October 31, 2022

Get the Most out of NaNoWriMo

Image created using DALL·E, an AI system by OpenAI.

Happy Halloween! I love a holiday all about dressing up in fun costumes, visiting all the neighbors, and eating candy. Anything thing that I love about Halloween is that the day after marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not familiar with it, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. The goal for NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in the month of November. Traditionally, the challenge is to start on a new project on November 1st and write 50,000 words within the month. The scope of NaNoWriMo has broadened over time, but at its core, the purpose is to get more people into the habit of writing every day.

Even for professional writers, writing an entire 50K word novel in a thirty-day span can be a daunting task. Heck, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for five years now and have only ‘won’ the challenge once. But that doesn’t stop me from coming back every year, making the most of it, and being glad I took part.

With that in mind, Here are my tips to make the most of your NaNoWriMo!

Make your own goals

The spirit of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing, but that doesn’t mean you have to start and finish an entire novel in the month of November. If novel writing isn’t your thing, consider writing a memoir, short story, personal essay, poetry, or something else entirely. It doesn’t even have to be a new project. This year, I’m coming into November with around 20,000 words already written on my current work in progress, and I would like to add 50,000 words to it while participating in NaNoWriMo.

Also, 50,000 words is a lot of words. To reach that goal, you need to consistently write 1,667 words every day. Everyone is different, but for me, 1,667 words take about two hours to write. If you’re new to writing or know that 1,667 new words each day is not a pace you can maintain for an entire month, consider a smaller goal. Choose to write 500 words a day, or at least a page a day, simply write something every day, or write 10,000 words in the month but just on the weekends.

You may find yourself in a place where a word-count writing goal isn’t even appropriate. You could use the month to dive into editing and already drafted work. One year, I was suffering from some burnout and used NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to mostly be social with other writers and build my author network.

You get to decide what you want to get out of NaNoWriMo and choose goals that reflect that.

Use the tools from the NaNoWriMo website

NaNoWriMo has a really powerful website nanowrimo.org that is great for organizing your novel writing journey. There’s a word count tracker which will let you know how close you are to your goal, and how much you need to write each day to reach it. You get your own page where you can share about yourself and your writing journey as well as share details about the project you’re working on. The forums are great for connecting with other writers, asking questions about writing, and learning about in-person NaNoWriMo events.

Meet up with other writers

I can’t stress how important this is! Writing can be a very lonely and solitary activity if you let it. Since so many people are actively writing in November, it’s also a great chance to get together with other writers. Most NaNoWriMo-sponsored events are write-ins where everyone brings some sort of writing tool (I’ve seen laptops, phone writers, journals, loose paper, and pens) and sits together to write. Everyone takes short breaks and chats with the others around them, and sometimes people will compete in word races to see who can write the greatest number of words in a set number of minutes. Instead of the community of people being distracting, I find write-ins inspiring and they elicit more writing than I would have done at home alone.

If you plan on writing for more than just the month of November, you will also find opportunities to join ongoing writing groups through these writer meet-ups. My writing has absolutely gotten much stronger as a result of participating with my writing group.

Use social media

One thing that NaNoWriMo encourages all participants to do is to announce their intentions to write a novel to their friends, family, and social media followers. I wholeheartedly believe this is an important step because sharing your plans will allow those in your life to help keep you accountable and support you in your writing journey.

I’ve also found sharing my current word counts, struggles, and successes through social media helps build my connections with my peers, and we can both celebrate our wins together and bolster each other when we need more motivation.

Start strong

One of the big downfalls of having a novel-writing month be November is that we’re leading up to the holidays and US Thanksgiving is in November. I typically host Thanksgiving, so the holiday includes out-of-town guests staying at my house for the better part of the week, tons of cooking, and the kids home from school a bunch of extra days. Although my family understands I’m a writer, I don’t want to hide in my office working during their entire visit.

I’ve found that starting strong at the beginning of November allows me to take it easy later in the month when making time to write will be much harder. Also, if November just doesn’t work out, there’s also Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July.

No matter what, celebrate

When the month comes to a close, if you don’t win NaNoWriMo, still take time to celebrate the milestones you did achieve. If you didn’t reach your word count goal, you still added new words to your project. If you don’t like what you wrote, you’ve still gotten valuable practice as a writer. If you decided early on that you don’t like writing—that’s okay! You tried a new hobby and learned it wasn’t for you, and that in itself is still valuable.

Keep going!

My local NaNoWriMo chapter typically has a “Thank Goodness It’s Over” celebration at the end of the month. Of course, we always recognize that only November and the writing challenge are over. Most novels don’t arbitrarily end at the 50,000-word mark, so many of us will continue writing until our novels are finished. And, once the writing is done, there’s editing. Some of us also chose to publish our work and will need to decide if we’d like to sell our new novel to a publisher or attempt to self-publish.

Hopefully, NaNoWriMo will give you the writing bug and inspire a writing habit that keeps you jotting down words on paper, crafting new and exciting stories, and sharing your creativity with the world.

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know!

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