My Top NaNoWriMo Tips

27/10/2017 Writing 19

My Top NaNoWriMo Tips

Hooray! It’s that time of year again! November is fast approaching, and so millions of writers across the world will be preparing for the month-long writing sprint that is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.

I’ve now done NaNoWriMo twice – firstly in 2014 where I wrote 42,000 words, and last year when I completed the full 50,000 words (plus I did Camp NaNoWriMo in July!) – and so I can personally vouch for just how fun, and rewarding it can be. I love the sense of community it gives, and it has definitely helped me get more writing done than anything else – something about having a specific goal really spurs me on, and I know it’s the same for a lot of writers.

However fun it may be though, NaNoWriMo is hard. Writing 1,667 words a day may sound relatively simple, but when you have to fit that into a busy life, not to mention force yourself to write on days when you really aren’t feeling it, it can get super tough.

So here are a few of my best NaNoWriMo survival tips from my two attempts, and I’d love it if you’d share some of your own in the comments!

  • Outline, outline, outline.

Sorry pantsers, but for me, outlining is a must for NaNoWriMo. I tried to ‘pants’ it the first time and quickly lost the plot (both in my novel, and brain-wise!), writing myself into a corner that I just couldn’t get myself out of. By contrast, my one and only successful attempt at NaNoWriMo (and my successful Camp NaNoWriMo!) was meticulously planned out, and this helped me know what I was going to be writing every day, so I could get to it.

That’s not to say that you need to know every single detail: if you’re not really into outlining you could just figure out what your ending will be, then you at least know what you’re working towards.

  • Jot down notes about the scene you’re going to write before each session.

Writing 1,667 words a day is tough, and can mean having to set aside a pretty big chunk of your day. However, one way I’ve found to speed up the process of getting down your daily words is to spend five minutes before each writing session quickly jotting down an outline of the scene you’re going to be writing.

This allows me to figure out the details in advance, so that once I get into the writing I can keep writing, without needing to stop and think about what will happen next. This tip probably isn’t for everyone, but I know it has helped me speed up my own writing process massively.

  • Seize every available moment.

One way of getting in your daily word count is by using those odd little moments of time you have throughout the day that are so often wasted. For example, I often use my breaks at work to fit in a bit of writing, as this is time I would otherwise spend just hanging around in the staff room. I can get down a few hundred words in a half hour break, which means my task is much smaller when I get home and have to finish my daily word count.

I work on my novel at work on my phone using the Scrivener app, which I can sync with my computer, but you could use numerous other apps, or even go old school with a notebook and pen, and then type up it later.

It may not seem worth it to use odd ten minutes here and there, but the words add up, and it can really ease the pressure of NaNoWriMo.

My Top NaNoWriMo Tips
  • Write extra on your most inspired days.

As writers, we all have days when we don’t feel like writing at all, and just putting your butt down on that chair seems like the hardest thing ever. Then there are those wonderful days when you can’t seem to type fast enough and the words are just flowing out of you in an endless stream…

Well, my advice for NaNoWriMo is to take advantage of those inspired days! If you’re having a great writing day, don’t just stop when you hit your word count, happy that you’ve done it so much quicker than normal – start stockpiling some extra words for those days when you just don’t want to write. The further ahead you get the better, as that allows for you to take breaks if you need them, or preempts any unexpected things that come up that could prevent you from writing.

I think most people tend to feel most inspired at the beginning of NaNoWriMo before it becomes too much of a drag, so that can be a great time to get ahead!

  • No editing!

Something that always used to hold up my writing process was my inner editor, and it’s refusal to let me move on until I had perfected what I had already written. The constraints of NaNoWriMo, in particular, don’t allow for much going back and making adjustments, so my advice is to simply spend November writing: no editing.

In fact, it’s probably best to not look back at anything you’ve written until NaNoWriMo is over. Your first draft may be scrappy and all over the place, but it’s better to have the story down in its entirety, ready to be worked on and fixed, than to just have a few thousand words that have been crafted to perfection. Editing as you go along is a major form of procrastination and is best resigned until you’ve finished your first draft.

  • Don’t beat yourself up if you get behind.

I may be giving out a load of tips in this post on how to win NaNoWriMo, but it’s important to remember that if you get behind, it’s not the end of the world. Stuff happens, and sometimes you can slip behind: maybe you’ll get ill, or you’ll be rushed off your feet… You can’t foretell the future, and so if you can’t write one day, don’t worry. You can catch it up, and if not, does it really matter? Any progress you make on your novel during NaNoWriMo is still progress, even if it isn’t the full 50,000 words.

  • Reward yourself.

As I’ve said, NaNoWriMo is super hard, so it’s important to reward yourself and really think about what you’re achieving. It can be so easy to get caught up in the slog of doing your words every day, and forget that you’re doing an incredible thing: you’re writing 50,000 words in 30 days!

