When Life Sucks & Plans Go Haywire: How to Catch Up & Win NaNoWriMo

Personal Update (How My Plans Went Haywire)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I apologize for going MIA in the last couple of weeks. Professors have piled on the homework before the holidays, family issues have come up these last three days... but everything is good now. I have no major projects due before December. They are done! And family issues come and go so you just have to deal with them as they come.

Until the last three days, I have made Nano a priority and gotten my words in at the cost of keeping this blog updated. But I figured writing was more important.

Then, for the past three days, I have not written at all. I think one morning I got 800 words in and then everything happened. But that's okay. Since I haven't been able to really get alone time to work on Nano, I've gotten caught up and even ahead with all of my schoolwork.

Starting today and throughout Thanksgiving Break this upcoming week, I will be spending lots of time writing so I can catch back up and hopefully finish early. 

How to Catch Up & Win NaNoWriMo Anyways

When life happens and things don't go as planned, you just have to adapt and make it a learning experience.

Here are some tips that are working for me:

1. Plan for the worst and START STRONG.

This is something I should have worked on more. I know lots of Nano-ers got a few thousand words ahead or more in the first few days.

I was still new to the game so I was struggling just to meet the required daily word count. Now that I have established a writing habit (and I know this is the case for most of you), it's easier for me to get the words on the page.

I found that the second week, I was going over at least a few hundred words without realizing it and got ahead. But it wasn't enough.

So always get off to a really strong start so you have breathing room later on. 

2. When you're on a roll, write just a little bit more than your daily writing goal.

After you begin NaNoWriMo or any other writing work, you'll find that some days you will have a bit more time or get more into your writing groove.

So don't stop at your daily writing goal on those days!

Round up the 1667 goal and throw in an extra three hundred words or so. These will add up over time and make it easier to catch up if something occurs.

3. Keep a daily list of writing goals and other things you must do. Cross things off as you complete them.

I love checking things off on my list of things to do and daily writing goals.

It makes me feel accomplished and less stressed. It's also a way to keep yourself accountable and organized.

You will have a much greater chance of reaching your goals and not having things creep up on you if you write things down.

So keep a little notebook with to do lists and daily/long-term writing goals (or download an app like Wunderlist). And look at those to-dos and goals every single day.

4. When life happens and you can't write, try to get ahead on other things you have to do. This will make more time for catching up on writing later.

In my case, I found it really hard to set aside time for writing when I was having to deal with family issues. I was all over the place and kind of emotional. So I focused on homework. I got ahead with all of my assignments during the three days I didn't write.

For you, it can be creating frozen dinners for the next few days, cleaning, or job-related things. Whatever.

Try to get other must-dos out of the way if you have time but can't focus on writing. That way, when you are at a 100% again, you'll have a lot done and can spend so much more time writing.

5. When life happens, don't beat yourself up. Do what you have to do and get back in the game.

I felt really guilty that I didn't write for three days. It almost made me want to quit right there and give up.

It was too much, too hard, I thought. But then I realized how many words I had already written: more than I have ever done before.

Then I thought, "I'm upset because I only wrote 800 words in the past three days and I'm behind."

Wait a second. I never would have been able to write 800 words in three days before.

I never would have written 23,000 words on a novel before.

I'm still doing really good. And I can still finish.

So I'm going to finish. You can too.

It's okay to feel a bit down because you're behind, but think of how much you have accomplished already.

Don't throw your progress away.

Keep writing!

6. When the storm blows over, adjust your daily writing goals.

If I want to finish on time, I'm going to have to write more each day to make up for missed days. That's okay.

Divide your remaining word count by the number of days you have left to reach your goal. That's your new daily word count goal.

Yes, it's going to take a bit of sacrifice, but most of the time, it's doable.

Or set a new total word count goal, one that is realistic for you.

Also, try to set aside a few days where you will try to focus solely on your writing and go above and beyond your new daily writing word count goal. Let friends and family know you won't be available.

You'll feel great when you catch up.

7. Get back into your writing groove.

Get back into your writing routine. Or try a new approach to see if it freshens things up for you and helps you write more.

I'm a fan of sprints and word wars. I have also heard that writing out of order helps tremendously.

The important thing is that you are consistently sitting down somewhere to write for a set amount of time.

Before you know it, it'll be second nature once again.

8. Reward yourself extra for meeting your goals, even in the face of adversity.

Everyone deserves a reward when they meet a long-term goal, especially if that goal is writing a freaking novel.

How many people can do that? Not many.

And you deserve an even bigger reward if you were able to accomplish your goal when your plans went haywire.

So what if you're a few days late? Or maybe you still managed to finish on time.

Make sure you celebrate with a fun night out with friends. Splurge on something. Go watch your favorite movie. Sleep in. Eat at your favorite restaurant. Start planning that other novel you've been itching to write.

You definitely deserve it.

(I'm already thinking of what I'm going to do when I finish this novel on time.)