Today is the start of a bunch of crazy folks trying to write 50,000 words in a month. Here’s how to win NaNoWriMo.

How to Win NaNoWriMo

Original photo by Jessica Castro 

So, we know that we just need to hit 50,000 words, right? And like, maybe just saying “write 50,000 words” is sufficient advice for conquering NaNoWriMo. But I think that’s a little flippant, and you can’t really explain something by just saying what it is.

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So, with that in mind, today I’m sharing how to win NaNoWriMo. It’s partly writing. It’s partly self-care. It’s partly time-management. It’s 100% doable. And mostly, it’s a game of tricking yourself into doing a hard thing.

I wrote about doing hard things in this post about how to stop procrastinating. (By the way, if you want to do NaNoWriMo, then procrastinating is not an option. Well, it is. But it’s not the best option.) But NaNoWriMo is one of those things that’s a fun activity, as well as a metaphor and a proving ground. It’s a metaphor because it’s symbolic of the general struggle to overcome your couch-loving ways to do a thing. It’s a proving ground because you can prove to yourself that you can do hard things.

How to Win NaNoWriMo

001: Manage your time.

I have learned that this is basically the key to life. And, if you figure out how to manage your time, you’re basically like Neo in that scene in The Matrix where he can see everything in the green binary code. YOU HAVE DEFEATED THE MATRIX. Or something. Honestly, I don’t remember what that scene was about.

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Anyway, knowing the amount of time you have upfront is going to be the best way to know when you have time to work on your novel. I have all my potential writing meetups already written in my planner, and I’m definitely going to use my highlighter time blocking method to make sure I have enough time to complete my project. I do plan to show off some of my NaNoWriMo planning stuff on my YouTube channel, so stay tuned for that.

002: Write in short bursts.

Writing springs are your friend, especially if you aren’t used to sitting down for long periods of time. I’m a fan of spreading out my sprints throughout the day, and getting a few thousand words over the course of the entire day, rather than all at once.

Obviously, this advice isn’t for everyone. But I don’t think any advice is. If the idea of sitting at a computer and writing for 2+ hours after the time you spent at your work computer makes your skin crawl, then this is for you. It’s great to sit down for 15-20 minutes for a sprint in the morning, once at lunch, and then once in the evening. It makes the task feel more doable, and like you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to hit the word count because you’ve broken it into manageable bits.

003: Use an outline.

Don’t worry, pantsers. You don’t have to have a super detailed outline. But it’s a good idea to have a general idea of where you’re going. I think it makes it easier to stop yourself from going off on tangents, and it helps when you run out of inspiration because you can just move to a different part in your story.

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For me, I’m a fan of the Save the Cat method, as well as the Plot Embryo. (Remember when I wrote about how to outline your novel?) So if you find yourself sans outline at this point in the game, both of those methods are pretty quick. (Depending upon how detailed you get.) So you can take some time to complete one of these before you get too far into it.

004: Take shortcuts where you can.

Look. I know I just encouraged you to do hard things. And you should. Just make sure you’re doing the hard things that matter. You know what doesn’t matter? Eating clean, organic, homemade stuff every single day. (I’m not saying your health doesn’t matter. But I am saying you don’t have to always make stuff yourself.) Find easy alternatives to your most time-consuming human tasks.

I plan to eat super basic foods during NaNoWriMo. I’m a fan of bagged salad mixes with pre-cooked chicken. And if you follow me on Instagram stories, you’ll know that I am the queen of taking tuna salad and crackers for lunch. It ain’t glamorous. But it’s cheap and easy, and it’s healthier than anything I can buy on campus. So, that’s how I save time. There are a million other chores and tasks where you can take a shortcut. And there ain’t no shame in it.

005: Focus on you.

I find that I’m surrounded by people who are willing to walk through fire for others, but won’t take an hour to themselves. You can’t do that during NaNoWriMo. This novel is for you. It’s about proving to yourself that you can do it, and taking the time to write, which is time that you might feel you need to give to others.

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It may feel selfish. It may feel weird. It may even feel lonely since you’re working by yourself for so much time. But it’s part of the process. And it’s important to treat yourself to this process if you want write. So take care of yourself and give yourself the time and space to write. Find your room of one’s own, and guard it.

This novel is for you. It's about proving to yourself that you can do it and taking the time to write. Share on X

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How Will You Win NaNoWriMo?

So, what do you think? Did I leave anything out? Is there something you do every year that’s a game changer for you? Let us know in the comments!

2 Responses

  1. This is some great advice! I’ve found the short bursts thing to be really effective too – although it’s getting harder as we crawl towards the end of the month and I still have like 15,000 words or so left to write!

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