Your Guide to a Successful NaNoWriMo

How do people write 50,000 words (or more) in just 30 days? If you’ve not done it before it can seem impossible, but I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo for over five years, and I’ve never missed the word count goal of 50,000 words.

And I can make sure you never do either.

I’ve managed to win NaNo in spite of college midterms, full time jobs, and one year, me being away in Europe for almost two weeks where I did not even consider picking up a pen (or sitting at a computer).

There’s no easy way to win NaNo, but the following tips are the ones I live by, and the reason I always hit my word count goals.

Picture of person typing

 Remember If You Don’t Write Today, You Have To Write Double Tomorrow

This is by far my most successful pep talk, and it’s literally only a sentence long. If you don’t feel like writing now, what makes you think you’re going to want to write double the amount tomorrow?

You won’t. I can tell you right now that you will almost never feel like writing over 1,000 words. You’re busy. You have your daily life and responsibilities to deal with, which makes it really easy to put off writing.

Just remember that every time you don’t write, the next time you do you’ll be writing over 3,000 words.

Powerful motivator, right?

Start Early – Like 12:00 AM

Getting a head start by writing the moment November 1st starts is an amazing way to start off the month. I usually go to bed with at least 1,000 words done for the day. It makes the rest of the words I write later in the day feel like bonus words.

This may not be possible for you. I start work at 8:00 AM during the week, but this year I’m going to stay up and do it anyway. That’s why they invented coffee, right?

Speaking of coffee…

Write at Cafes, or Libraries, or Anywhere that’s Not Home

Unless you have a dedicated office space, writing at home is a lot more difficult than writing when you’re out. At home you wander to the kitchen for a snack, you have chores to do, and since it’s your home you feel like you can relax.

There is no relaxing during NaNo.

The change in environment can make all the difference when you’re writing. I get so much more done when I write away from home. If I’m home, I end up putting Netflix on for “background noise.” You can imagine how that turns out.

Go to the Events

There’s tons of events being held during NaNo, and they’re fun. I’ve met some of my best friends by attending NaNo events. In fact I host events myself now, at least one a week.

Events are places where other writers have the same goal as you. They’re a great place to socialize, be inspired, and get motivation. Writers at events will push you and encourage you.

Plus events usually have word wars and writing sprints to keep the words flowing. Also there’s often snacks.

Don’t go to Events Just to Socialize

I’m definitely guilty of this one, but don’t fall into this trap!

NaNo events are a lot of fun, but if you aren’t careful they can turn into social gatherings instead of a place to write. If your group is too chatty and no one is getting any writing done, suggest a word sprint. If all else fails, put in your headphones and do a sprint by yourself. You can always socialize after.

Have an Outline

I understand there are plenty of people out there who are pantsers, and that’s fine, but from my experience NaNo is a lot more enjoyable if I have a rough outline.

When you have a day where your creativity is stuck, an outline shows you what to write next. My outlines don’t list every single scene, but they do list the major points I need to happen during the novel.

My manuscripts without an outline are sitting abandoned in my documents drive. My manuscripts with outlines, like FanFact from last year or Seeking Utopia, are in the editing stages.

Don’t Edit or Proofread

Just don’t. Accept it right now that your manuscript will be a mess of typos and incomplete sentences. The goal is to write words you can work with, but going back to fix typos is an easy way to get hung up on your writing style and suddenly be three days behind.

Get Competitive

Do you want to have a higher word count than your friend? What about your ML? Of course you do! Now don’t go around declaring word count wars on people, but having the mental goal to have higher word counts than other people is another great motivator.

You might also have a goal of being the fastest writer (which I almost always am, just saying). It’s surprisingly easy to be competitive about writing.

You’re Ahead, Great… but No Breaks Allowed

If you’re ahead of the target word count, you may think this means you can take a break.

Do Not. Do This.

I don’t care if you don’t feel like writing, make time to write even if you’re five days ahead. Why? Because inevitably, over the course of 30 days, something is going to come up when you really can’t write.

Maybe you have a wedding to attend, or a long weekend of plans for Thanksgiving. Maybe you get sick and get stuck in bed for days.

Trust me, you’ll be glad to have a couple days’ worth of words banked for the occasion.

Don’t Write Fluff

By fluff, I mean don’t sit down and write two full pages of descriptions about the exterior of your main character’s house. It’s excessive and you’ll cut almost all of it when you go back to make edits. This is where having an outline is a big help.

If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, you can get away with this because of how much world building you have to do. If you don’t plan to pursue publishing you can write all the fluff you want, but save yourself a headache later if you plan to edit your story.

Ignore My Tips!

If these tips don’t work for you that’s perfectly fine, but these are the reason I’ve been able to be so successful at NaNo in the past.

During November I’ll probably do shorter, less involved blog posts since I’ll be busy writing. This November I’ll also be out of town for a long weekend to attend Youmacon, and I have a wedding to go to. I’ll need to account for this and try to get extra writing done ahead of time.

Hopefully these tips will work for you, and good luck hitting the 50,000 word count goal!

Resources for NaNoWriMo Participants

NaNoWriMo Website – The central hub

Write or Die – For extra motivation

NaNoWordSprints – Twitter to keep you writing