6 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

Throughout the month of October, I’ll be posting a few blogs about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is in November. As I had such a positive experience last year, I’ll be talking about why I recommend it and how to survive it. #WhyNaNo

The main way to survive NaNoWriMo is to just keep writing. NaNoWriMo’s point is to produce a first draft, not a brilliant masterpiece. Sit down and write, every day, and fifty thousand words or not, you’ll be somewhere you weren’t a month before. Aside “just keep writing,” here are six tips for staying on track.

1. Block out a time of day to write.NaNoWriMo Participant Badge - get yours at nanowrimo.org.

I didn’t do this last year, but I’ve found it to be a big help this year as I’ve written more often since then. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, and it can be in bursts, but I’ll probably come with something like, “I will write for 30 minutes at 8 p.m. every day in November.”

2. Write as much as you can once you sit down to write, rather than stopping after you hit that day’s word count goal.

I also didn’t do this as much as I should have last year, but trust me, it will save you later in November, especially if you’re an American who will be observing Thanksgiving or any other holiday celebration towards the end of the month. I also find the excitement level is high week one, so take advantage of the early energy to get ahead.

3. If you’re prone to edit as you go, use techniques or software that don’t let you edit.

Other than sheer willpower, there are a few ways to combat this.

  • Use Earnest which doesn’t allow you to backspace or delete anything.
  • Turn your font to white in a text editor, so you can’t see what you’re writing, or where to backspace. (This only works if you’re a fairly confident typist, and don’t need to see what you’re typing to type accurately.)
  • Psych yourself out of editing by doing word sprints, where you commit to getting a certain amount of words down in a certain amount of time. Personally, I’m competitive enough that this works. If I say I’m going to write 1,000 words in 20 minutes, then I’ll focus enough on that to refrain from edits.

4. Have prompts on hand.

I like to keep a document of favorite writing prompts, and you might also want to check out NaNoWriMo’s NaNo Prep, some of which have exercises you can do now to pull out later during NaNo when you’re stuck. NaNoWriMo’s Twitter account @NaNoWordSprints also supplies hundreds, if not thousands, of prompts during NaNo.

5. Use what motivates you.

For me, it’s going off to a coffee shop for a few hours, cocooning myself in a corner with a latte, and blocking everything out for a few hours to write. Figure out what it is, and use it to keep going.

6. Plug in to the community, whether online or locally.6 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

I’ve aleady mentioned a few of NaNoWriMo’s own resources, like their blog and NaNoWordSprints, but I recommend

connecting with real people who are doing NaNo! I love the local component of NaNo that allows you to meet other NaNoers in person at write-ins and other writer events. And if you don’t have time to make it to actual meetups or there isn’t one in your area, connect with the online community via the NaNo site or social media. I’m amazed by the amount of support and comraderie you can find from other NaNoers.

If you want to find me during NaNo, go to my NaNo page and buddy me. I’m looking forward to meeting new NaNoers this year!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo, too? Tell me why you love it and how you survive it in the comments and feel free to find me and “buddy” me on the NaNoWriMo site, @kthrog.

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