How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

This month marks my fifth year of involvement with the celebrated (or dreaded) National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, in which we are tasked with writing 50,000 words in thirty days. Now, let’s be honest–50,000 words is barely a novel, and most everything written in only a month is crap. Still, I’ve failed miserably every year; that is, until this year. This year, I’m on track to finish next Sunday (the 16th). How did this happen?

I’ll tell you what I think my secret is this time around. I think it’s that I chose to write completely outside my genre. Normally, I agonize over every word. I edit as I go. I have certain expectations of myself when writing horror. Now? I have zero expectations, because I’ve never written in this genre before, outside of fan fiction many years ago. I’m having fun with the project, which is probably the most important thing I’ve taken away from the experience so far. I’m cranking out anywhere from twelve to twenty pages a day, which translates to 2,600 – 4,300 words a day (I’m also writing it longhand). I have largely fired my inner editor so that I can get the story down and worry about revisions in December.

And because I’m having so much fun, I’m making the book a priority to work on. I realize that I’m more fortunate than many–I’m an independent contractor, so I work from home and set my own hours. That doesn’t mean I have endless hours to do nothing but write, however. I have clients. I have housework. A husband. A novella to promote and a novel to query. But because this project is a priority, I work on it until 9 or 10 at night. And now I’ve built up a word cushion so that if, let’s say, I get sick, I’m still going to finish NaNo on time. And winning for the first time, as silly as it may seem, is for me a big accomplishment.

So talk to me in the comments. Are you doing NaNo? What works for you, or what doesn’t?