NaNo · Write Now

Writing WIP Wednesday ~ How to NaNo

November is just around the corner, and for me November means NaNoWriMo! I’ve seen several of my blog friends mention NaNo this year as well, so I though I’d offer some tips I have for NaNo Newbies.

(I may not be a professional writer, but I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for somewhere around 10 years, so I have some experience in how to make it a more enjoyable month.)

(The NaNo team also has some great NaNo-prep tools on their website if you want more ideas, including several prep-work prompts and worksheets.)

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1. Start November with something pre-planned.

This doesn’t have to be a full outline (though it certainly can be!), but start with something. Characters, plot points, setting, or all of the above: it’s your choice. But starting with something will make sure that you spend a little less time staring at a blank screen at the beginning of November.

I also like to start character and plot development early so that I can get excited about my story. Shiny new ideas can be great, but I prefer to know more detail so that I have an idea of where my story is starting and where it is going. My most successful years have been the ones where I had a least a basic outline and character sheets ready in October.

2. Don’t try to re-read what you have already written.

The more you review what you have already written, the more you will be tempted to edit it. Editing is not for NaNoWriMo. Editing is for December. Some years, I have started a new Word file for each day specifically so that I wouldn’t be tempted to edit the work I’d done on previous days.

3. Go to your local write-ins.

I have a group of local WriMos who meet up on a regular basis all year round. I join them off and on all year, but I try to go weekly during November. It’s surprising to me how fun NaNo can be as a social event. Also, while the group gossips and socializes during the rest of the year, in November we do word sprints and encourage each other to write.

Some of my most successful days of writing have been at my weekly NaNo Write-In.

If you don’t have a local group, or they meet on a days when you can’t attend, you can find WriMos online who are happy to do word sprints and provide help or encouragement as needed. The official NaNoWriMo website is a great resource for finding others who prefer / need to connect online instead of in person. There are NaNo groups on Twitter, Discord, Facebook… you name it.

4. Plan for a day or two off.

Yes, planning a day off into your schedule means that you will need to write more on the other days. But — at least in the US — November includes Thanksgiving, and I know very few people who can be as productive as normal on a holiday. Even if you’re not celebrating any holidays in November, burnout is a distinct possibility when you’re doing a lot of something that you’re not used to doing. Setting aside a day or two as “days off” can make the days when you are writing that much more productive. (Just make sure that you’re taking a day off, and not procrastinating.)

I always prefer to have a buffer in place before my days off so that even after not writing for a day I’m still ahead of the pace needed to reach my goal.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If you’ve done it before, do you have any tips for NaNo Newbies that I’ve forgotten?

30 thoughts on “Writing WIP Wednesday ~ How to NaNo

  1. I would like to try this year, but have no plots/plans/characters/ all i have are ideas, but they are stuck in my head and soon as i try write it down, idea is gone😖

    1. Ideally I would like to publish, though I’m not really looking at it as a “day job replacement” type of thing. If I can make writing my career, that would be awesome. But right now I’m a hobbyist with a goal of eventual publication. 🙂

  2. I’ve participated in NaNo for a few years now! These are great points of advice for old and new NaNo participants!

    My biggest piece of advice is not to worry about hitting the 50K goal, just write. Any progress in writing/working on writing is a success in my head.

    (I say this but I’ve “won” every year, so if I don’t complete the goal, I wonder if I’ll feel differently.)

    1. Thanks! And not worrying about the 50K goal is great advice, too!

      (I haven’t “won” every year, but I still feel like it’s good advice. 🙂 The years I’ve done NaNo and yet known that I’d be able to set aside time for writing during only half the month were really stressful until I remembered that I didn’t actually have to hit 50K in order to consider the month a success.)

        1. Sometimes I think November was a really bad choice, given the holidays and such. But… if I intend to write as a full-time thing, I guess it’s good to get the idea of holidays interrupting my writing time out there as soon as possible! 😀

  3. Great tips Nicole! I’ve never done a NaNo before. I think it’s because as soon as I force myself to write it feels like a chore and I stop wanting to write.

    I also think that following my summer experience where I attempted to submit my work to agents I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t have thick enough skin for publishing. So anything I do write is really just for my eyes anyway. I don’t want to say that renders writing a fruitless task, because I do enjoy it, it’s just not one I need to do with any sense of urgency.

    I hope you have fun with it though!

      1. You know I think I would have felt better if one of the agents I sent it to had offered some kind of feedback, but all I got was one instance of “not right for me” and a bunch of form letters.

        That what I sent didn’t even warrant feedback just made me feel like it was hopeless. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t even query that many agents, but it was just disheartening.

          1. Eh- it’s okay. No real harm done. I know they are busy and inundated with requests- it just would have been nice to know what I needed to work on – whether my query letter sucks or my writing is just not up to par. Lol

  4. These are great rules for writing in general!
    I’m always quite busy in November (and writing a book in a month would probably kill me even if that wasn’t the case), so I have never tried my hand at NaNo, but I enjoy watching my writer friends try to tackle it and coming up with new ways to make it through.
    Best of luck!

  5. How cool that you’ve been doing NaNo for ten years!! Great advice here! (I agree that most people can do with a day off here and there—it’s not as hard to make up as you’d think. There are usually days that you’re more productive than you expected to be.) 🙂

  6. Wonderful tips! I’m going on my 9th year of participating in NaNo. I don’t have any hopes of winning because I’m really busy right now, but it doesn’t feel right to skip a year. I love participating in NaNo too much.

  7. Some fantastic tips here! I don’t participate in NaNo any more, because the pressure was just too much for me and isn’t enjoyable anymore at this point. But I love being a cheerleader and jumping in with writing sprints!

    Wanting to stop and edit always got me. The starting a new file for every day thing is so smart! I never thought of that. When I was doing it, though, to help me stay focused (because I have ADHD and attention issues), I used to use Write or Die and that helped a lot. It looks like they’ve changed it a bit since I used it, but that was always my go-to.

  8. Excellent tips Nicole! I love the idea to open a new file each day to keep from rereading or rewriting. That is something I’m horrible at. I love to edit and don’t really love to draft so its a struggle for me. I hope NaNo goes well for you this year!! ❤️❤️❤️

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