October 16, 2019

nanowrimo tip: how to go on a writing adventure

Blogger's Note: This year marks my 10th consecutive year participating in National Novel Writing Month. So far, I am 9/9 of reaching the 50,000 words mark in 30 days. As I go into this year, I'm reflecting on what has and hasn't worked and passing it along. Please remember, this is my experience and what works for me. Please feel free to take or leave any advice as you like!

One of my favorite National Novel Writing Month traditions is my annual Writing Adventure. An idea that popped into my head on a random Saturday back in 2014, I've held at least one Writing Adventure every November (and sometimes on other dates throughout the year) as a way to keep things interesting and boost my word counts.

I briefly discussed my Writing Adventures in the last post, but here's how they work: after setting a word count goal for the day, I make a list of four or five of my favorite places to write. I divide my total goal by the number of places. So, say I want to write 6,000 words and I have four locations, I come up with 1,500. Then, I go to the first place on my list and once I hit 1,500 words, I pack up and go to the next and so on until I've reached my word count goal. This tends to work with me for a few reasons:

  • It breaks down a big goal (6,000 words) into something more manageable (1,500).
  • It keeps me from getting bored and distracted at one place too long (Who has time for updating Facebook and Twitter when you're on the move?).
  • It also acts as a way to give myself bigger breaks between sprints without giving myself too long of a break. While I normally try to give myself five-minute breaks between 20-minute (or so) writing sprints, I get pretty tired after about three sprints. That's when I tend to give myself too long of breaks (like two hours). By moving to a new location and theoretically ordering a coffee or a snack, I end up having about 15 to 30 minutes between my next series of sprints. This gives me time to think about what I'll write next and refresh my brain without totally tearing myself out of the writing mind-set.
While I don't always have total success with my Writing Adventures, I do usually end up writing at least 4,000 words, which I'll never complain about.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in trying? Here are some of my tips on ways to have your own Writing Adventure.

How to DIY a Writing Adventure

Set a Realistic Goal

I'm a big believer in reaching for the stars, but if you've never written more than 1,000 words in a day, then setting a goal of 10,000 words for the day might be a bit big for your first time out. Try setting a goal for 2,000 words instead. While that'll still be a stretch, it's still doable.

Location, Location, Location

This is a rule in real estate for a reason. Make sure you choose places where you know you can write. If you're someone who is lucky enough to be able to write anywhere, then you're fine. But if you need a more quiet environment, look for bookstores or libraries. I also suggest picking places where you've been before, because you have a proven track record of getting words down there.


It's easy to overdo the amount of caffeine you drink during NaNoWriMo as it is, but it's even easier during a Writing Adventure. I suggest packing along a water bottle and refilling it regularly. It'll keep you from drinking way too much coffee (which usually makes it harder for me to write) while also having the added health benefits of hydration. Also, make sure to work a meal or two into your schedule if you plan on writing most of the day.

Pack Everything You'll Need

Do you like to curl up in a big blanket scarf while you write? Do you need a notebook and pen to do some longhand between typing sessions? Does your computer battery only hold a charge for an hour? Think about everything you like to have while you write (and everything you might need) and pack it up to take along. Otherwise, you might find yourself distracted thinking about the item you're missing, or take unplanned breaks to go pick it up, which will take you out of the writing zone. I need all of these things, plus a pair of headphones to help me cut out distractions while I work. I also sometimes like to throw a few hard candies or throat lozenges into my bag.

Give Yourself a Challenge

This is inspired by the NaNoWriMo Dares, but make a list of potential writing prompts to work into your story as a fun challenge. I've opened this up to readers in the past as a way to keep things extra interesting. For example, when writing Let It Be Me I had a reader suggest I write about kumquats and persimmons and another suggest I use the phrase "painted me like a Picasso." I found a way to work both of those into the story. 

Track Your Progress

The first few times I did this, I used a sheet of notebook paper to make a list of my writing locations and to track how many words I wrote. But now that it's a regular thing, I've created a worksheet. You can download it for free here to use in your own Writing Adventure.

So what do you think? Does this sound like something that might help you with your word count goals? Do you think you'll give it a shot? If you do, please let me know. I'd love to hear how it works out for you.

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