There’s a crisp chill in the air. My family has started to politely argue over who will bring what to Thanksgiving. My seasonal depression is banging down the door. That must mean National Novel Writing Month is upon us, and with that, I’ll be sharing my NaNoWriMo tips to help you win this year.

A notebook and cup of tea on a low table in the foreground with a blurred person writing in a notebook held on their lap in the background with the text "NaNoWriMo Tips to Help You Win This Year"

For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, let me explain.

(Also, how did you get here? Like, not that I’m asking in a shitty way. But like, if you don’t know what NaNo is, welcome…I guess? We talk about writing and tarot and books and planning and mindset here.)

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, and a bunch of quixotic little storytellers try to win NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words during the month.

It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot fun.

NaNoWriMo Tips to Help You Win This Year

To me, NaNoWriMo isn’t so much a writing challenge as it is a battle against your greatest foe–yourself.

With that in mind, I created these NaNoWriMo tips to help you vanquish procrastination, plot bunnies, and the tendency to chug a whole pot of coffee and call it inspiration.

(Just me?)

Start With Preptober

Preptober is the month before NaNoWriMo. Which is to say, October is the month where many writers spend time gathering inspiration, building outlines, and planning their writing schedule. A Preptober must is setting up a writer’s notebook where you can house all the resources you’ll need for the work you have ahead of you.

I like to use the notebook for housing my ideas all in one place. But if you aren’t the type to outline, you can use Preptober as a time to gather some NaNoWriMo prompts. Then, when NaNoWriMo hits, you can write by the seat of your pants by selecting a prompt at zero hour.

(That very idea makes my skin crawl, and I have no idea how people do stuff without planning ahead.)

Not sure what you might need to gather before you start writing? Check out this post on what to put in your NaNoWriMo notebook. And these NaNoWriMo resources will help you get your notebook in fighting shape.

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When Is NaNoWriMo 2023?

The NaNoWriMo November challenge starts on November first and ends at the end of the month. It’s not uncommon for local writing groups to schedule write-ins on Midnight of November first so writers can hit the ground running. To find a local NaNoWriMo group, you just need to sign up at NaNoWriMo.org, and find your local chapter. From there, find their meetup schedule and attend as many writing sessions as you’d like.

If writing during a month with a major holiday (in the U.S.) doesn’t sound great, I totally feel you. November is a busy month for sure. But the NaNoWriMo organization has you covered.

In April and July every year, NaNoWriMo also hosts Camp NaNoWriMo, which gives you two more months to focus on your fiction. The rules are a little different for Camp NaNoWriMo, but it’s still got the same, great atmosphere and it can be the perfect kick in the ass to finish your WIP.

For more information on Camp NaNoWriMo, check out these posts:

NaNoWriMo Rules

The rules for NaNoWriMo are simple. To win, you have to write 50,000 words through the month of November. The idea is that 50,000 words is a novel.

(It’s a pretty short one, but that’s neither here nor there.)

To hit that 50,000 word goal, you need to write 1,667 NaNoWriMo words per day. It’s a pretty doable amount, while still being an absolute pain in the ass since you have to hit that number every single day. If you don’t, then you’ll have to double up on other days, and that’s when the word count can really snowball and take you out.

To be recognized as one of the many NaNoWriMo winners, you have to sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and report your daily word counts. Then, when you’ve hit the 50,000 word goal, you have to upload your draft to be verified before November ends, and then you achieve victory.

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There isn’t a real prize for winners. I mean, you get a certificate you can download, and winners get access to tons of discounts for writerly products. But winning NaNoWriMo is more about hitting the goal than anything else.

I have this post on how to win NaNoWriMo, if you really want to dig into what it takes to win.

So what happens to NaNoWriMo books after November? Well. I recommend you do a quick Google search for that. Why? Because you’d be shocked by how many popular novels (even some that have been made into movies!) were NaNoWriMo books.

NaNoWriMo Tips for Beginners

NaNoWriMo can be fun, even if it’s hard. If this is your first time tackling the challenge, these tips are for you.

  1. Plan ahead. Even if you don’t want to plan your story, make sure you plan when you’ll be writing and block off time in your schedule for it.
  2. Writing can be boring. It’s fun to write the scenes where the story is really moving and you’re enjoying yourself, but sitting down in front of a computer to write is never going to be as fun as going out with your friends. Be ready to say no to some fun stuff.
  3. Surround yourself with inspiration. Photos, playlists, books that you love–whatever works for you is fine. But the more inspiration you have at your fingertips, the easier it will be to keep going.
  4. Don’t let research take over. If you need some scientific information or some simple fact checking, don’t do it while you’re writing. Instead, mark in your manuscript where you need the info, and just keep writing to keep your momentum. Write first, edit later is a spiritual discipline.
  5. It will be stupid. The hardest part of sticking with a manuscript is telling the voice inside your head to shut the fuck up and let you write. Your draft will be stupid, and that’s totally fine. Let it be as silly as it needs to be.
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Still on the fence if you want to try or not? Check out these 10 reasons why you should try NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Tips for Students and Teachers

Maybe you’re a student or teacher and you want to participate. Do I recommend this? I mean, yes. But here’s some things to keep in mind.

  1. Time is of the essence. If you’re a student, finals are coming up hot and fast, and if you’re a teacher, you’re buried under papers that need to be graded. You will have less time than the average person to complete NaNoWriMo because you already have a ton of extracurricular studying/grading to get to. I recommend getting as far ahead as possible early in the month.
  2. You need time away from a computer too. If you’re writing/grading papers at your laptop all day, do you really need to schedule another hour-long writing sprint? PROBABLY NOT. Take care of yourself and do what your body needs.
  3. Take advantage of weird time pockets. If you find yourself waiting in line at the bank or sitting in a waiting room while your car’s oil is changed, take that time to chip away at your daily word count. Use your phone’s notes app if you have to.

For what it’s worth, I was never able to complete NaNoWriMo as a student, mostly because I was already writing for all my classes. (That’s what happens when you go to school for writing.) And when I was teaching, I was only able to win NaNoWriMo once, mostly because I changed the final project from a heartbreakingly bullshit long paper to a group presentation. Did the department adopt this idea because everyone was burnt out and our communications students needed this reprieve? Yep.

Are You Taking on the NaNoWriMo Challenge?

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo 2023? Do you plan to join local writing meetups? What’s your favorite part of NaNoWriMo?

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