Surviving NaNoWriMo: Tips for Completing National Novel Writing Month

Every November, writers from around the world embark on an adventure known as NaNoWriMo—or National Novel Writing Month. The challenge? To write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. It’s a big task, but doable if you have the right plan in place.

Here’s some tips that have helped me personally get through this fun (though at times arduous) writing event.

How to Find NaNoWriMo Success

Set Clear Goals: Please don’t sit down at midnight on November 1st without having some sort of goal in mind. Are you wanting to write one novel? Or are you wanting to do like I do and work on several shorter projects? Know this going in. It’ll allow you to enter the month with more calm.

Create a Writing Schedule: I know this will only speak to some of you, but try and schedule in your writing and plan events this month around it, versus the other way around. This ensures that your goal (whatever it is) is your top priority—well, outside of your job that is.

Outline Your Story: This isn’t for everyone, but even if you aren’t an plotter, have some idea of general plot of your novel. Or at least know your characters a little better. (My friend Tasha has a wonderful character creation guide for this!) This will help you should you get stuck during NaNoWriMo.

Manage Your Time Wisely: Don’t sit down to write and then open up social media. Do what you can to mitigate those urges and habits. Use a webpage blocker like Freedom. Put your phone in another room. In know it’s hard to control others, but try to make it clear to friends and family that you need time each day to write and be left alone.

Clear the Tracks: This is a phrase I’ve learned from Becca Syme. If you’re someone whose external environment affects your ability to write and create (i.e., stress and other mentally taxing things), do your best to clear those away so you can bring your A game to writing. Limit social media. Don’t read or watch the news. Settle any lingering arguments with loved ones or bring resolution to outstanding tasks. Some people can write through stress as their means of coping, but a great many of us cannot. It hinders our ability to tap into creativity because we are mentally drained. If this is you, I highly recommend spending October getting your mental ducks in a row so you can use November to create.

Use Writing Prompts: Stuck on your story but you still want to write words? Use writing prompts to get the juices flowing. Even if it’s not a scene you’ll keep in your final book, it could unlock something about a character or make you think about a plot point in a way you hadn’t previously considered.

How to Keep Your Spirits Up

Reward Yourself: If you’re someone who is motivated by rewards, use that to your advantage. Print out a calendar and put gold stars on it each time you meet your daily goal. At the end of the month, treat yourself to an item you’ve been wanting. Dangle those carrots at yourself. Whatever works.

Change Your Writing Environment: Our brains can become sluggish if we’re in the same environment too long. They crave stimulation. So, if you find writing difficult at any point, change your scenery. Even if you can’t write in a new place, at least take a break and get up from that area. Take a walk around the block. Come back to the page with a clearer mind.

Indulge in Things You Love: Maybe it’s the secret hedonist in me, but I believe in spoiling myself to get difficult things done. Play the music you adore. Wear the fancy perfume. Light candles. Make your NaNoWriMo writing time a sensuous experience to keep yourself interested in it. Make writing a ritual.

Take Short Breaks: Please, even if this is for a just a month, don’t force yourself to be unhappy. There is no morality in suffering. Take rests. Prioritize sleep. Move your body. Eat foods that aren’t going to make you feel like a pile of horseshit.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up: Be flexible with your schedule. If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged. Make up for it without overloading yourself. And remember, this is just a challenge. It’s not necessary to complete it. Don’t let this stress you out. Any progress forward on your novel is good progress, no matter how small.


Post by Teresa Conner

Teresa is a full-time freelance book cover designer and graphic designer for Wolfsparrow Covers. When not creating graphics or book covers for indie authors and traditional publishers, Teresa can be found writing erotic romance under her pen name Torrance Sené or fueling her addictions to tea, planners, and Marvel.