How To Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Hello! Welcome to the brand new month of November. For many writers, November comes with a looming, terrifying, exhilarating challenge: National Novel Writing Month. November. Aka, the month where men grow mustaches with varying degrees of success, and writers attempt to finish 50 000 words of a novel with similar degrees of success.

As someone who has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2016 (shout out to my 2020 NaNo project, aka the first one I finished, The Side Effects of Marriage!) I can say with confidence that it isn't easy.

Without further ado, here are my main tips for getting to 50k (or at least substantially improving your word count!)

  • Word Sprints

I love using word sprints! Before I did them, I used to write one sentence, see that my word

count had gone up from 78 to 115, and get disappointed and distracted. Now, after using word sprints, I feel a lot better about my writing speed and a lot more motivated to get writing done.

How it works: The NaNo website has a little timer button next to their "add word count" button (the plus sign). Set the timer to as long as you want or use the stopwatch function. I like to set the timer to anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, and have found that my writing speed is approximately 500 words/10 minutes or 50 words/minute.

There is also a NaNo Twitter account just for word sprints: that you can follow to do word sprints live with other writers.

  • Progress, not Perfection

I used to want to have a scheduled 1-hour block of writing every day with a detailed writing routine: light a candle, have a cup of tea, set up a playlist, etc. However, this is just unrealistic if you lead a busy life. Now, I do try to have a scheduled writing time in a specific place, but I also write whenever: on the phone when I'm sitting in the car waiting for someone; at a restaurant while waiting for food to come; in between classes, etc.

While these short spurts of writing may not add 1000 words to my total word count, they add up over time and I feel better than if I just procrastinate and wait for the perfect moment to write... which may never come.

  • Don't wait for inspiration

Lots of writers say they don't write every day and only write when it feels good to them. There is NOTHING wrong with this.... but it doesn't work for me. It may work for you! That is great! But for me, I do have to put "writing" on my to-do list and the more I write, the more inspired i feel to write.

  • Get anything on the page. Anything at all

If you feel discouraged staring at a blank page, here is my number one tip.

Find a random sentence, song lyric, or character name, and then spell it out on the page, like so:










Use these letters as the starting basis for each paragraph/line. You will feel a lot better than simply staring at your blank page. I have done this many times and I always feel like I have accomplished something simply by starting this way.

Happy writing, and godspeed to you!

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