You’re a writer with a story in your heart, a draft floating in your head, abandoned chapters on an old computer. You’ve heard of National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo. You’ve been interested, intrigued, maybe even desperate to try it. But you’re also a mama with endless to-do lists, a day full of constant interruptions, and are entirely unsure HOW?
Fear not, I’ve been where you are and I am here to tell you it is absolutely possible to write 50,000 words in a month with the right preparation.
I’ve completed NaNoWriMo twice now; once in my pre-mom life without a care in the world, and once last year as a stay-at-home mom of a toddler with no supplemental childcare. The difference in the need for planning, organization, and preparation was staggering.
I put it all in a guide for those of you mama writers who are looking to try your hand at NaNoWriMo and aren’t sure where to even begin.
Let’s get to it!
Make a Plan For Your BOOK Before November 1
I’m not an outliner, plotter, or planner by any means, really. My characters often surprise me, scenes seem to fall from the sky, and my endings simply surface. (This means I overwrite and editing is the worst, but that’s a topic for a different day.)
That said, NaNoWriMo is a different type of challenge than free-form writing. If your goal is to get your first draft down in 30 days while managing work, children, sanity, then some sort of plan is vital. Jot down all of your ideas, plan chapters or sections as best you can. If you have a draft or a version of a story already down that gives you a head start on your word count, even better.
Bottom line: Draft out and plot as much of your book as you can before you start.
Make a Plan For Your LIFE Before November 1
NaNoWriMo is intense for every writer, but particularly acute for us moms with a zillion other tasks and demands at our feet. During the month of November, your life has to revolve around writing to hit the 50,000 word goal. You’re going to have to build it in. That may mean:
- Hiring childcare
- Waking up before kids.
- Staying up far later than you’d like after they’ve gone to bed.
Set up the expectation among your friends and family that you are pretty much unreachable for the entire month of November. No, you don’t have to go into hiding, but no, you can’t help out with a party, host an additional playdate, or make that extra Thanksgiving dish, because you have a novel to finish. Even if your book can’t be at the very top of your priorities for the month of November, it can’t be at the bottom either.
Bottom line: Shed any guilt, hesitation, or social qualm you may have, and schedule time for you and your book every single day. It’s the only way.
Weekend Catch-Ups Are Your Best Friend
Weekdays inevitably barrel by, so I often relied heavily on weekends to catch up. I would make plans for my kiddo with his grandparents, or my husband would pretty much take over any and all responsibilities so I could disappear in my office and resurface for food every few hours (like a pet). It was my way of diving into the deep end and making massive strides on my draft. It also worked really well for not losing track of the story and really immersing myself into my work.
Bottom line: schedule a few days during the month with solid chunks of time as a buffer for days you fall behind.
Prepare Your Partner/ Supports
If you are partnered, partner support is essential to your success. You need to let your partner know that this matters to you, that this is going to be your priority over most everything else, and that they will need to take over some things in order for you to have the time and space you need to work. However you feel comfortable divvying up the chores, responsibilities, tasks when it comes to the house and kids, where you can still manage to hit your word counts and finish your draft.
If you’re a single parent, now is the time to rely on those best girlfriends, family members, and grandparents for extra support. It’s not silly to ask for childcare help for this; it’s your dream!
Bottom line: your partner and support people are as essential to a mom-writer’s success as anything.
Connect With Other Wrimos
Connecting with other writers is always necessary in the throes of a writing project, but in the case of NaNoWriMo, it is so helpful to connect with other people engaging in the challenge. It is a particular type of beast, and checking in with someone else who is also attempting to slay the same dragon is unbelievably helpful in staying motivated, encouraged, and to have someone to bitch to about how insane it is (especially once you get to the halfway point).
I had a planning meeting with a friend of mine the last weekend of October last year. We’re both moms with young kids and met up for an hour to talk through our ideas for our respective books, help each other brainstorm and outline, and we started fresh on day one prepared for the slog. A year later, she is querying her finished manuscript and I’m in the midst of revising mine. Doing NaNoWriMo was a major kickstart for both of us. If we can do it, so can you!
Bottom line: don’t feel shy about reaching out and participating in the countless NaNo support systems online.
Change The Rules
Look, we can hustle as hard as we’re able and still come up short on a major goal like 50,000 words in a month. Plus, sh-t happens, especially when you’re a parent, and of course kids have to come first.
If you know going in that 50k is totally unrealistic for you, but you still want to participate, change the goal! 25,000? 15,000? The first and last chapter? Whatever helps you get more words down than you had before is a win.
Bottom line: you’re in charge of your goals and only you know what will be the most helpful in the end.
When you do manage to finish your draft and hit your goal (because I know you can!), you need to reward yourself. Plan something awesome – whether it be a date night with your partner to reconnect after a month of absence, a glass of champagne, binging a tv show you’ve had no time for, sleeping in, whatever it is, you deserve it. You’re a mom who just finished a book!
Bottom line: desserts, wine, and sleep!
Let me know if you’re going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year! If you have any questions about this post or NaNoWriMo in general, let me know in the comments!