Welcome one and all to the NaNoWriMo Preparation series! If you’re reading this you’re likely preparing for the wonderous adventure that is NaNoWriMo. You’re joining me and hundreds of thousands of other writers in writing an entire 50,000 word novel through the month of November!
Now that is quite a feat, I think we can all admit that.
This means that having a few tricks and hacks will definitely be handy, particularly when you get into week three. This particular trick is one that works on your psychology, your subconscious.
First things first, what on Earth is positive reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is where you reward behaviour that you wish to continue. In this case, you reward yourself for writing all the words! Or ya know, 1667 of them. 😁
Now, stop giving me that look, the one with the narrowed eyes of suspicion. Shrug off that doubt, the embarrassment, and all of those things. I’m entirely aware that it sounds… daft, to reward yourself for writing, but stick with me.
At a very basic level, people love positive reinforcement. You’re drawn towards foods you love because they gave you a positive experience last time. You’re more likely to design the spreadsheet the way that your boss gave you a compliment and a free coffee for, than the way they glared at you for. We love feeling good, and we’ll work that bit harder to achieve that.
How does this apply to writing?
When you make the most of positive reinforcement, you can write more and feel better about doing it. In short, you make it feel really good.
Awesome! How do I do that?
First, you need to figure out your reward. A lot of people choose candy, which is fantastic! If that works for you, awesome. The real key is to make that reward high value, it’s something that you only get when you’ve written whatever your target is. It can’t be something that you can get at any old time because there won’t be a push or a drive then. Why should you write more for something you can get whenever?
There are so many options here. Make it a candy that you don’t touch unless you’re writing. Make it reading a chapter of a book that you’re really madly in love with, but can’t read at any other time (that’s what I tend to do). Make it listening to some songs that you adore and can’t listen to any other time. You get the idea. Do what works for you.
Don’t be ashamed of it. Run with it.
If you don’t trust yourself to ration out your own rewards (it’s really hard, it takes willpower!), then I recommend trying Written? Kitten! That gives you a new adorable kitten picture for every 100 words (or whatever you set it to). It might sound dumb, but I’ve used it many times and it works. Yes, I can go on Pinterest and get as many kitten pictures as I want, but those on Written? Kitten! are random! I don’t know what’s coming next, so it works with my (insatiable) curiosity to push me on.
Once you’ve figured out your reward, you need to create tiers, or levels.
Break your wordcount goal into smaller steps, 100 words is quite normal. You might feel better about 250 or 400, whatever works for you. This is about hacking your brain.
Then each time you achieve those small goals, you get a small reward. If you’re reading the book, give yourself a paragraph or two to read.
Then, you need larger goals. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and you’re aiming for 1667 words a day, that would be your larger goal. Once you hit that, you get a bigger reward, say reading three whole chapters of that book.
Keep scaling it up. Give yourself a reason to continue striving for more.
When you’ve done say seven days in a row, you get an even bigger reward – maybe you finish reading that book, maybe you can have a slice of that sinful chocolate cake, whatever works for you.
Then when you’ve hit the halfway point in your book, another even larger reward – maybe a visit to the book store to buy more awesome and addictive books.
And finally, a nice big reward for finishing that draft. Something big enough to drive you on when it seems difficult.
Remember that the point here is to reward yourself for work done. That’s what’s pushing you on to achieve said goal. Bribing yourself won’t work, why would you work for something you’ve already enjoyed?
You can do this. Be honest with yourself about what really works as a reward, and run with it. You’ll have that draft written in no time!
If you liked this post check out my Urban Fantasy on Amazon.