It’s NaNoWriMo Time: How To, Tips, Techniques, and Survival Advice

NaNoWriMo Flyer.November 1, 2015, at midnight is the start of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words (and complete a novel) in 30 days.

Sound impossible? The numbers divide down to 1,666 words a day, typically 60-90 minutes of writing.

To participate, you may do so actively or passively. This can be a solo experience or a highly social one. You can connect online and/or connect in person through the many local activities, events, and write-ins where people gather in a social space to write and get to know each other.

Here is how it works.

  1. Before November 1, sign up on the NaNoWriMo site. There is no fee. It’s free. By registering, you will get email notifications and notes to cheer you on throughout the month, and be able to track your word count daily.
  2. At midnight, October 31, you start writing.
  3. Each day, you report the number of words you’ve written. If you are using Scrivener, it’s easy to update this information daily. I’ve included tips on how to track your writing below.
  4. If you wish, participate in the regional forums such as the one for Washington County, Oregon, and consider attending some of the many local events throughout the month. NOTE: There are also prep events online and locally worth attending.

That’s it.

NaNoWriMo typically features over 310,000 participants on six continents. Many educators work with their students to participate during November as well as throughout the year.

Many novelists have written their first, second, and tenth novels during NaNoWriMo, and many share their stories to members to inspire them to keep writing.

There are many videos with tips and techniques for writing during NaNoWriMo on YouTube.

Advice on NaNoWriMo

Here are some tips I’ve learned from several years participating.

  • Have an outline, a plan of what you want to write about. You may never refer to it, but it helps to have a next step when you run off the path.
  • Have some character sketches written out so you have a handle on your characters rather than making them up as you go along. You don’t have to, but it might help.
  • Be ready for the writing, and your story, to take over. Let it. You never know where it will take you and sometimes it is to a beautiful place – and other times it is dribble, but you explored a path you might not have traveled.
  • Risk. Push yourself to write those 1,666 words daily. It is good self-discipline.
  • Forgive yourself. If you don’t get the minimum one day, write to 2,000 words the next. You can do it.
  • Don’t focus on the 50,000. Focus on the 1,666. Better yet, focus on a chapter or chapter section. Keep the chunks of writing goals attainable.
  • Schedule writing time. Set an alarm and appointment on a calendar, preferably on your smart phone, tablet, or computer so it will NAG you to write. Many get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later just to write.
  • While many writers feel like they need a special environment or place to write, learn to write anywhere any time. Get a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard (or one for your phone) and write in doctor’s waiting rooms or on the bus or train. Learn how to use voice recording or voice recognition on your phone or tablet and talk your story. Get creative with where and when you write.
  • Underwrite. I found this tip on Scribendi. It is the technique of jotting down as much of the bare bones of the story to see if it works. Keep character development, dialogue, and description at a minimum, moving through the story chapter by chapter, to see if there is something there. Writing is a process, and editing and rewriting is a part of the process of developing the novel. Underwrite the story so you can flesh it out later if it holds up as a good story.
  • Don’t edit. This is not the time to edit. This is the time to write. Just write. Leave the editing for later, much later, after you’ve finished all the words.
  • Take advantage of the writing sprints (like prompts), competitions, and writing games available through NaNoWriMo to keep you writing and moving forward.
  • Find a writing buddy. Find someone to hold accountable as they hold you accountable. Kick each other’s ass to keep writing.
  • Mail yourself a postcard with words of encouragement. I did this the first year of NaNoWriMo at a launch party. It arrived at the midway point and I’d forgotten what I wrote. It totally kicked my butt to keep writing, and I needed the words. If not you, have a friend send you a postcard once a week with words of encouragement.
  • Reward yourself. Set some goals like each 10,000 words or every other chapter written, and treat yourself to some chocolate, a movie, a nice walk, lunch with a friend, something that rewards your accomplishments while taking you away from the writing for a small amount of time. I think of these as recharging moments.
  • November is the WORST month to have NaNoWriMo. It is flu season, school is underway for many, Thanksgiving is at the end, taking up a whole week of your life to overfeed yourself and too many people, and it is dark more than light and cold. Get over it and focus on the writing. It’s life. Don’t let life interfere with the words.
  • Get a flu shot, take massive vitamins, and walk for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Get up every hour and get a glass of water or make some tea. Take 3-5 minutes to move around every 60 minutes. It keeps your mind fresh, and your health at its peak.

A friend of mine does this every year for the past 10 years. He turns out the core of a novel each November, then spends the next 3-5 months fleshing it out, editing, rewriting, passing it through professional editors and readers, rewriting, etc., typically publishing a novel every other year, and some years ever year. He’s been on the New York bestsellers list, and he uses NaNoWriMo to kick himself into high powered writing every year.

Maybe it’s your turn to do the same.

NOTE: Scrivener is a major sponsor of NaNoWriMo and there is a free trial version that will last through the month. There is also a 20% discount with NANOWRIMO as the coupon (expires Nov. 30, 2015), and if you complete your 50,000 words by the end of November, you will receive a coupon for 50% off.

NaNoWriMo Tips, Tricks, Techniques, and How to Survive the Month of November

Here are more tips, techniques, and information about NaNoWriMo to help you get started and stay writing.


NaNoWriMo Tips, Techniques, and Words of Advice

Also known as “How to Survive the Month.”

NaNoWriMo Forms, Trackers, and Spreadsheets

There are a variety of free tools, forms, trackers, and spreadsheets to help you track your progress, not just during November but all year around.

NaNoWriMo Tips for Scrivener Users

If there is a single tool for NaNoWriMo, it is Scrivener. This is the most powerful writing tool for writers available. It is for Mac and Windows users. Here are some tips and advice from NaNoWriMo participants about how to make Scrivener work for you during November’s event.

Writing Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

You Can Do It. Write Now!

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for several years and I write technical non-fiction, not fiction. The event is open to anyone writing whatever they wish. It’s about the self-discipline and writing, a lot of writing. It’s about putting your writing first, and seeing what happens when you build your life around the words.

If you are a member of Writers in the Grove and you’d like to participate, consider myself as one of your writing buddies. Let’s do this together.

If I waited till I felt like writing,
I’d never write at all.
Anne Tyler

I found the following writer’s prayer by Terrible Mind’s Chuck Wendig, and forgive the language but it sums up the writing experience perfectly.

I am the commander of these words.
I am the king of this story.
I am the god of this place.
I am a writer,
and I will finish the shit that I started.



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