That’s why it can be good to reward yourself when you hit different milestones, or even just celebrate having written much more than normal. I often reward myself in small ways for great writing sessions, by allowing myself to indulge in some of my favorite time-wasting pastimes (obsessive Twitter scrolling for example) that I don’t allow myself to do until after I have written each day. As a bigger reward for having achieved certain milestones, you could take a break for a day, and get out and do something nice, or have some cake or something! Whatever makes you feel good, and gives you that extra bit of incentive to keep going.

So are you taking part in NaNoWriMo 2017? Do you have any tips for fellow NaNoWriMoers?

19 Responses to “My Top NaNoWriMo Tips”

  1. Shagun

    I am taking part in NaNoWriMo this year and hope to complete my WIP novel idea. I have taken part in previous Wrimos but was never able to complete it and left mid-way. Thank you for the amazing tips.


  2. nordie@writing about books

    I havent done NaNo for years and dont plan to do so this year neither.

    For those who are more into blogging, there is #NaNoBloMo which is to do posts for every day during November. One year I might do that!

    Good Luck to everyone taking part!

  3. Cait @ Paper Fury

    I do love NaNo so so much and I’m sad that I wont’ be doing it at the beginning of the month. *howls* I LOVE your tips! I’m a huge outliner so that part is definitely me.? I may or may not have a 20,000 word outline haha. I love knowing every detail beforehand so I don’t get stuck when I go to type. That way I can type a ton each day. Rewards are also very important! like so much…chocolate…?

    Good luck to you, Laura!

    • Laura

      I’m sure you’ll catch up (or completely overtake everyone!) when you do start NaNoWriMo! 🙂
      Wow, a 20,000 word outline is impressive! I imagine it’s super helpful though knowing every little thing that happens beforehand. My plans these days are usually fairly detailed, but I still make some of it up as I go along (and then realize that a lot of it makes no sense afterward!) 🙂
      And chocolate is definitely a good motivator for me too! Any kind of food really (except vegetables!)! 🙂
      Good luck to you as well!

  4. Lys @ The Mad Reader

    I used to write stories when I was in HS but I realized I loved reading much more than writing.
    You’re absolutely right about editing, it can be so frustrating when you wrote a scene you’re not fully happy with but it’s important to move on.

    Good luck !

    • Laura

      I can never decide what I like better: reading or writing. So I’m just going to say I love them both equally! 🙂
      And yeah, I hate the feeling of leaving a scene behind that I’m not happy with, but I’d never get anywhere otherwise (I know from experience!).
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  5. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I think you have great advice here, especially outlining, no editing and writing more when you’re feeling inspired. I’m not doing NaNo this year because I really need to buckle down and edit the book from last year’s NaNo so I can submit it to some agents. I also don’t have a good enough outline worked out for the next book I want to write. BUT I’m currently working on both—so it gives me a little break. When I can’t manage to keep writing, I work on the outlining!

    • Laura

      It’s nice to have a break from writing sometimes just to work on related stuff like editing and outlining. I’m still finishing up the outlining for my NaNo novel, and I do always enjoy the process.
      Best of luck with all your editing and submitting your book to agents! 🙂

  6. ShootingStarsMag

    Great tips! I’ve never officially signed up for NanoWriMo, but I keep meaning to get back into my current WIP so I might unofficially do that this month – it will be motivating just hearing about other people working and even if I don’t hit 50k, any little bit that I get written will be success for me!!


    • Laura

      It’s definitely motivating to be writing alongside so many other people, so even if you do it unofficially I’m sure it will help you get back into your WIP. Best of luck with it! 🙂

  7. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    These are wonderful tips! I am not doing NaNo this year because I have a tendency to be wayyy too competitive with myself hah. But I think that if I listened to your tips, it would be MUCH better of a situation. Last year was a bit more productive I think, but the year before I was just a mess. I was basically a how NOT to do NaNo post. So I am just taking the year off rather than just forcing myself to write 50K worth of just… rubbish. I wish you the best of luck though, I am sure you will do amazing!!

    • Laura

      I definitely think taking a year off can be a good thing – I did that in 2015, after the disaster that was NaNo 2014, and then came back at it nice and refreshed the following year! I can be a little competitive with myself too, so this year I’m going to try and finish earlier than I did last year (so, before the last day, basically!) 🙂

  8. Kay

    I’m doing Nano again this year as well! I finally finished and published my first novel during last year’s Nano, so this year I am revisiting a sort of technically won Nano I made in 2014 that got up to 50,000 words but I realized in writing it that the plot was too big for just one book and it turned out to be a big epic series so I kind of shelved it then. But then during camp this year I had the confidence from my first success to finally go ahead and fill the huge plot gaps and make book number one in the series, and for Nano this year I am challenging myself to both write AND revise the second book all within just one month! I don’t know if I’ll survive that but I’m looking forward to the attempt.

    • Laura

      Wow, congrats on finishing and publishing your last NaNo novel! That’s amazing! And it definitely sounds like your NaNo 2017 project is ambitious, but I’m sure you can do it! Best of luck with it all! I’m sure your novel will be awesome! 🙂

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