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8 Tips & Tricks To Ace National Novel Writing Month

By Ashley Austrew

The month of November is a special one for writers. It’s NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. During this month, writers race against the clock to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. Whether you’re brand new to writing or you’ve got 30 other novels under your belt, NaNoWriMo is a daunting challenge. It requires setting aside your doubts, doing plenty of preparation, and telling the very best story you can, as quickly as you can. As you get ready to dive in, you may be wondering if there are any strategies or advice you should follow to help you find success. Stick with us as we share eight useful tips and tricks for planning, writing, and finishing your NaNoWriMo novel.

1. Make a plan.

Many writers fall into one of two categories: planner or pantser. Planners, as you can probably guess from the name, are those who like to plan their stories using an outline before writing. Pantsers, on the other hand, fly by the seat of their pants. They do little planning and see where the story takes them.

Of course, you may also be a combination of the two. No matter which category you fall into, it’s helpful to do some preparation before you begin to write on November 1. This could be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be. Here are some ideas:

 

  • Complete a detailed outline.
  • Journal in a character’s voice for 10-20 minutes.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and make a list of as many ideas for names, scenes, or locations as you can.
  • Write detailed chapter summaries for each chapter.
  • Complete “beat sheets” that outline the main plot points (or “beats”) of your novel.

2. Set a daily goal.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a big goal. If you break it down by daily word count, it amounts to about 1,667 words per day. This can be a helpful starting point for setting some writing goals, but keep in mind that hitting close to 2,000 words per day may not be doable every single day.

Think through what’s possible for you based on your schedule and unique needs. For example, you may set a word count goal of 500 words per day during the week, and then plan to write 1,250 each day during the weekends. Or, you could base your goals on time, committing to writing 30, 45, or even 60 minutes a day, and then assessing your output and adjusting from there. You know your schedule and pacing best, so take some time to create a realistic plan.

3. Create a space to write.

In an ideal world, we’d all have a gorgeous writing nook with a cozy desk overlooking a view of the ocean or a magical forest. In reality, most people are trying to fit writing in wherever they can, and that might include working on the couch in your tiny apartment or drafting a story at the kitchen table while helping kids with homework.

Even if you aren’t working with tons of space, try to gather your regular supplies and keep them in a designated place for the month of November. Maybe you have a desk, but maybe you also just have a single shelf that houses all of your stuff. Having your notebooks, pens, laptop, Dictionary.com app, and other necessities ready to go can make it easier to work when the time comes. Keeping things in a designated area can also help you start to establish a routine: whenever you’re in that space or around your tools, you’ll instinctively feel ready to work.

4. Write now, edit later.

As a writer, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of never-ending editing. You may write a huge chunk of your story on Thursday night, but then you come back to it on Friday morning and want to go over every word with a fine-toothed comb. Before you know it, you’ve spent all of your Friday writing time editing yesterday’s work.

To finish your novel for NaNoWriMo, you’ll need to keep moving forward, not backwards. Rather than going back and editing, try one of these tips:

 

  • Highlight parts you want to come back and work on later.
  • Leave a note or symbol in spots you want to change.
  • Keep a notebook where you jot down edits to make later as you write.
  • Don’t re-read everything you already wrote. Just look at the last sentence.

‎You’ll be in the mood to write after reviewing this guide on creating ambience and atmosphere in your next written masterpiece.

5. Eliminate distractions.

When your writer brain is turned on, try turning everything else off. Turn your phone off, log out of your social media apps, and just focus on the story you’re trying to tell. At certain points in your novel writing journey, having the support of peers and online friends can be helpful. NaNoWriMo.org even allows you to connect with other writers and create local groups. But when you’ve scheduled time to actually work on your novel, stepping back from the group chats may increase your focus and help you get more words on the page.

6. Read.

Stephen King once wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” You may not have as much time for reading when you’re busy writing your novel, but making time to read can help you get inspired, study the craft of writing more closely, and think through tough spots in your own work. If you can’t find time to curl up with a book, consider listening to an audiobook during a commute or when you’re cooking dinner. You could even meet up with other writers and read each other’s work.

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7. Get inspired.

Writing inspiration is everywhere, so seek it out. Re-read your favorite stories. Use Word of the Day and Synonym of the Day as one-word writing prompts. Check out this list of times authors chose the perfect words. Read writing how-to books by your favorite authors or try listening to a writing podcast. You can even consult our themed word lists or make your own to get the ideas flowing or find the perfect words to write that next scene.

8. Try Grammar Coach™.

Sometimes writing is better with a coach. As you work on your draft, try writing with Grammar Coach™ to catch spelling errors, improve your word choice and get grammar tips in real time. It can do the editing in the background while you keep moving forward to finish your novel.


Ashley Austrew is a freelance journalist and writer from Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has been published at CosmopolitanScary MommyScholastic, and other outlets. For more by Ashley, read: “Teacher” vs. “Tutor”: Why Most Kids Need Both | Your Student Can Take Middle School By Storm With The Right Vocabulary | Make Your Writing The Star Of National Grammar Day With These Tips | How To Plan Out And Plan Ahead For Your Final Project | How To Write A Great Hook That Grabs Your Audience Hook, Line, And Sinker!

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