Ladies and gents, start your engines: another NaNoWriMo fast approaches! All over the globe, writers are scrambling to finish their outlines, fine tune their characters, and stock up on all manner of snacks to get them through the thirty days of intense, focused writing. If you’ve done all this already, one thing remains: giving yourself a leg up by putting a schedule into place that guarantees success.
My NaNo schedule can help pretty much anyone who’s staring down that 50k challenge, but it is especially useful for:
*Writers who are already over-scheduled
*Previous NaNo participants who didn’t cross the finish line
Ready for the schedule that will help cure the above? Let’s do it. All you need is an open mind and a blank calendar program. There are nice free ones available, like Google or Yahoo! Calendars.
My NaNoWriMo Schedule
Time to Decompress From Stress
First off, open your calendar to November. On November 1st, pick a half-hour slot of your choice that you will reserve as sacred “ME” time. No NaNo, no work, no chores, etc. This is absolutely essential, especially for those who tend to get overwhelmed/stressed during NaNo or who wind up getting bored with their writing. Now select the calendar option that lets you set this up as a recurring event, and slate this time for every single day of NaNo. You now have built-in downtime for a little R&R so you can decompress.
Boost Word Count With…Time Off!
The one thing that people tend to discount altogether when jumping into NaNo is one of the most important to include, and that is time off. This can help you prevent burnout, writer’s block, and giving up because it’s too stressful to cram so much writing into your jam-packed day. So step two of my NaNoWriMo schedule is to look at that calendar and select one day per week where you will take a 1/2 day off from work/school/writing. No NaNo, homework, and ideally, no chores. This is your FUN day, and you should label it as such! Get out in the fresh air, if possible. Meet friends for coffee. See a movie. Read. Or just sleep in and veg out. Again, set this as a recurring event each week of the challenge.
You might be surprised the first two steps to my “NaNo” schedule involve finding time NOT to write, rather than stuffing word count into every available minute. Certainly there ARE people who do NaNo that way year after year, and maybe they don’t need this approach. But for those who have trouble fathoming how to fit NaNo into an already busy life, this method can help ensure you have enough down time built in to refill the creative wellspring that will keep words flowing to the end.
Daily Writing Time
NOW we can set aside that magical time for word count! While 50k in 30 days sounds almost insurmountable, it’s actually quite doable when you break it down into the daily goal. Truth is, if you can type faster than 28 words per minute, you can reach the 1667 word daily NaNoWriMo goal in just 1 hour! This is especially true if you come prepared and have your inner editor firmly locked away. There are lots of good advice posts on how to do both of these things, so if you need help on them, search my blog posts under the NaNoWriMo label and do some Googling before you start!
So you need a mere one hour per day in your schedule. If even that much sounds daunting, however, there’s no law that says it has to happen in one fell swoop. Consider your daily schedule and decide how best to work in that hour so that the rest of your obligations can flow in around it. Here are some suggested ways to get that hour in:
*Set your alarm an hour earlier each day. Works for early birds best! (Don’t forget to reset the timer on your coffee pot as well—you’ll need it!)
*Plan to stay awake an extra hour at night and burn the midnight oil (better for night owls)
*Set the alarm 1/2 hour earlier for your first word sprint, then do another sprint before bed. (A little kinder than a full hour early)
*Write during your lunch hour
*Write as soon as you get home (arrange someone else to make dinner, or lay in a supply of quick-fix meals)
*Write during your commute to and from work/school.
This one is easiest if you ride the bus/train or carpool with someone else, but if you’re the one driving, it’s still doable! Get a mini recorder or use the recording feature on your phone/device and dictate your novel. Then transcribe it later on your lunch break or at home.
Establish Weekend Catch Up/Get Ahead Sprints
Establish Weekend Catch Up/Get Ahead Sprints
Weekend is a relative term, meaning really your regular days off from the primary work/school obligation. Now chances are that one of these days is also when you’ve slated your 1/2 day off, and that’s okay. Either sometimes during the other 1/2 or on another “weekend” day, you’ll want to do a big word sprint push. Give yourself either a time limit or a word count goal for these “push” days (say, 3 hours or 5k). This is very helpful to either get you caught up if you didn’t make your word count all week, or else to give you bonus padding in case something comes up down the road that derails writing that day (and it always does).
I know of people who have successfully completed NaNo solely by writing on the weekends. Doing 10 5k sprints (or the other way around) gets it done. So if you absolutely couldn’t manage to wring an hour a day out of your schedule, you can still do this!
That’s it! You have your schedule with time for writing, fun, decompressing, and make-up days. Adjust the schedule if necessary as you go along. Maybe you decided to get up an hour early, but that didn’t work out. No problem—just move your writing time later. Do what it takes for you to stick to the schedule, and you should find yourself crossing the finish line!
Good luck, and happy NaNoing!