As someone who has participated - and won - every Nanowrimo since 2011, I know how easy it is to just give up when you’re pressed for time in the last minute stretches. I understand what it’s like when the coffee is running low and everything feels useless. I have hit my personal word count goal at midnight the day of Nanowrimo, and I’ve hit the 50k goal long before the due date.
Every year brings different challenges and opportunities - and every year brings amazing stories. I’ve used these tips every National Novel Writing Month and I’m confident they’ll help you as much as they’ll help me.
Are you ready to defy what’s humanly possible and write a novel in a month? You can do it, and you can win - even if you’re behind. No matter how far behind you are, you can finish. Even if you're starting at zero words, it's only roughly 7,000 words a day to finish on time. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.
Finishing Nanowrimo Strong
Be vocal about your goals
Something that’s helped me every year as I’ve finished my National Novel Writing Month novel is to be extremely vocal about my goals. If you are vocal about your goals, people will ask you about them, and it will help motivate you to finish them.
Get people in your corner who you can trust. One thing that’s helped me is having people check in with me every month; people who care about my goals, people who want to cheer me on, and who want to support me. This helps to remind me of why I’m doing this and what’s important.
If you feel like you can’t talk to your writing with anyone in real life, or you just feel like you need more support, join the Plot Factory Discord server. Full of supportive and encouraging people, you’ll be able to get help with any writing-related tasks. I use the server quite often, and get great benefit from it. AS an added bonus, you might even see the owner of Plot Factory roaming around the server, answering questions for those who need help.
If you get stuck, switch it up
Don’t get stuck in your writing. Bounce around scenes, make things fun, enjoy your time. If you’re stuck on chapter one, try starting in the middle of the book, or just write a fun scene with your character. Words are words, and you don’t have to go in order. Historically, I’ve made the most progress when I’ve moved out of order and written in a variety of different ways.
Don’t forget that it’s okay to jump around in your writing, either. If you really want to write the scene where one of your characters battles with another, that’s totally fine. I encourage you to try writing scenes out of order and experiment with what works for you.
Use writing tools
The good news is that there are a wide variety of writing tools available to help you in your writing search.
If you’re short on writing ideas, the National Novel Writing Month forum has an entire section called the “adoption society” dedicated to getting new ideas. Additionally, searching Google for “plot ideas” and “writing prompts” is a fantastic way to get more insight. Asking friends and family for ideas is another tip to think of an unorthodox ideas for your story. Additionally, the Plot Factory Discord Server has entire sections devoted towards brainstorming for stories, so don’t be afraid to join us there.
Use the word count features on Plot Factory and Nanowrimo! This is a great way to gain some motivation.
Bad Writing is Part of The Process
Take chances and make mistakes. During Nanowrimo, it’s important to free yourself of the need to edit. It’s important to try new things. Something I’ve allowed myself to do during each Nanowrimo is to write material, even if I don’t like it. It’s important to plow through your feelings of doubt and your feelings of dismay.
National Novel Writing Month is about writing content. Any content. The words don’t have to be excellent. They just have to be words. Every word is progress!
Keep track of all your words
Every word counts! Even if you don’t like it, keep track of your words! Every word will bring you closer to your word count goal, and will allow you to meet your mark. It’s important to keep track of any word you write, as it will bring you closer to the goal. I have a file for my total word count and use that to keep track of scenes that I write that are potentially scattered. This really helps me maximize my word count and ensure everything is properly accounted for. It also makes sure I’m not scrambling to find my words when it’s time to validate my words.
Find a writing time that works
Find a set time for writing that works for you. Many people will emphasize that you need to write early in the morning when there aren’t many distractions. Many people will insist you carve out a time that’s specifically for you. However, if your schedule and energy varies, sometimes that’s just not possible. Once you’ve found a solid writing time that works, stick with it!
Write extra when you can
Anytime I have a few extra minutes, I try and use them to write. I especially appreciate being able to write. I have Google Docs on my phone, and anytime I’m stuck waiting for more than a couple of minutes, I try to bust out a few extra words. It really adds up and allows me to build a robust word count over time. If you write by hand, or don’t like writing on your phone, try carrying around a notebook. Even if you’re not comfortable capturing long scenes by hand, try writing down ideas.
I’ve always found that in the final days of November, as the candlelight burns, I’m worn out and weary; and my motivation is gone faster than my chocolate. I try and rely not on motivation, but on discipline. Setting aside time every day to write is extremely important.
Be okay with failure
It’s okay to fail. Every word that you’ve gotten on paper is further than the words before. Every word you write is a success.
Reward yourself for milestones met
When you meet milestones, reward yourself! It’s important to try new things, and to reward yourself for accomplishments. Here are some easy ways to reward yourself:
- An hour of screentime (watching your favorite movie; playing a game on your PS4)
- Ice cream
- Dinner out
- A class you really want
- A hardcover book when you finish Nanowrimo
- Something from Amazon
- A bubble bath
The most important thing to do is try. It’s important to try and write things. It’s important to try and write new things. Mix things up. Take chances. Make mistakes. Whatever your word count at the end of November, you’re a winner for starting out with more words than you started with.