10 ways to overcome NaNoWriMo procrastination


It’s just over the halfway point for those masochists lucky souls taking part in NaNoWriMo and while some participants are reeling off thousands of words a day, many of you (I say you because why are you reading this otherwise?) have hit a wall. Your initial enthusiasm has diminished, you’ve started to question whether the once incredible idea you had has any merit and you are left wondering why you ever bothered starting in the first place. But you’ve committed to the damn thing and you want to finish, so each day you turn on your computer ready to work. Then it hits. Something catches your eye and the next thing you know it’s midnight and all you’ve done is watch giggling babies on YouTube.

You are not alone. This happens to all writers, NaNo or no NaNo. To help, here are my 10 top tips to overcome procrastination (warning: some of these are less serious than others).

1 Stop reading blogs

I know, I shouldn’t have put this one first, but if this is the only tip you read and you act upon it, my job here is done

2 Turn off the internet

A more extreme version of the above, but if point 1 doesn’t help, point 2 will. You don’t need the internet to write. If you need to look something up, just write ‘look this up’ in your manuscript and carry on. It’s words on the page that are important, not accuracy at this point.

3 Set yourself a writing time and ensure all chores are completed beforehand

The only time you’ll ever find yourself driven by the desire to clean a toilet is when you’re struggling with your WIP. Make sure your chores are done before your scheduled writing time, or even better, get somebody else to do them for you.

4 Give yourself an even more important job to do

Procrastination is the art of doing something less important than the task you should be doing. The best way to overcome this is to give yourself an even more important task, then procrastinate over that by writing.

5 Buy yourself a pay-as-you-go dumb phone

It seems extreme but for many of you it’s not your computer but your cell phone that is the major procrastination enabler. You can buy very cheap dumb phones on a pay-as-you-go contract nowadays. Get one and leave your smart phone locked in a drawer for the next few weeks. Your word count will rocket!

6 Form an anti-procrastination group

Join up with fellow NaNoWriMo writers and put alerts on each other’s social media feeds. Whenever you receive an alert, send back a message saying “drop everything and write”.

7 Skip to a more exciting scene

Most of us write in the order each scene will appear in the book but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are stuck on a scene, leave it and move on to one that’s more interesting to write. It will help keep the word count up and allow your brain to ruminate over the difficult scene until it works out a way forward.

8 Look back to where you were a week ago

Part of the reason for procrastination is a feeling you aren’t achieving anything. If this is the case, look back to where you were a week ago (or even two).  You’ll be amazed how much more you’ve achieved than you realised. If you have the ability to achieve what you have, you know you can do it all again.

9 A few words are better than no words

That daily word count goal can be both motivating and demotivating. It’s great when you get ahead of the curve but as soon as you drop behind the pressure ratchets up. If this is the case for you, think back to the reason you are taking part in NaNoWriMo. It’s not to hit 50,000 words (although that would be great). It’s to write a first draft. Every word you put on the page is one closer to this goal. So keep adding words, no matter how few, and you’ll be amazed how quickly they add up.

10 Remember Hemingway

One of the biggest reasons we procrastinate as writers is because we believe what we have written is no good. This is normal, especially with first drafts. So remember what Hemingway said: “the first draft of anything is shit.” If it applies to Hemingway, it applies to you.

Now stop reading and get back to your writing!

Still here? If you are, do you have any other hints and tips to help your fellow writers overcome the urge to procrastinate? I’d love to hear from you.

14 thoughts on “10 ways to overcome NaNoWriMo procrastination

  1. Nice one, Dylan…Though I have no desire to join NaNo, you have good tips on writing in general, whether the muse is there or not … No excuses, keep writing, even if it’s only a few words or sentences a day … Keeps you focused on the goal.

    • I’m not taking part this year either – the timing was all wrong – but I admire those that are. I think it was Stephen King who said “write 500 words a day and in a year you’ll have a novel.”

    • That’s an interesting one. I tend to not like taking a break when I’m in full flow, but I recognise times the where I’ve been pulled away from my writing mid-flow I’ve just been itching to get back and finish what I’ve started.

  2. Have you been wandering about my mind??? I tried keeping away from my blog for a week. Just depressed me. I think blogging and reading other people’s blogs inspires me to write more. That’s my story, anyway…

  3. I like the logic of number four and as someone said to me a while back, even if you’ve only written one word a day it’s a word that wasn’t there yesterday.



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