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NaNoWriMo Recap Week 1: how to boost productivity

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is done and dusted, my friends. Despite some recent personal issues, I’ve only missed one day of NaNo so far — which is pretty good going, considering! In this post, I’m reviewing my goals, progress, and NaNoWriMo rewards system and sharing my insights on how to boost productivity during NaNoWriMo. 

I’ve also included a few epiphanies I had this week: why “show, don’t tell” is kinda bullshit, how to take frequent breaks from the screen, and why and how you should review your weekly progress.

Let’s dig in!

My NaNoWriMo goals

Write every day and finish the first draft. That’s it. No daily minimum word count requirement, no pressure. My minimum word count goal is 60,000, but I started NaNo with 43,000-ish words. I’m what you’d call a NaNoWriMo rebel.

An optional goal is to do prep work daily. Again, no strings attached. Just make time to sit down and do a bit of research, plotting, or character building.

It may not seem like much, but setting small, achievable goals is key.

My NaNoWriMo progress so far

  • 6,169 words added (not including today)
  • Time invested: 08:26 — 08:01 drafting, 00:25 researching

It may not seem like much, but I have been putting in the work. Plus, this doesn’t include today’s progress. (I’m planning to spend at least three hours writing and researching today.)

If you’re on Twitter, you can also keep up with my NaNoWriMo progress thread.

I’m also tracking my progress in my writers’ notebook. Check out my other post on how to create your own writer’s notebook for NaNoWriMo!

how to boost your productivity during nanowrimo

My NaNoWriMo rewards system

My reward system is two-fold. The first set of rewards is for actually writing Escape Artist, my novel-in-progress.

(The new laptop might seem a little extravagant, but I actually need one anyway.)

My second set of goals is for updating the blog regularly. I know I’ve been slack about updating, so I figured NaNoWriMo was a good opportunity to get back in the groove.

  • Post 1: Nice coffee
  • Post 2 (this one!): Set of acrylic paints
  • Post 3: New book (I’m thinking Eudora Welty’s Collected Stories)
  • Post 4: Calligraphy set
  • Post 5: Day trip to another city

How to boost productivity during NaNoWriMo — what I’ve learned

I’ve been experimenting with how to boost my own productivity during NaNoWriMo and my work in general. Because writing is my day job, my side hustle, and my hobby, I battle burnout frequently.

Right now, I’m reading How to Be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott, and I really like his system for optimizing work.

how to boost your productivity during nanowrimo

Here’s what works for me:

  • Capture & collect: Allcott suggests cultivating a “capture & collect” habit. This is similar to a brain dump. Create a “second brain” where you put all your nags, anxious thoughts, things you need to do today, tomorrow, at some point — anything and everything. I use a pocket-sized notebook to capture and collect.
  • The Pomodoro method. I’ve known about the Pomodoro technique for a long time, but I only recently tried it for my writing, and it has worked wonders. I have a nifty Pomodoro timer on my phone which pings me when it’s time to work and time to chill. (That’s not an affiliate link, by the way. I just like the app.)
  • Pen and paper. I ditched Scrivener for Windows just before NaNoWriMo and decided to create scene & character cards the old-fashioned way: using colored index cards and a corkboard. This method has helped me tremendously. It’s a more involved process, and I now have universal access to my work on all my devices.

My NaNoWriMo epiphanies

I do love a good “aha!” moment — you know, the kind where you can almost feel the light bulb ping above your head.

I’ve had tons of epiphanies so far this NaNoWriMo. Here are a few of them.

“Show, don’t tell” is kinda bullshit.

Repeat after me: you are a storyteller, not a storyshower.

Yes, by all means, show us the most important parts, but remember, there will be times when telling is better than showing.

This applies to my WIP in particular. Escape Artist is inspired by the life of my grandmother. The book covers 70 years and four generations. If I tried to show every single story I want to tell, this volume would be thicker than War and Peace.

Take frequent breaks from the screen.

I recently had an eye exam. I’ve always had bad eyesight and worn glasses. My prescription changed this year, so I need new glasses — again.

The main reason my eyesight is even worse now is because I spend 8+ hours a day staring at a screen for work. Add in time spent staring at a screen for my blog and novel, and well, let’s just take a moment of silence for my poor eyes.

For me, one of the most valuable aspects of the Pomodoro method is frequent breaks from the screen. I always spend my five-minute breaks away from my desk, usually cleaning or making tea.

Taking breaks from the screen each day keeps the eye doctor away!

Review your progress weekly.

how to boost your productivity during nanowrimo
My morning pages & writer’s notebook

Both Allcott and Julia Cameron, the genius behind The Artist’s Way, advocate for weekly reviews. This blog post is part of my own weekly review, but I complete the main review in my morning pages.

Here are five key elements of my weekly review:

  • Recap the week’s progress on morning pages, artist dates, and NaNoWriMo draft.
  • Discuss how I’m feeling about my creativity, momentum, and life in general.
  • Look ahead and list things that must be done for next week to be successful.
  • Identify which tasks are the most challenging, which tasks I’m resisting and why, what’s the smallest step forward, and what will give me the momentum I need.
  • Check in with my self-care pursuits: health, fitness, mindfulness, how I’m feeling physically and emotionally.

The weekly review is also the place where you can celebrate your accomplishments for the week and set additional goals and rewards for yourself.

Looking ahead: week 2 of my NaNoWriMo journey

It’s goal-setting time, y’all!

What needs to happen for week 2 to be successful?

  • Wake up early every day, no later than 6:30 AM.
  • Write morning pages and eat a healthy breakfast.
  • 30-minute writing sprint.
  • Yoga/meditation.
  • Work on freelance writing/editing in Pomodoro batches.
  • Write Escape Artist in the evening.

This is a solid set of goals, and I’ll try my best to meet them — but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t. Things happen. Life is hard. (Life has been especially hard for me here lately, in light of my dad’s assault.)

The important thing is that I’ve taken the time to prepare, and I’ve gathered the tools necessary to boost my NaNoWriMo productivity and finally #finishthedamnthing.

I’m ready to face week 2 and meet its challenges head-on, with a calm, clear mind and a healthy dose of proactive attention.


Pin it for later!

I know — this post is super long, and you’re super busy. I totally get it, my friend. I’ll be splitting this post up in the coming weeks, so subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out!

Share your NaNoWriMo productivity tips & progress

Now it’s your turn, writer. Share your progress and celebrate your accomplishments in the comments. (Or don’t. That’s cool, too.) I wish you luck and lots of motivation and self-love on your writing journey. You got this!

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