Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Since I’m in the middle of editing my current WIP, I don’t have the time to join in. However, I wanted to offer up some advice to those of you who have accepted the daunting task of writing 50K words in one month.

Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

1. Decide why you are participating

“I signed up just because.”

No, no, no! Don’t say this when people ask you why you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Give a valid, reliable, motivating reason to participate:

“I’ve been slacking lately and need a kick in the butt.”

“I have a great idea for a novel.”

“People say NaNo’s impossible. I’m gonna prove them wrong!”

Whatever your personal motive, make sure you have one. Don’t sign up for NaNoWriMo just to sign up. If you do, I can almost guarantee failure. You’ll inevitably hit a rough patch and and think, “Ugh, why am I even doing this? Forget it. I’m done.”

2. Just write! 

NaNoWriMo is a great way to start or finish the first draft of a novel, or to completely rewrite an old one. It’s not a great way to revise or edit a novel. And it’s definitely not a way to write a masterpiece that’s ready to be published on December 1st. Nope, sorry.

So stop stressing about making things perfect. Resist the temptation to edit or revise, and don’t get upset about your watered down plot or 2D characters. Just write. Close your eyes, and tap, tap, tap away at that keyboard. And remember this is a rough draft. You won’t be showing it off to many (if any) people. So let the words flow and don’t stop to question them too much. If you do, you’ll never make it to 50K words by November 30th.

3. Don’t skip days and fall behind schedule

Last November, I missed the first three days of NaNoWriMo because I was in a writing contest. And after that, I missed a few more days because, well, I missed them. Life happened. I didn’t feel like writing. I was tired. I had better things to do. Etc., etc.

Bad idea.

Missing one day is okay. Not good, but not horrible. But after one day, the word count deficit starts to pile up fast. Within the first week of NaNo last year, I was behind schedule by 10,000 words. And the only way I was going to catch back up was to increase my daily word count–blerg! So, do yourself a favor and spit out those words every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

4. Be proactive. Get ahead!

Don’t live on the edge if you don’t have to. Give yourself a word count cushion.

After I climbed out of the deep dark word count hole last year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get ahead of schedule. On days I had extra time, energy, and motivation, I blasted past my daily goal and kept writing. Why not? Who knew how I’d feel the next day, or if my life would blow up and I wouldn’t be able to sit down a write?

Because of this “get ahead” strategy, I was able to finish almost a week early last year.

5. Find an idea you love

When you hit those “ugh” moments, or you’re just flat out tired, it’ll be your passion and excitement for a story that gets you through. So make sure choose one you love. Find a plot you want to explore and a cast of characters you want to know better. They should have the power to enthrall and entice you, and keep you motivated on a daily basis.

I promise, if you feel “meh” about your story before you start it, you’ll feel “meh” about it the whole time. And sooner or later, you’ll throw in the towel.

6. Evolve with your idea

There is a very good chance the story you set out to write won’t be the story you end up writing. This is especially true for those of us who are “pantsters” rather than “plotters”. We assume we’re going to take a left turn at the fork in the road, but then we take a right instead.

That’s okay.

Remember: Just write!

Don’t add constraints or limit yourself just because the story “was supposed to go this way”. Go with the flow and see where things take you, even if they aren’t where you planned to go. After all, this isn’t a final draft. It’s an exploration of the story you will–hopefully–continue pursuing long on after the November 30th deadline.

7. Embrace a love-hate relationship

Even if you’re infatuated with your story, you’ll probably become infuriated with it at some point. You’ll have moments when you question your concept, or realize you despise a certain character, or fear you chose the wrong path back in chapter 5. It’s okay! First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect or 100% lovable. They’re ugly, troublesome, and, more often than not, a total nightmare.

So accept the inevitable love-hate relationship you’ll have with your story, remind yourself you’ll be able to revise those despicable spots in the future, and keep chugging along.

8. Lean on other writers for support

I often tell people, “Writers have their own language.” We naturally understand each other and can relate to each other’s writing woes. So why not invite some into your life, especially during the stress of NaNoWriMo?

The support you’ll get from other writers isn’t the same as the support you’ll get from the people in your everyday life. God bless them, but your friends and family just can’t relate to your roller coaster emotions, endless anxiety, and, well, general craziness. But other writers can.

Where do I find these so-called writing buddies, you ask? Well, obviously NaNoWriMo’s site allows you to network and make solid connections. Another place is Twitter. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met on there and have created genuine, supportive friendships with.

9. Have fun! 

I mean it. Enjoy the experience. That’s what NaNoWriMo is all about: the experience. Yes, it’s stressful, insane, and a lot–a lot–of work. But nobody is forcing you to do it (well, I hope not). So why not have fun with it?

Last year, whenever I’d hit a low point, I’d sit back in my chair and laugh at the absurdity of writing 50K words in one month. Who does that? Seriously? Or I’d take a deep breath and embrace my accomplishments. I figured every word I wrote deserved a round of applause, even if it wasn’t the best word in the world.

10. Worst Case Scenario

The worst thing that can happen? You don’t reach the 50K goal by November 30th.

Big deal.

Okay, maybe it is a big deal and you want to focus on that goal to keep you motivated. But, in my opinion, the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to barf out 50,000 words for the sake of barfing out 50,000 words. It’s to help writers focus and to kickstart a steady writing routine that carries them past the November 30th deadline…And to hopefully collect the ingredients for a novel they will want to fully develop.

So, even if you’re approaching the deadline, and you’re nowhere near the 50K word finish line, who cares? Keep. Going. Keep. Writing! The only true failure in NaNoWriMo is giving up completely.

Well, there you go. I hope you found at least one of my tips for NaNoWriMo useful. I have a few more (okay, many more), but I’ll save those for next time.

Good luck, everyone!

And remember: Just write!

Related articles:

NaNoWriMo Tips – How To Deal With Deadlines

My NaNoWriMo 2014 Survival Kit

A Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo Part 1


Photo Credits: giphy


2 thoughts on “Jen’s Top 10 NaNoWriMo Tips

  1. Sad to hear you’re not participating! I’m going to be completely pantsing it this year (I don’t know the story I’ll be writing yet…) so your #5 worries me a bit. I’m going to spend all day on the 31st sorting out an idea (as opposed to sorting everything out at 11pm on the 31st and going in almost entirely blind like I was going to do originally, haha) and I really hope I end up liking it. If not, though, I’m really going to have fun with it this year – too many years now I’ve tried to write novels I’ve been in love with, and have had to stop writing because the challenge hasn’t been doing them justice. But going in with something entirely alien means I can do those silly Travelling Shovel of Death prompts and other word wars to keep up inspiration. So I’m just about expecting any ideas I get on the 31st to be entirely different by the 30th November. 😀

    Thanks for this advice – I’ve participated for 6 years so far but I still have no idea what I’m doing!


    1. I wish I could participate too! But, alas, priorities, haha.

      Hey, you never know what might come out of you if you go in blind. And maybe NOT loving a project beforehand will be a benefit since loving them has been a detriment to you in the past? Whatever happens, your attitude to have fun is awesome. That’s what you need most of all. If you’re not having fun, then why are you participating?

      Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do great 🙂


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