Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

So you have decided that NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to write that novel you have been wanting to write. Now “all” you have to do is write it.

Here are ten tips to get a novel written in 30 days. (Yes it is possible).

1. Set goals and track progress

To be an official winner, you need to have written 50,000 words in 30 days. Even if you only write half of that, you will have written a lot more than all those people that want to write but never started.

50,000 words in 30 days amounts to 1667 words a day. Or three daily sessions averaging about 560 words. Which is about a page and a half.

Some people like to write 600 before work, 450 to 600 at lunch and then 600 or so in the evening. Others, like me, like to bash out 1667 words in a single sitting.

2. Have a plan

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Even if you just intend to make it up as you go along, some sort of plan can really help.

I found that when I had my chapters planned out with three to five bullet points of what would happen, I got to 75,000 words in 28 days. I was a bit pleased with myself that year.

Other years I simply have a destination in mind and an idea of who the characters are. Then, when I get stuck (and I do get stuck often) I simply have to ask myself what will carry me towards the destination. Then I write that.

3. Don’t try to be perfect

necessary mess

This is a first draft. You are allowed to have spelling errors, continuity errors, passages that make no sense, and holding text. There is nothing wrong with writing something like “write a scene where he apologizes and add it here“.

We’ve talked before about embracing necessary mess. Embrace the messiness of your process and just write something. This is the only way this will work. You have a lot of words to get out and not all of them will be gems. However, it is far easier to revise a bad manuscript than it is to write a great one from scratch when all you have is a blank page.

4. Give yourself wriggle room

By Pete Nawrocky (Pete Nawrocky) [CC BY-SA 3.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Pete Nawrocky (Pete Nawrocky) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Life can get in the way of the best plans. So factor that in to your timetable.

I like to try and have some super sprints near the beginning so I can take it easy at the mid point. This is a marathon after all.

Another thing I like to do is plan days when I will be able to do a lot more writing. Those days, I unplug the phone, disconnect the Internet, and pretend I’m not in. Stuff gets written.

5. Have fun with it

Make it fun.

When writing feels like play and not work, it is easier to stay motivated. I created a whole RPG setting from one year’s NaNoWriMo.

Sometimes it can be fun to simply put interesting characters “on the stage” and let the situation play out. He said this – she said that… And so on until suddenly you have pages of amusing dialogue and a whole bunch of new subplots.

Whatever you do – enjoy writing your story. Write it however you want to. Have fun; make art.

6. Ignore the blowhards

Canute rebukes his courtiers
Ignore people that are full of it.

The sad fact of life is that there will always be pompous blowhards that tell you it cannot be done and everything you write sucks. Or worse, egotistical blowhards who tell you that you are doing it wrong.

What do they know anyway? You are the one writing a novel. There are just sitting there failing and trying to bring you down with them.

Politely thank them for their opinion as you swiftly show them the door and forget they ever spoke.

The same goes for well meaning folks that tell you everything you have written is bad, derivative, or no good. They are not in your target readership and don’t understand what a privilege you offered them by letting them see an early draft.

If you are really stuck for decent feedback get along to a NaNoWriMo write in, or – if you live in Thanet – a Thanet Creative event like Tea and Chat.

7. Write every single day

Just make words…

Remember that we said that 50,000 words is just 1,667 if you break it up. The secret source is to just write. Every day. Write even if you write crap. Write when you have inspiration. Write when you are clueless. Just get words down on the page.

There are all sorts of tricks WriMos (people that take part in NaNoWriMo) use to get word counts up.

Dares, character arguments, dreams (I don’t like these), sprints, poems, fireside chats, challenges, and all sorts of things like that. NaNoWriMo have a whole forum dedicated to word count advice, including down and dirty tricks to get the word count going.

8. Attend write-ins

woman typing writing
Write-ins are cool.

Write-ins are where WriMos get together and write – together. These have proven to be incredibly motivational for a lot of people.

Here is some information (official) about NaNoWriMo write-ins happening in Thanet. There may be unofficial gatherings but try an official one first.

9. Tell everyone what you are doing

exchange of ideas
Spread the word

This may seem like strange advice but this was what I did the very first NaNoWriMo I did. I literally told every human being I met for the month leading up and then all of November. The very next time I met any of these humans, most of them asked how the novel was going.

I cannot tell you how motivating it is to know that failure will be quite that public. Just needing to be able to say “yes, my word count is on target” was now the guiding point of my day.

Tell everyone. Brag about your novel which will have a first draft by December. Not only will people be impressed that you even have part of a  novel draft but, should you hit 50,000, in their eyes, you can call yourself a writer forever.

If you are feeling brave, you could blog each days writing so people can read it as you write it. Grab a free Author Buzz UK blog if you need a blog.

10. Just don’t give up

Do not listen to the Dark Editor. As you write, self-doubt will set in. Ignore it. Ignore it as hard as you can.

Dark Editor
Ignore the dark editor

Whatever it takes, just keep writing. Never give up, never surrender.

You are a writer now.

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