Is there anything better than a lofty goal to push you to be more productive? That’s exactly what I decided to find out when I participated in NaNoWriMo this year.
I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for a long time, but I’ve never had the right project or the time to commit to it. This year, I found myself wanting to give it a try. I’m making a big effort to prepare next year’s content ahead of time, and I thought this was the perfect tool to help me.
If you’re looking to increase your productivity when writing your blog posts, you’ve come to the right place! This post contains all the information you’ll need to adapt NaNoWriMo to your specific goals, as well as my experience and the things I learned from my first attempt.
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What is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated NaNoWriMo) is a challenge that started in 1999 with a simple goal: to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. It’s taken place every November since then, and it’s helped a lot of people with their dream to become novelists.
There are some additional rules, but you can use that term loosely. The project should be the first draft of a novel that you’ve never written before (outlining ahead of time is allowed, but it does not count toward the goal). To divide up the work evenly, you would be aiming for 1,667 words per day, or a little over 2,300 per day if you took weekends off.
Since this is a self-challenge, you can bend the rules to suit you. For example, you could work on the second draft of your novel or continue a first draft that you’ve already started. Or you could work on something that’s not a novel at all!
Another big component is the community. A forum with a large group of people that are all going through the same thing together is encouraging. There are usually in-person events (that were all canceled for 2020) that are an opportunity to make local writer friends.
If you want to take the challenge and it doesn’t happen to be November, no worries! There are also Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July that allow you to define your own word count goals.
How to adapt NaNoWriMo for blogging goals
The cool thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can adapt it to any writing that you want to do. Sure, the original idea was to write a novel, but you can also use it as a tool to help you achieve your blogging goals.
The first step is to define what you’re working on. If you’re a blogger like me, drafting your blog posts will be most of the project.
But 50,000 words is a lot, so don’t limit yourself! I’d recommend keeping track of any words that contribute to the productivity of your blog. This includes email newsletters, words written and edited for blog posts, pin descriptions for Pinterest, Instagram captions, and any ebook or digital product work.
I’ve never kept track of the words that I write for my blog, so I had no idea if 50k was anywhere close to doable in one month. Everything counted for me; I even counted the words that I wrote in my journal!
My overall goal was to outline and write as many blog posts as possible to prepare for next year.
Prep for success
Writing 50,000 words is going to mean a lot of time spent on the computer. A little bit of planning can go a long way to set you up for success.
Make sure that your workspace is as comfortable and ergonomic as possible. It’ll also help if you already know what helps you get your best writing done. Maybe you have a playlist for background music or a candle that you always burn. Or maybe your brain doesn’t start working until you’ve had your coffee or tea. Whatever it is, make sure it’s ready to go when NaNoWriMo starts.
Prepare your blog as much as you can ahead of time. You will want the freedom to devote all of your time and energy to writing. If you can, try to complete some of your admin-type blogging tasks early.
Now is the time to brainstorm a list of content ideas. Having the topics ready to go in advance will make it easier to get started, and it’ll help you avoid that dreaded blank page feeling.
Scheduling always helps me to be more efficient, but it was particularly valuable during NaNoWriMo. The majority of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest, so I need to post a steady stream of content. In my opinion, Tailwind is the best scheduling tool for Pinterest. It allows you to plan out your pins, optimize the best times to post, participate in communities to meet like-minded creators, and extend your reach! Try it out for up to 100 pins with a free trial.
Don’t sacrifice your well-being
Once you get started, it’s easy to get sucked in and hyper-focused on maximizing your productivity. That is great, but only to a certain point.
All of the stuff you already know still applies: take regular breaks, stretch, eat healthy foods, and drink lots of water. You also need to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and any other responsibilities like children or pets. Many people reward themselves for hitting word count milestones.
Basically, you want to be productive, but don’t overdo it to the point that you get burnt out.
As much as we all want to succeed, there is the possibility that you won’t quite make it to your goal by the end of the month. In that case, it’s essential to focus on the positives and not beat yourself up over it. I went into more detail about this in my post on how to move forward after failing a goal.
My NaNoWriMo Experience and Stats
Here are some of the notes I made each week. The month was a bit of a roller coaster, but I didn’t give up!
Words this week: 7889
Total words: 7889
Maybe it’s going better than I thought it would? I’m technically behind, but I’ve gotten more words than I would usually write in a week.
To not be defeated by how behind I am, I decided to adjust what I’m counting toward my word goal. Instead of just counting words in my blog posts, I’m also counting various other forms of writing. This includes (but is not limited to) Pinterest pin descriptions, my daily gratitude journaling, and words that I am editing. For the first two weeks, I’m counting the notes that I take for a work conference that I’m attending, which should be considered cheating. But I’m the one making the rules here, and I say that it counts.
The real savior has been the editing words. Maybe that’s also considered cheating since I’m counting some words twice? But I do spend some time editing my blog posts with Grammarly, so I’ve decided that editing words are a part of my NaNoWriMo goal.
I know that I could be squeezing in more words. I could stay up later to write and jot down notes during my work breaks, but I don’t want to burn out too early. This whole challenge is a balancing act between productivity and sustainability.
Overall, I feel pretty good about week one, and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish in week two!
Words this week: 5902
Total words: 13791
I’ve been watching some NaNoWriMo vlogs on YouTube to motivate myself and get in the spirit of things. My favorite way to get a lot of writing done is to watch one of Kate Cavanaugh’s writing sprint live streams. Writing sprints are a great way to stay focused!
