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5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

Do you hear it? The scratch of pencil strokes, the click-clacking of keys…and the distinct whisper of hairs being yanked out of frustrated heads…

That’s right! It’s the most wonderful time of the year–NaNoWriMo!

For all the rubes out there who have no idea what I’m talking about, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Sure, it sounds a little crazy, but it’s actually a lot of fun (seriously, I did it last year and I really enjoyed it even though I didn’t finish). Not only do you get to make some killer progress on your writing dreams, but it’s the absolute best way to network with other writers who are in the trenches with you. We could go on for ages about NaNoWriMo but we’ll leave the rest of the work to the NaNoWriMo website.

This year, Duolit is celebrating NaNoWriMo with some advice on writing and marketing preparation for your NaNoWriMo experience plus some super sweet giveaways in October and November.

So without further ado, let’s get to your 5 tips for NaNoWriMo Success!

1. Make an outline. This is not against the rules and in fact is encouraged by the creators of NaNoWriMo. Based on personal experience I can tell you that it’s a lifesaver. The more planning you do, the better. To crank out 50,000 words in 30 days you need to maximize every minute you have to write. Having an outline will allow you to stay focused and keep moving forward.

2. Plan your attack. Make a plan that breaks down the 50,000 words into manageable chunks–by week or even by day if you prefer. You might want to stagger the word counts for your goals based on your November calendar (Thanksgiving, for example, is not an ideal time for writing–all the cooking followed by the debilitating post-meal lethargy…that might be a good week to have a smaller goal!).

3. Manage your expectations. NaNoWriMo is not necessarily about quality of writing, it’s about quantity. That’s not to say that you should plan to write a bunch of useless drivel, it just means that you should treat this as a rough draft, not a final product. Don’t over-think things, don’t spend a ton of time editing, just get the words out. After the competition is over you’ll have as much time as you need to edit and reshape your work into exactly what you want it to be.

4. Build a creative cocoon. Figure out where you’re going to do your writing and what you need to make it a productive work space. Do you have a comfortable chair? A functional computer? What makes you most creative? Do you need to be surrounded by books or surrounded by an empty canvas (with no distractions)? Most importantly…do you have a mini fridge stocked with Mountain Dew? You’re gonna need it…

5. Just relax! To get the most out of your NaNoWriMo experience you have to kick back and enjoy it. Best case scenario, you will come away from this with the first complete draft of your next novel. Worst case scenario, you’ll have some great writing experience and a few new friends. Either way, you will learn a lot about yourself as a writer, which makes it a very worthy experience!

  • Thanks for the tips! This will be my first attempt at NaNo, and I am unbelievably excited. I’ll be working on my outline between now and November 1.

  • I’m geared up and raring to go. Started outlining, which is something I don’t usually do for other manuscripts. Well, maybe sometimes I do. These are great tips. This will be my second Nano and I was a winner last year. Without planning ahead and outlining, it would be difficult. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ah, NaNoWriMo. At this point in my life I know trying to get a whole book finished in a month would kill me. But I’m trying to figure out some way to participate anyways. Maybe half a book…or just 50,000 words written. I dunno.
    Thanks for the advice though, it’s good stuff even if you’re not trying to write a book in a month. I know having a productive (read: removed from distraction) writing space is important for me.

  • Liz

    I love NaNoWriMo! (It’s National Novel Writing Month, by the way.) I’ve been doing it since 2005 and I’ve learned and grown a lot as a writer because of it. It’s a lot of fun, whether you win or not. I encourage anyone who thinks they shouldn’t do it because they won’t win to do it anyway. It’s so much fun.

    Half the battle for me is limiting distractions, so you may want to turn off your internet connection while you write. I’m notorious for stopping mid-sentence and jumping on Twitter, so disconnecting really helps me keep those procrastination urges at bay.

    I also recommend buddying up with someone, either someone you know online or in person. You can bounce ideas off each other, groan about writers’ block, word counts, and wayward characters, and high five each other as you hit your milestones (whether they’re 10,000-word milestones or one-chapter milestones).

    Good luck to everyone participating this year!

  • Very excited for NaNo this year. It’s so hard for me to plan before hand. I tend to think things through in my head a lot, but charting or planning on paper before hand intimidates me. Trying to turn over a new leaf though 😉

  • Rob

    I usually create a long outline before starting on a writing project (last year I used NaNoWriMo to do a rewrite) but decided that I was getting obsessed with plot machinations. This year I’ve listed 30 scenes to write, one per day.

  • Great advice! Though I hated doing outlines in school – I have realised that if I don’t outline, I fail. I’m halfway through my current outline for this year’s NaNo. Still a bit shady about my ending (trying to not let this give me stress), but I’m hopeful this year!

  • David Allen

    My first time to do the NaNo and so far I have been just going over a first scene in my head as I walk the mutt every day. Plus havin a few vague ideas about where it might lead to. I kind of fancy having a flight of fancy with the story.
    I should have a few more scenes listed out as I go so that I have an idea what I might be writing about for a couple of days in advance.
    It would brilliant if I could write at the same time as I walked the dog.

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  • Great Tips! This is my first year doing NaNoWriMo, and I’m pretty excited about it. I have an outline, but I’m still trying to figure out how much work I can realistically get done a day. Not sure if I’ll make 50,000 words by the end of Nov., but I’ll try my best! Good luck to everyone!