The writing group I belong to is going to run a mini NaNo this year. I was trying to come up with a few tips for people who have never done it before. These would also apply to anyone doing full NaNo or just writing in general.
Are you thinking about participating, but are a little scared of the thought? It is a lot to commit to in such a short period of time. With a mini version that task is less daunting. You set your goal. Take the time to think about what you believe you can commit to time-wise, make a rough guess at what you normally can do in that time, and stretch yourself a bit. Maybe add 5-10% to your estimated word count. If you think you can do 20,000, stretch it to 22,000. This is supposed to be a challenge after all. Here are a few tips to get you going.
Try to prepare in advance. Even if you’re a pantser like me, try to come up with some sort of outline so you aren’t staring into space trying to figure out where to start. That’s my biggest challenge. Keep in mind you don’t have to write just one story. It can be a collection of short stories or poems. Maybe write a chunk of your novel. Do whatever you feel moved to do and if you can come up with a general idea of the flow before you start, you have a much better chance at meeting your goal.
Don’t stop writing to do edits. The goal is NOT to end up with a ready-to-publish piece of work at the end of the month. The goal is to get the words on the paper. Don’t re-read what you’ve written. Don’t run spell check every 5 minutes. Just write. I realize it’s difficult for some people not to edit as they go, but that just slows you down.
Two phrases come to mind. (1) Bum in chair: you need to commit to write every day if possible. If you miss your daily word count, then you have to write twice as much the next day, and the daily count goes up every day you don’t write. (2) Puke on the Page: you must get the words on paper (or computer screen). If you don’t then you won’t accomplish what you set out to do. They don’t have to be good, they just have to exist.
Remember, once December arrives you can edit to your hearts content. Flesh out your characters. Set your scenes. Do whatever you need to polish your work (or complete it if you started a novel). November is the time for getting the words out. You have 11 more months to make it shine.