NaNoWriMo Prep: Finding Motivation

In episode #198 of The Creative Penn Podcast, Steve Scott, a self-published author who earns a six-figure income from his writing, gives his advice for being productive and successful. His number one tip?

“Consistent butt in chair at least 5 times a week.”

procrastinationIt is no secret. The magic way to produce writing is to sit down and physically write. However, as all writers know, sometimes this is much easier said than done. After all, when our day jobs and families and friends and fully-loaded DVRs come calling, it’s difficult to turn them away. Given the opportunity, many writers will exercise their imaginations to invent any story necessary to get out of doing their work. Unfortunately, I am no exception to this weakness.

This November, I will have to beat myself at my own game and figure out how to get to “butt in chair” long enough to crank out 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. As part of my NaNo prep, I’ve evaluated my strengths and weaknesses and concocted a few different brands of kryptonite to help break down my inner-procrastinator.

By finding honest answers to the following questions, you can do the same.

What is your biggest motivator?

Without a doubt, my strongest motivator is my knight-like sensitivity to obligation. I like to believe that this stems from my parents, who raised me to be loyal and honest and keep my promises. But, whoever or whatever is to blame, when I feel connected to something or someone, I go to insane lengths to hold myself to that commitment. I can’t even stop writing in the journal that I’ve wanted to abandon since April, simply because I feel obligated to finish 2014. Yeah, I’m crazy. Hopefully, it comes in handy.

knightHow can you create that motivator for yourself?

This question may be tricky for some, but for me, it’s simple. I am telling anyone and everyone who will listen that I am doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve announced it on this website, on every form of social media, and face-to-face with my family and friends. By telling so many people about my goal, I will feel obligated to succeed. Additionally, one of my other complexes is that I abhor looking stupid, and if I talk a big game and don’t deliver 50,000 words, I’m going to feel pretty damn stupid.

Who can help you?

No matter who you are or where you live, you can find a support system to help you achieve your goals. For me, I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband, Daniel, who has agreed to be my word count tyrant. Even tonight, when I was tired and did not want to write this blog post, he yanked my cell phone out of my hand and ushered me upstairs to write. He has also agreed to give up our office and desktop for the entire month so I can have a free work space. I’m also lucky to have close writer friends, Teresa and Sam, who understand the undertaking that is NaNoWriMo and will cheer me on this month. I’ve also been able to meet more writing buddies simply by doing a few searches on WordPress and Twitter. As the Aussies say, too easy.

Where is your sacred space in your home and day?desk

So many writers talk about having a special place to write or about carving out a specific time of day for writing. I intend to do both this November. As already stated, my husband is giving me free reign of the study and computer, so that I have no physical excuses not to write. Time is a little more tricky, given that I work a full time job from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (including commuting time), and I sometimes do take-home work in the evenings and on weekends. Most writers say that writing in the morning works best for them, as they can get their writing done first thing and then tackle the day worry-free. I am an ogre in the mornings, but I may have to give this a shot. However, so far, I’ve been able to devote at least an hour every night to writing for this blog, so I can probably do a bit of both and make it work.

How can you practice your skills and build confidence?

By this, I mean, how can you take on a smaller venture to prove to yourself you can complete your goal? For instance, my goal is to write 1,666 words a day for all of November. Well, for the last week, I’ve been writing roughly 800 to 1,000 words every night for these blog posts. While nonfiction flows faster from my mind to my fingers than fiction does, surely if I can write this much for a blog post every night, I can slam out some prose. Think about your own goals and see if you can do any “test runs” to build your confidence.

finish lineHow will you reward yourself?

If all else fails, humans are animals, and we love pleasure. What can you give yourself as a reward that will motivate you to complete your goal? And better yet, who can safeguard your reward to ensure you don’t cave and just treat yourself early? For me, a huge motivator is that I will be able to cross off my #1 bucket list item and feel less like an amateur when I talk to people. However, for a physical reward, I am going to treat myself to Scrivener (I’m using the free trial during NaNoWriMo) and buy myself some new, professional clothes. My husband will be monitoring me all month and ensuring that I do not let the credit card slip until I reach my word count.

How can you remind yourself of all this?

Some writers surround themselves with motivational quotes or images; some have a daily creed they say to themselves. While I do love quotes, the way I am reminding myself of my commitments is by writing these posts, right now, on this website. These words are my motivation, straight from the source, my purest form of obligation to commit myself to this goal and not look back. Plus, surrounding myself with awesome writer friends and a relentlessly supportive hubby helps, too. Even if I forget, they won’t let me hear the end of it.


To follow my NaNoWriMo journey or add me as a writing buddy, check out my NaNoWriMo profile.

What are your answers to these questions? How are you motivating yourself to win NaNoWriMo or achieve other big goals? I’d love to read your tips!


Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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Posted in Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips
24 comments on “NaNoWriMo Prep: Finding Motivation
  1. Nikki B. says:

    Hi Kate! Great post on prep work. Personally, I have my best friend M who is also doing NaNo who will keep me going when I’d really rather collapse on the couch after work instead of writing. My writer space is my office (after work, of course) or my couch (so that my cat can keep me company). The best writer space is when M and I get together at her library (it has better hours than mine) and we spur each other on. It is so great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other when we get stuck, and to boost each other up when we’re lagging.

