Every November, quixotic writers attempt the totally possible yet inadvisable: writing a 50,000-word novel in a month. And those who attempt it, usually break it down in a daily word count goal. But do you have to keep the same NaNoWriMo words per day goal as everyone else?
In short, no.
But there’s a whole-ass post below with more context, so let’s set that up, yeah?
The cool thing about NaNoWriMo isn’t the writing. I mean, that’s a huge part of it, and as a writer, I do enjoy it. But the thing that makes NaNoWriMo special is the community. It’s being surrounded by others who are working on a writing project. Plus, like all work sprints, it’s nice to have a set goal for a specific amount of time and to do it in an environment that welcomes it.
So, to me, hitting the NaNoWriMo words per day goal is secondary to the rest of the experience.
And it’s in that spirit that I want to break down what NaNoWriMo has traditionally been, what it should be this year, and how you can write the amount you want to.
Traditional NaNoWriMo Words Per Day Goal: 1,667 Words
If you’re shooting for the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo end goal and you plan to write every single day of the month of November, then your daily writing goal is 1,667 words.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s not that much. I mean, it is, but it’s also not bad if you’re used to writing a lot regularly.
The thing that becomes the issue is that you can only write that amount per day if you’re going to write every day. And I don’t think that’s always possible.
(I know some writers say you have to write every day. Let them do that. The rest of us can go our own way.)
At the end of the day, the official NaNoWriMo rules simply say you have to write 50,000 words during the month of November to win, and they consider that a novel.
…but is it?
How Many Pages is 50,000 words?
Technically, 50,000 words is a novel, but it’s a short one. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby all come in around this word count mark.
And what that comes out to is around 200 pages in a fully formatted novel. I mean, page size, type, and a billion other factors come into play to figure that out, but 200 pages is a good estimate.
So, if you’re writing a 50,000 word book, I’m not saying it isn’t done. But I will also say that depending on your genre and your target audience, it may not be marketable at that length. So, even though you’re putting in a ton of work in November, that doesn’t mean that you’re done when the calendar flips to December.
Now. It’s 2022. It’s been a crazy few years. And I’m not going to tell you not to do NaNoWriMo.
But I will tell you this: You don’t have to push yourself to hit 50,000 words.
I have been actively recovering from burn out over the past year, and it’s been a slow and painful process. Plus, I just don’t have the hustle energy I used to. I look back at blog posts from 2017 and 2018, and damn. It’s wild what I was capable of back in the day.
So, because I know I’m not unique in any way, I assume you’re probably also burned out and tired and in need of a little space to chill the fuck out.
Consider this your permission slip. You can write as much as you want. But don’t get down on yourself if you can’t keep up with others who aren’t going through the shit you’re going through.
Pick a goal that works for you. It can be less or it can be more. Maybe you’re just brainstorming. Whatever you choose, do something that doesn’t wear you down.
How to Hit Your NaNoWriMo Words Per Day Goal
Okay. Make sure you’ve checked out these NaNoWriMo resources. Then you need to do to hit your NaNoWriMo words per day goal is to figure out how much you’re going to write. Set that goal first, and then follow these steps.
001: Figure out how many days you can actually write.
There’s a pretty big holiday at the end of November. Are you going to write on that day?
What about the surrounding days? Do you need to help prep for the holiday? Are you hanging with family after the holiday?
I love the idea of writing every single day of a specific month, but November will never be that month for me, especially since my husband and I host Thanksgiving now.
I can usually rule out Wednesday through Saturday as days I won’t be able to write that week. So, I take that into account. And that helps me figure out my next point.
002: Determine your NaNoWriMo words per day/week goal.
Once you know how many days you’ll be able to write, then all you need to do is divide your word count goal by the number of days you have to write.
That will give you your NaNoWriMo words per day target. Of course, if you know you’re not a daily writer and instead prefer to focus on the week as a whole, you can do that too.
Ultimately, you just need to figure out what’s going to work for you with the November you have ahead of you. You’ll probably have days where you conquer your goal and then some. And you’ll probably have days where you don’t even get close.
That’s NaNoWriMo, if I’m being honest. But having a target to hit makes it easier to know where you are and how much you have left to do.
003: Know when you’re going to write.
The real trick to hitting your goal is scheduling your writing sessions. Put them on the calendar and make it non-negotiable.
NaNoWriMo can be a shock to your system in that you’re all of the sudden building a crazy routine out of the blue. But scheduling your writing sessions is a great way to make sure you do it.
I recommend writing first thing, but I know that’s not always possible. And if you can, make sure you put your writing session on the to do list. That way, you get to check it off. That’s some really tasty dopamine when you do, and it reinforces the habit you’re building for the month.
004: Block off that time.
You have to write when you say you’re going to write. It’s hard, and writing is never as fun as like everything else you could possibly be doing. I mean, as long as Netflix and friends exist, there are so many compelling reasons not to write.
So blocking off that time is important. It helps you actually do what you said you were going to do.
And if you’re a Google calendar and scheduling app user like me, it prevents anyone from scheduling anything during the time when I’m going to be writing.
005: Say no.
People will ask if you want to hang out. You’ll get invited to do stuff. You’ll get offers that otherwise wouldn’t sound great, but you want to procrastinate so suddenly they’re enticing.
You have to say no. That’s the thing about NaNoWriMo. You’re going to say no to a lot of things that stop you from writing.
But, if you’re starved for human connection, you can always go to a local writing meetup. Check the NaNoWriMo site to see what your local group has planned for the month. There are always tons of in-person and online options.
006: Be scrappy.
Look. You’re going to be tired. So tired.
But you can make this happen. It’s just one month of writing. (And maybe more if you aren’t done with the story by the end of the month.)
So, get creative. Dictate some words into your phone on the way home from work. Use your phone’s notes app while you wait in line somewhere. Sure, you probably won’t get all your daily words by doing that, but you’ll get some fo them, and when you finally get some time to catch up, you won’t be so far behind.
005: Be prepared.
Look. I’ve talked a lot about outlining in the past and if you know how to write fast, you know you have to outline.
So, I’ll just leave it there. Prepare before NaNoWriMo. Do some NaNoWriMo planning. Have some kind of idea. It doesn’t have to be super detailed, but the more detailed, the better.
What’s Your NaNoWriMo Words Per Day Goal?
How many words per day will you be writing this November? Do you always stick to the 50,000 word goal? Does the holiday make it hard for you to write too?