’m really slow. But that’s another story.). However, during NaNoWriMo, I am opposite-Regina and am very disciplined, writing until I reach that daily goal, or catching up on two days-worth of words. Clearly I have not internalized the principles of NaNoWriMo in my real life, which is kind of the point of NaNoWriMo. Sigh.

I write at my desk, generally, because it’s far more ergonomic. I do have the luxury of a laptop for when I’m traveling (which I did the first weekend of NaNoWriMo) or need to be alone. I write best when I’m alone. I also write best first thing after getting up, and really late at night. Since my house is busy in the morning, and my office is the heart of that busy-ness, I have to drag the laptop off to a quiet corner of the house when I want to write in the morning. Late, late at night? I’m totally alone.

Kathy Kitts:My writing routine depends on my day, but usually I prefer to write one scene in the morning and one at night after everyone else is in bed. My average scene runs 800-1,000 words so two scenes usually guarantees I make my word count.

I write best after 8:30 p.m. I need quiet, so I attend NaNo write-ins as a reward for making my word count and to help support others. Any additional word count I do manage at the events I bank for Thanksgiving when I’m lucky if I can squeeze in 100 words while hiding from relatives in the bathroom.

November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 The November/December 2014 issue of Writer's Digest
has the perfect amount of resources, tips, and advice to help
you hit your goal of 50,000 words during the month of November.

Tiffany Luckey:I usually write in the evening and at night at home. I tend to listen to some kind of water sounds—from babbling brooks to beach waves crashing. It relaxes me, yet keeps me focus. I also cut off all TV, because distraction. 

Kristen Rudd: I write in the morning. Or the evening. Or late at night. Or the afternoon. I write from my bed. Or my red chair. Or at the closed make-up table in my bedroom. Or in cafes. Or in the library. Or at my daughter’s ballet school. I don’t have a good routine. As an ML, I both host and go to a lot of write-ins and events during November, so I spend a lot of NaNo writing outside my home. This isn’t something I can sustain during the rest of the year—I think my family would miss me.

I like the idea of writing in the morning—your work gets done first thing and you can feel accomplished. You know what else I like? My bed. I used to write at night, and I do a lot of night-time writing during NaNo, but I’m worn out by then and would much rather write when I have more of myself to give to it. I found a couple of NaNos ago that I do really solid work—and quick work—in the afternoon. It was surprising. As a homeschooling mom, devoting afternoons to writing is ... hard. We moved across the country recently, and I’m hoping that this year’s experience with NaNo will help me develop some solid writing routines here that carry me through the year. I have some serious expectations, and NaNoWriMo had better deliver. Or else.

EJ Runyon:Routines change from year to year. This year’s routine seems to be the daily word count goal plus a bit more. I work that in three tries. Scrivener makes that easy, because you’re looking at thing in scenes anyway. You’re not faced with just one blank page. So we’re talking about 560 words or so a try. I’ll be working every day, three times a day when it strikes me I have more to add, slow and steady. No pressure at all.

Jessica Schley: My routine is a cleared desk, a mug of tea, and a writing software called OmmWriter. I draft in that software, because I can't see my word count until I move my mouse. Then I dump that days' writing into Scrivener to organize later.

Brian Schwarz:My writing routine is quite simple. I cobble together odds and ends whenever possible. I do what I can to block out a time, a specific 1-2 hour range, but the reality is that I'm doing things all of the time and if I only write when I have 1-2 hours I'd never finish anything (remember, 2 years and 40,000 words). Instead I set my alarm for 30 minutes early. I wake up and drink a cup of coffee in the quiet hours and peck away at the keyboard. If I'm really rolling, I hang on to that feeling and try to carry it over to my next half hour. I come home from work having thought about my ideas for most of the day (and maybe typed a few out if it's slow) and I skip a single episode of some TV series to peck away at the keyboard. And when all of this fails, when I hit the snooze button because it's Thursday and I'm tired and when I get home from work and choose to take a nap instead, I stay up an hour past my bedtime and I just try to get out a few words. Nothing bold. Nothing big. Just a few. And a few turns into a few more in a flash, and pretty soon I'm staring at 5 or 6 hours of sleep and I don't really care. Because sleep is overrated (at least in November). 