    I highly recommend Scrivener — good call on the trial during NaNo, by the way — I’m sure it helped me last year. I found that one scene/document tended to hit my daily needed word count, and being able to move to a new file for each kept me moving forward. It’s also nice to have the discount when you win to purchase the full version. 🙂

    Feel free to find me on Twitter, Facebook (and by association Messenger), or Gmail if you need more poking and prodding next month. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for replying! It sounds like you have a great writing set up and support system.

      Also, thanks for the Scrivener tip. I hadn’t thought too much about the scene/document separations, but I bet that would be a fantastic way to keep me from editing the previous day’s work (a HUGE problem of mine), and it would make things feel a lot more manageable.

      Same to you — feel free to hunt me down on social media and reach out whenever you need a boost. I love giving pep talks lol.


      • Nikki B. says:

        It works for me so far, which is what really counts. I have another friend who pokes and prods me too, and he’s not a writer but has a writer wife who’s not so proactive as myself. Thus he can pick on me for that. Haha.

        I was surprised I liked Scrivener as much as I did. As a steadfast Word user, I was skeptical. I was soon converted when all of my worldbuilding docs and outlines and images were all in one spot. That worked great in combination with my NaNo notebook. If you’d like samples, email me. 🙂

        I think I’ve followed, buddied and liked your pages on the social media I myself are involved with, so should be all set.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome. Thanks! I’m doing Joanna Penn’s ScrivenerNaNoWriMo webinar this afternoon, so I’m sure that will get me all excited and be a good introduction for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. […] you lack some motivation, head over to Kate M. Colby’s post on motivation for Nano. Great […]


  3. Andrew M. says:

    Hi Kate – Great post, and great ideas for motivation (or is it disciple? I sometimes confuse the two). I’ve tried most of them, but I get stuck on obligation. I have quit so many times (sort of… I keep coming back) that exhortations to hold me accountable seem somewhat flat. My hypothesis is that I need to keep my obligation to myself first, and then I can ask others to hold me accountable in the same way.

    Or maybe that’s just another excuse. Hard to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have problems with internal obligation, too. I can threaten myself all I want, and nothing ever happens. However, if I’ve made a big show of doing something externally, then my inner obligation officer is pretty good at forcing me to keep my word. So that’s my strategy this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. PHS says:

    Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    I’m working on editing for while so I won’t get to do NaNoWriMo. However motivation is very important as a writer. Re-blogging on Archer’s Aim


  5. angelomarcos says:

    This is a really great post!

    It’s quite easy to just say ‘Right, I’m going to be motivated! I am, I am, I am!’, but much harder to actually think about what that’s going to look like in practice.

    I very much like the reward idea too. One of the slightly frustrating things about writing is the gap between finishing a project and then receiving feedback on it, so it’s good to build in some smaller rewards for ourselves along the way.

    I also like the idea about creating your own motivator too – and I’m 100% with the ‘not wanting to look stupid’ thing too! I actually did this last year, where I announced that I was going to complete my second novel and also a short story collection in one year. I didn’t quite make this deadline, but I was pretty close, and I reckon I wouldn’t have got that close without the fear of looking stupid in front of everyone at the end of it..!

    At the same time, for me it’s good to keep the specifics of things a bit more private, otherwise I find the praise I get for ‘being a writer’ becomes a bit of an end in itself. I wrote a blog post about this if you’re interested, you can find it at –

    Thanks again for this post Kate, and all the best with NaNoWriMo!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A thought provoking post. I agree that we need to exercise discipline and set times to write.
    Like PHS I too am editing and I find this needs nose to grindstone work ethic or it just doesn’t get done.
    It sounds like you have a husband to cherish, too. His support is a wonderful advantage you have, as my wife’s is mine.
    Thank you for the encouraging read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] Motivation: What will inspire me to “win” NaNoWriMo? […]


  8. cpbialois says:

    Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
    Perfect timing with NaNoWriMo just around the corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] have the motivation to write your novel, screenplay, or poem. You’ve done your research and are brimming with […]


  10. […] I highly recommend this post by Teresa Morse. Instead, much like my NaNoWriMo prep post about motivation, I want to give you all a brief insight into my strategy and offer some questions for you to […]


  11. […] the pen and paper) to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not only does this task require dedication, motivation, and inspiration, more practically, it also requires writing tools and […]


  12. […] If you’re needing a motivation boost to get through the next three weeks, check out my post about cultivating your NaNoWriMo motivation here. […]


  13. […] If you need some tips, check out the insights. If you need to refocus your motivation, check out my previous post. If you simply need to commiserate or get a pep talk, hit me up in the comments. I’m always […]


  14. […] me, I had two extrinsic motivators to write The Cogsmith’s Daughter. First, I was participating in NaNoWriMo, which gives a […]


  15. […] you are a writer, if you have the determination to write, the motivation to start writing, and the persistence keep writing, you will end up with a novel. You may have to sort through your […]


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