Six tips for NaNoWriMo success

Two days left, folks! Who’s excited? Who’s eager to get started? Who’s wandering around their house with a glazed look in their eyes, mumbling, “What the heck have I gotten myself into?”


Thirty days of happiness and joy!

Writing every day, especially 1,667 words a day, can be tricky. I get that.

But if, despite that, NaNoWriMo is still something you’d like to do, fear not: It’s totally within your grasp.

Below I’ve collated some tips that have seen me through two NaNoWriMos and two bouts of Camp NaNoWriMo. Seasoned WriMos, please feel free to pile on with your own advice. Let’s get our new colleagues abundantly provisioned on the trail to success.

"We do not need to stop for directions, Edith."

“We do not need to stop for directions, Edith.”

1) Make the commitment.

Tell people. Tell your friends and family. Tell your work colleagues. If you know people are likely to ask you about your novel periodically, you’re much more likely to stay on track with writing it.

Something else that might help you focus is writing your own Ten NaNoWriMo Commandments. When I did this my first year as a WriMo, the list included predictable items like “Thou shalt not prioritize TV over writing,” but also a few like “Thou shalt not prioritize writing over exercising or talking with family.” It’s all about balance.

Speaking of which …

2) Make writing a natural part of your balanced life.

If you usually watch an episode of Scandal or Bones in the evening, consider replacing that with writing 1,667 words, and an episode of a YouTube-based series if you have a few minutes left over at the end. If you usually listen to an audiobook while jogging, turn it off and spend your run mapping out the day’s scenes. If you usually spend your bus commute tapping away at Candy Crush or a sudoku, pull up your NaNovel and write instead. You don’t have to write your daily words all at once. It can be a paragraph here and there throughout the day — whatever works best for you and the time you have available.

Even the Weeping Angels couldn't stop this WriMo. What's your excuse?

Even a Weeping Angel can prioritize NaNoWriMo. What’s your excuse?

3) Don’t do it alone.

If your RL (Regional Liaison) is planning write-ins, word wars, or other general merriment close to you, consider joining in. Or find a few other WriMos from your social circle and agree that you’ll periodically check in on each other to cheer and console.

Also, online friends shouldn’t be underestimated. On the NaNoWriMo site, surf your Regional Lounge, Genre Lounge, Age Group, or the All-Ages Coffeehouse to find a core group of great people to commiserate and celebrate with. Post questions on the Reference Desk forum, and answer ones that ask for your expertise. There’s a beautiful, thriving community over there — don’t miss out.

4) Format can make a difference.

The NaNoWriMo site routinely promotes special “novel-writing software”. If that’s your jam, go for it. For my first NaNovel, I found it helpful to format a Word document like a book — landscape-oriented, with two columns per page, generous margins, page breaks for new chapters, and dropped capitals (Word tutorial here). It helped me feel like I really was writing something serious. It also made the pages zip by. If you’ll be writing on the go, consider using a Google doc so you can access it from any computer. Play around and talk with people until you find a method that works for you. (Again, the NaNoWriMo forums can be helpful for exploring options.)


Or you can try to replicate Shelley Jackson’s Ineradicable Stain project. (Good luck.)

5) Reward yourself for meeting wordcount goals.

When I first did NaNoWriMo, I stocked up on chocolate eyeballs, in-shell peanuts, and Polish graham crackers — but I couldn’t eat any of it until I’d written my words for the day. You could also try setting bigger goals. Maybe if you validate your wordcount by November 30, you can spring for a professional manicure. (If you’re on a budget, stay home and give yourself this nifty literary manicure.)

6) Have fun!

This is your novel. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder and pointing out what you’re doing wrong. If you get bored with your historical novel halfway through and need to throw in a talking yak, have at it. If your two leads need to spend five pages arguing the finer points of grammar, let them. (And if you need to inventory a wardrobe or write out a character’s lengthy grocery list to meet your daily goal, have no shame — we’ve all been there.)

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? What are your plans for success?


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Photo credits: Rock climber and hikers from aatlas, angel from scrapbookingfanatic, tattoo artist from niekverlaan on Pixabay.


One thought on “Six tips for NaNoWriMo success

  1. Pingback: The First Annual Poetry Spam | In Which the Shadow Learns to Yodel

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