NaNoWriMo is held over the month of November each year and sets the lofty goal for writers to complete a first draft of their novel, with a minimum of 50,000 words, in just one month. The acronym stands for: National Novel Writing Month (although it is very much an international event these days) and attracts writers of all abilities, genres and ages.
50,000 words in one month is quite a challenge, but it is achievable (as many NaNoWriMo winners with affirm). Here you’ll find tips to ensure NaNoWriMo success.
How to win NaNoWriMo
- Plot ahead – Having a detailed plot outline will help you navigate through your 50,000 words. Consider listing all the things that could possibly happen in your story, write them up on index cards. You can arrange them into an order, or simply draw a card whenever you’re stuck for ideas.
- Or, don’t plot – If November 1 rolls around and you haven’t planned your story, now is not the time to start. Just get writing and keep writing until you reach your goal of ‘the end’, or 50,000 words. If you get stuck for ideas, put in some unexpected events, have your protagonist sit down for a cup of tea with their enemy, introduce a madman with a gun. You’ll boost your word count, and it’s all great practice to improve your writing skills. If you don’t like it, you can delete it in the edits.
- Keep a journal – Not for yourself, for your characters! Writing diary entries from a character’s point of view helps you understand their goals and fears. It can also add to your word count, you could include them in your story.
- Set a daily word count – If you write every day for 30 days, you’ll need to hit 1,667 words per day to reach 50,000. It would be wise to assume there will be days where things go wrong, or other tasks steal your time. By aiming for 2,000 words per day, you’ll have some ‘buffer’ days.
- Ignore your daily word count – When you’re on a roll, keep going! Don’t stop just because you hit your word count. Some days the words will flow better than others. Take advantage of those days.
- Meditation – Taking as little as 5-10 minutes, before you start writing, to clear your mind can drastically improve your focus on your story. You’ll also be less distracted while you write. There are many recordings you can download for your smart phone to help guide you through visualisation techniques and spark creativity.
- Record your dreams – Dreams are a great source of story ideas, you could be creating your novel while you sleep.
- Turn off the television – You should be writing, you can catch up on your favourite shows in December.
- Take time to socialise – Join your local NaNoWriMo group for the meet ups. You can enjoy a cuppa, company, and get some words down while you’re there. They’ll also be a good support network when you’re feeling lost in your manuscript.
- Don’t research – Make up facts and get history wrong. Just keep the flow of the story. You can do the research later and fix any mistakes.
- Leave that long time project – NaNoWriMo is a good time to start a new novel. You’ll be too attached to that story you’ve been planning for years, and you won’t have time to dwell on every decision you make for your novel.
- Forget perfection– Repeat after me – ‘This will be a crap draft, but at least I’ll have a draft.’
- Broadcast – Tell everyone you know that you’re attempting the huge task of writing a novel in 30 days. This will give you accountability, no one wants to admit they failed. Hopefully it will also show your family you’re serious, their support can make all the difference.
- Go for a walk – Morning walks are great to give you time to contemplate your plot problems and find solutions. It’s also a good way to make sure you get some exercise, because you’ll be sitting at your computer a lot this month.
- Kill a character – Death in your novel will always help with your word count. It creates a lot of alternate story lines, how will the other characters react?
- Read a book – You’ve heard the saying ‘refill the well’, you’re pouring your creativeness onto the pages each day, take some time to replenish your creative mind with stories at the end of the day. If you’re too exhausted to read, try listening to audiobooks.
- Ditch the housework – You won’t have time for visitors, so why stress about the cleanliness of your living room and hallways? The family can learn how to cook meals and wash their own clothes for one month.
- Stay offline – It’s no secret the Internet sucks our time away. Don’t get online until you’ve met your word count for the day. The World Wide Web will still be there in December, even if you don’t blog, tweet or like posts in November.
Using a writing course or text can guide you through the process of writing your novel, and strengthen your writing skills along the journey. Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways will teach you everything you need to know to write a novel.