Jonathan Wood:I commute from Long Island into New York city every day. It's an hour long train ride each way. So that provides me with the great majority of my writing time, and it has done for about 8 years now. It's usually fairly tricky for me to write at home with a young family, so that quiet time, disconnected from the internet is perfect for me to put my head down and churn out the words. That said, I've never before had daily goals—some days are worse, some are better. Now I'm feeling the pressure to hit around 1,700-1,800 words a day, so if I fall short I'll jump on the computer after everyone else in my house has fallen asleep and do the make up then.

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Question: What was the most satisfying moment in your writing this week (besides, hopefully, hitting your goal)?

Natania Barron: The most satisfying moment for me was figuring out some things about my main character that I hadn't thought about before. I'm really trying to do a whole lot more planning this time around, but it's still fun when things happen when you least expect them. That's what keeps me going. It's a lot more like excavating and creating sometimes, and it never stops to be thrilling for me.

Nikki Hyson: Starting. Seriously. Managing to get the first few words down on November 1st is always a magical thing.

Regina Kammer: Looking at the outline I had created, trying to integrate it into the story I was writing, then realizing I had changed the story so much (in my head) since I wrote the outline—and it was way better now—that I had to deviate from the outline. An outline keeps you on track, keeps you, it is hoped, from having to use the Traveling Shovel of Death and other plot accoutrements (OMG: trebuchet!). But if the story and the characters demand you deviate from the outline in November, then you darn well better deviate from that outline!

Kathy Kitts:When I got my groove back. I can do this thing!

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Tiffany Luckey:I actually wrote one short story already (holla!). It's a super cheesy children's short story, but I finished it, and that's what matters. (So, do I win a Pulitzer or something for that? 'Cause that would be sa-weet.)

Kristen Rudd: This year we have been given a great gift—November 1 and 2 fell on a Saturday and Sunday. So I managed to rack up over 4,200 words [during those first two days], well above the daily word count. That’s pretty satisfying. The novel I’m working on is one I started for NaNo in 2010 and never finished. I’ve added storyline to it since then, but the original way I started it has always not been right. And I’ve known it. So I’m starting it over this year and I think I found its voice. Only took two intros. Three, if you count the original. My inner editor isn’t bothering so much as my inner critic—I'll never be good, I’ll never get published, I’ll never be a “real” writer. My inner critic isn’t critical of my work, she’s critical of *me.* But I’m putting the words down anyway, because I’m stubborn like that and don’t listen to people. It feels good to silence her.

I’ve seen a lot of people online question whether they should do this. I say: DO IT. Just jump in. Whatever voice is nagging you to create something is bigger and better than the voice nagging you about all the reasons why you can’t. Shut that second voice up. Write.

EJ Runyon: The most satisfying thing for my kick-off days was adding a background image to my Compile page in Scrivener. You can see it here. I posted a link there for how to do it. It’s a sunset, and that visual, behind my words while I’m typing away makes me feel like a writer down in Key West, it’s so real, just beyond my page, I’d swear I’m looking out at a beach!

Jessica Schley: 25 words into my novel, the bigger problem in my plot dropped into place and the story suddenly became a lot more complex and exciting. I'm thrilled! (And so is the novel—it's much more of a thriller now.)

Brian Schwarz:My most satisfying moment this week is coming as soon as I finish this post. Like I said earlier, when I fail at all the rest of it, I forgo sleep as my own personal punishment, and I try to write a few words. I can be satisfied with that only because I know that once the ball gets rolling, it becomes hard to stop it. So as you stare at your own writing for the day, whether you hit your goal or not, carve out a tiny slice of time and just write a few words. Just a sentence or two, just to see what happens. Forgo sleep and just give yourself the opportunity to make progress—because that's what Nano is all about.

Jonathan Wood:I was kind of worried about the first day [of NaNoWriMo]. It was a weekend, which is not normally a time when I can find a clear chunk to sit down and write. I was thinking at the weekends I'd try to cram the words in late at night and see how that went. But I was definitely concerned about going into Monday almost 4,000 words in the hole. Then all of a sudden an hour or so of time opened up and I just blasted straight into it. I didn't think I'd get the full 1,800 words done, but somehow I did. I rarely write quite that fast (there may have been a slight feeling of desperation driving me on...). Natania and I have been planning this book for a few weeks and I felt good about it, but you never really know how a project's going to go until you put finger to keyboard. To have the character's voice come out so easily, right off the bat, right when I needed it—that was a good feeling.

* * * * *

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Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer's Digest Books.

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