November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo). For 30 hard-working days, writers around the world challenge themselves to write 50,000 words—the typical length of a novel. Ideally, if you hit just a little under 2,000 words per day, you can begin December with a hefty first draft on your hands. As October ends, you prep, you plan, you prepare to pepper your word processor with plot and perfect punctuation, and then you… procrastinate. There’s no shame, we’ve all been there. The trick is using your procrastination to help you rather than hurt you. So, because we know you’re going to do it anyway, here are 11 ways to procrastinate that can also help you write your novel.
Buy a new desk and chair
Ideally, this is something that you would’ve taken care of last month. Or maybe you thought you had the perfect space picked out, but it isn’t shaping up to be the writer’s paradise that you imagined. It’s easy to get carried away with Pinterest inspired writing corners, and suddenly turn NaNoWriMo into NaNoDeMo (National Nook Decorating Month). So make a quick list of what you actually need and get that stuff quickly!
Hold up, Cinderella! Before you use this as an excuse to clean your entire home and lose precious days in the process, focus only on your writing nook. Giving your laptop screen a nice wipe down, cleaning the crumbs out of your keyboard, and decluttering your desk can do wonders for clearing your mind.
Draw up a schedule
Writing is often easier if you have a goal. You know how many words you have to write (50,000) and how many days in the month (30), which means you need to be hitting 1,667 words a day. Some days this will be an impossible task: You’ll have a wedding to attend out of state, your car will breakdown, a storm will cause a power outage. If you know there are days you’ll be unable to write, plan ahead for them as best you can by aiming to write more than 1,667 words each day. It’ll be empowering to see yourself hit those goals, and planning ahead can help you adjust for any unexpected writing delays.
Plot an outline
If you’re struggling to begin your novel, a great place to start is writing down a plot outline. This can be changed or abandoned completely, but it’ll help get your ideas flowing and pump you up enough to start writing.
Ask yourself questions
Imagine yourself as the reader of your story. What are the three most important things you’d want to know? Once you have those questions, start deciding what the answers might be.
Craft a playlist
This is another task that you could easily get carried away with, so be careful. There are plenty of film soundtracks that are perfect for writing, or even pre-made playlists based on your favorite books. If you’re writing a high fantasy adventure similar to Queen of Shadows, maybe listening to the same playlist Sarah J. Maas used when writing that book will help you write yours!
Do some research
So you know that you want a sword fight to occur in chapter 27, but you haven’t had the time to look up medieval weaponry yet. Pull up a Google page and get searching! It might be smart to set a time limit to keep yourself from falling too far down the rabbit hole, but finding new information can inspire you to get back to writing.
Write a short story
If you’re stuck on your novel, write something a little shorter. Whether it’s flash fiction or a novella, a short story is a great way to develop characters’ backstories, the world you’re creating, and any mythology you’re inventing. It may not end up in the finished product, but it’s work you’ll be glad for in the long run. Plus, this keeps your creative muscles working.
Get some space and fresh air
Sometimes you need to shut the computer down and back away. Grab your dog and go for a stroll around the block, have a friend meet up with you for a light jog, or hit the gym for a spin class. Getting your body moving can help you avoid thinking about plot points that are stressing you out. By the time you get back to writing, your head will be clear and the words should flow more easily.
Since you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, we can assume you love books. So this next part might be tricky, because reading an entire novel can take a lot of hours out of your day. What we’d recommend is having a few of your favorites close by. Mark the passages or chapters that most inspire you and read them over when you need an extra kick.
Seek professional help
Seriously. Writing can be solitary work, but it doesn’t have to be. Many writers meet up in coffee shops, houses, or even hotel rooms to simply be working in the same space as other creative minds. This gives you plenty of people to bounce ideas off of, and other writers will also hold you accountable for your writing (or lackthereof).