At this point, I think I still had some good momentum. I was excited, I had many live streams to keep me company while I was writing, and I had an abundance of ideas.
The virtual conference for work continued this week. Again, I counted the notes I took, so that helped to boost my word count. I also did a lot of outlining posts. This tends to go much faster than the rest of the drafting process because I’m just getting all of my ideas out without regard for grammar or complete sentences.
Words this week: 3961
Total words: 17752
This is where work really got busy.
I discovered a correlation between blog productivity and my mental health. When I’m feeling good, I have more energy, and I’m more motivated to work on my blog. When things aren’t so good, I need to spend a lot more time on self-care. I know that about myself by now, and I know that it doesn’t help to feel guilty about the things that I don’t have the energy to do.
I’m lucky that I don’t need to put too much pressure on my blog since it’s not my full-time job (or even a job at all, you could say, because I haven’t made anything from it so far).
But at the same time, if it were my primary source of income, I know that I could prioritize my writing so much more. Sometimes I daydream about the amount of content that I would create if that were the main thing I did every day. I know there would be some downsides to it, of course, but it’s nice to dream!
Words this week: 8307
Total words: 26059 (the grand total!)
This was the best week of the month, kind of. Based on the way I counted the weeks, this one turned out to be the last nine days of the month.
It’s also misleading because most of those words happened in one day. I edited a post (which counted for words) and did some drafting for another post. That one day was over 3,000 words, which was the most productive day I’ve probably ever had in terms of word count.
The rest of the month could have been better, and I wish that I had ended on a higher note.
I can’t hold it against myself too much because there was Thanksgiving in the middle of the week. I was home with my family for most of this week, and I wanted to enjoy my time being present with them. Of course, I could have squeezed in more writing, but I wanted to take advantage of the time that I could spend with them instead. No regrets there! It was a relaxing and much-needed break.
It was also the longest break I’d had off work for the whole year (!!!), and I wanted to enjoy that aspect of it too.
My NaNoWriMo Results
Here they are, the graphs in all their glory!
Based on my total of 26,059 words, I actually completed a ‘half NaNo’, but I was nowhere close to the 50k goal. That’s fine with me because I wasn’t convinced that I could do the full thing anyway.
Assuming that my average blog post length is 2,500 words, I wrote enough for 10.4 posts. I aim to publish 4 new posts per month, so I more than doubled my usual productivity in November! This is still pretty incredible to me even though I didn’t meet the arbitrary 50,000-word goal.
This didn’t mean that I actually wrote 10 new posts because I counted words that I edited and other types of writing. Still, it shows that tracking my word count and having a goal for the month helped me produce more than I normally would.
This probably is not sustainable every month, and your word count isn’t the only or even the best way to measure blogging productivity. If I spent every possible moment writing, then I wouldn’t have any time for promoting my blog, researching, creating Pinterest content, or any other blogging tasks
Nevertheless, I’m so proud of myself for doing this much and for even trying in the first place. It was a big, intimidating goal, and I tried my best. If you’ve ever thought about attempting NaNoWriMo, you should go for it!
Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo
My first experience with NaNoWriMo was not the smoothest journey. I thought I would share some of the things I learned during the month that might help you with your writing goals.
- Being behind. It wasn’t fun or encouraging to see that I was always behind on the goal. By the end of the month, I would have had to write/edit 3,000+ words every day to catch up, and I knew there was no way I could do that consistently. If I had gone into it knowing that I was only aiming for 25k, I think I may have been more motivated to keep going and less shamed by feeling like I was behind.
- Adjusting my goal. For next year, I do want to try again but with the 25k goal in mind. That’s a good target for pushing myself to write more than usual but not so much that I burn myself out. It would’ve also been better to have more ideas ready so I always had something I was excited to write.
- To track or not to track? Long term, I don’t think tracking word count like this is the best for me. It makes sense to track this way if you’re a writer, but blogging is different. Your number of words isn’t the only way to tell how productive you were. For example, creating pin graphics for Pinterest is a vital part of my work, but there’s no writing to track. If I only worked on pins on a given day, it would look like I didn’t get anything done by the NaNoWriMo standards.
- Make it your own. I think it would be helpful to tailor your goal to your schedule. It should be based on how much you usually write and how much time you’ll realistically have for writing. If you’re a full-time blogger, you probably have a lot more time to dedicate to this than a part-time blogger with another job like I have. But even as a full-time blogger, you may have to adjust based on commitments in other parts of your life.
- Just go for it! Don’t be afraid to try for something that seems super ambitious. Even if you fail (like I did), I’m sure you still accomplished more than you would have if you hadn’t tried at all. Focus on the positives, which is an important part of moving on after a failure.
NaNoWriMo was such a fun challenge for me. It helped me to be so much more productive with my blog writing. I’ve always wanted to try, and I’m proud that I participated this year. Ultimately I didn’t hit the 50k goal, but it was still so much fun!
If you are looking for something to help you achieve more and get more done for your blog, I can’t recommend trying NaNoWriMo enough. It enabled me to write twice as much as I usually would, and that was amazing.
Have you ever tried a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo? Do you want to try one now? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Related posts you might like:
My thoughts after my first month of blogging – lessons I learned early in my blogging journey.
The importance of taking a break – how to relax and avoid burnout.
7 strategies for keeping track of your goals – because habits and systems are the keys to achieving your goals.