NaNoWriMo is approaching soon, as it’s a writing event that takes place during November. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of 30 days, a task which can be difficult to achieve without preparing first.
One of the ways you can prepare for NaNoWriMo is by doing some writing exercises, to help you get used to regularly writing a lot.
Here are 6 writing exercises you can do to prepare for NaNoWriMo:
1. Word Sprints
Word sprints are a writing exercise where you set a timer (usually for somewhere between 10 – 30 minutes), and you attempt to write as much as possible before the timer goes off.
Word sprints can be done alone, or with other people. If you’re competing to get the most amount of words written then it’s called a word war.
Word sprints are my favorite way to increase my word count during NaNoWriMo, as I find that writing quickly in short bursts is the most effective way for me to get my thoughts out. Especially since I have a tendency to edit my words when I’m not speed writing.
Remember that it takes practice to build up your writing speed. A couple of years ago, I could never have gotten 1000 words in 30 minutes (also known as a 1k30min sprint). I would usually get 700 words, and I was happy with that.
Now a 1k30min sprint is achievable for me. During NaNoWriMo I was able to do a few of those in a day. And that was just last year, when my writing speed was around 40 words per minute, on a good day.
Now, about a year later, I can do 50 words per minute. However, I’ve been writing almost daily (minus a few breaks due to illness and important plans) for the entire year.
If your words per minute average isn’t good enough for you yet, and you’re not getting enough words written during word sprints for your liking, the next exercise may help you out.
2. Slowly Increase Your Writing Speed
There’s a law, called Parkinson’s Law, which states that:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
So if you have a whole day to write 2000 words, it’ll take you a whole day. If you only have an hour, it will take you an hour.
But this takes practice to achieve, like with word sprints.
Here’s how you can practice this:
- Choose a set amount of time (I recommend 10 minutes)
- Choose a target word goal
- Set the timer for 10 minutes and try to write 100 words.
- If you can reach 100 words easily, then increase it to 150. If you can reach that easily, increase it to 200, so on and so forth. If you can’t reach 100 words easily, keep practicing until you can.
- Keep practicing and increasing your word count until you can easily reach your target word goal
Don’t worry if you’ve tried this kind of exercise before and it doesn’t work for you. Neurodivergent people may find that doing timed writing distracts them or makes them anxious.
3. Write as Much as Possible
Many NaNoWriMo participants fall behind on their word count goals, at one point or another. I know that I have, multiple times.
In order to prevent myself from falling behind, I try to write extra at the beginning of NaNoWriMo. By writing as much as I can at the beginning of the month, I develop a buffer in case I have to take some days off from writing.
Writing a few thousand words in a day is challenging. It took me almost 5 years to get to the point where I could write 10,000 words in a day, but since getting to that point, I’ve been able to do it a few times.
One of the ways you can build up your endurance to that point is to specifically practice writing as much as you can in a day.
Sit down, open up your favorite word processing program (or notebook if you prefer writing by hand), and write about anything. Use writing prompts if you can’t think of anything to write about.
Writing gets tiring quickly, especially if you’re not used to it, so the point of this exercise is to just get used to the act of writing. Keep writing until you’re too tired to write any more, or until your mind is completely empty.
Just remember to take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. I find that a good trade off is 20 to 30 minutes of writing to 5 to 10 minutes of break, plus larger breaks every couple of hours.
Try doing this exercise every few days, to build up your writing endurance.
4. Write from Different POVs
Even if your story is only told from the perspective of one character, writing from the perspectives and point of views of other characters before you begin NaNoWriMo can help you gain insight into their thoughts, world, and story.
Or you could try taking random characters and write a short story from their perspectives, a short story that doesn’t relate to your NaNoWriMo project.
Overall, this is a good exercise to do if you want to improve your writing skills, even if you don’t do it specifically for NaNoWriMo.
5. Free Write
Free writing is an act of writing that has no inhibitions. You write down whatever thoughts come to your head, which require you to turn off your inner editor and critic.
You’ll also need to turn off your inner editor and critic during NaNoWriMo, which can be difficult to do if you’re a perfectionist.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, try practicing free writing. Write about anything you want, for however long you want, and just try to get all of your thoughts out without censoring or editing yourself.
Unlike exercise #3, the point of this exercise isn’t about writing as much as possible, it’s about editing or censoring yourself as little as possible.
6. Write AU Fiction Using Your Characters
AU stands for Alternate Universe, and it’s a term used for fan fiction that takes a work’s characters, but puts them in a different setting and plot.
If you wrote a fan fiction about the Lord of the Rings characters working in a modern day coffee shop, that would be called a coffee shop AU.
As a writing exercise, try taking your characters and put them in a completely different world, and see how they interact with a different story. It can help you gain insight into their thought processes and their personalities.
Attempting to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days can be challenging, especially if you don’t practice and prepare for it first. I hope these writing exercises help you along your writing journey during November.
If you enjoyed this post, please leave a like or share it with someone else who would enjoy it. I blog about writing every Wednesday, so check back next week for some new content.