5 Must-Dos for a Successful NaNoWriMo

Every year, more than a half-million writers participate in National Novel Writing Month with the goal of penning a 50,000-word novel during November. Unfortunately, many of them fall short of their objective while others who did complete the novel found doing so extremely stressful or realize that what they’ve written wasn’t all that good.

Kudos, though, to all of those writers who participated, even if they didn’t finish their novels. Writing a book – even part of one – is no easy task. And most writers, whether successful or not at NaNoWriMo, grow in their craft simply from the effort.

Of course, the goal is to finish your book. How can you do that…or at least reduce the stress of writing one or come up with something publishable by Dec. 1? Here are five “secrets” that most successful NaNoWriMo participants know.

TIP 1: Don’t Wait Until November to Start
Get started early in October. Spend the month brainstorming and outlining your plot, characters and settings. The more detailed the outline, the better, as writing during November then will be just a matter of turning notes into complete sentences and paragraphs as well as fleshing out details and ensuring your writing has flair. In short, November is about writing the first draft not coming up with a story idea, developing characters and storylines, or deciding which point of view is best. And no, you are not cheating by starting early.

TIP 2: Block Out Time Every Day to Write
Your goal is to write 1667 words a day, and doing that from an outline might require a half-hour, an hour, or even more. Determine in advance roughly how much time is needed; during a three-day weekend, set aside the morning of each day to write. Time how long it takes you each day to hit 1667 words and then average it. If that number is 45 minutes, then you must set aside 45 minutes every day in which you will not be interrupted by family members, in which you unplug the cell phone and Internet and television, in which you focus solely on writing.

TIP 3: Keep Writing if You Can
Of course, writing for 45 minutes a day for 30 days straight when you have family, work and holidays is difficult at best. And don’t forget that November usually is cold and flu season. So always work ahead on your word count. If you reach 1667 words in just 30 minutes one day, keep writing for the next 15 minutes. That puts you 800+ words closer to meeting the next day’s word count. And should you find that you have 50 minutes or an hour rather than 45 minutes to write one day, take advantage of the opportunity and keep going.

TIP 4: Don’t Edit
Rather than spend your writing time editing yesterday’s work or revising what you just wrote five minutes before, let it go. Treat your writing sessions as drafting sessions in which your goal is to simply get to 1667 words. You can fix the spelling, capitalization, punctuation, awkward wording, misused word, weak description, poor dialogue, and passive voice later. In fact, that’s why we have December. Yes, revising and editing is an important part of the writing process, but your sole focus during November ought to be on drafting.

TIP 5: Don’t Stop Thinking Once You’ve Stopped Drafting
Once your writing session is over for the day, don’t stop thinking about your story. Review your outline to see what comes next and then through the day keep working on it in your head as you fold laundry, set in a meeting, prepare dinner, pick up the kids, brush your teeth, walk the dog…you get the idea: You develop and play out in your mind what you will write the next day. Carry a pen and notepad with you to write down great lines, details and ideas so you don’t forget them!


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.