How To Survive NaNoWriMo

Posted October 27, 2015 by Inge in Like A Writing Desk // Writerly Things / 10 Comments

Dear fellow writer,

National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is upon us once more. In the duration of November, many writers and other ambitious people get together online and write like the madmen they are. 50,000 words in one month — that’s 1,667 a day. It’s a slightly insane challenge, but absolutely doable — I speak from experience. And I am here, young grasshopper, to show you the ropes. You, too, can write many words! These tips will hopefully help you out.

Get rid of all distractions

I’m not saying you should lock up your children in a cage or anything. Actually… Wait, no, don’t.

I’m just saying. There are a lot of distractions out there.

A lot.


And you’re bound to be distracted by at least 22 of them. So put your phone on silent, drop the kids off at their grandparents’s house, and make sure your dog is fed. You’re going to need all your grey brain cells for this one.

Also, turn off the wifi. I mean it. You don’t need Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram or Whatsit or Snapjazz when you’re writing — you don’t need any of it! Okay, you can use it to put on a playlist, some music that helps you write. But be careful. The Internet is a dark, gaping hole and it will suck you in instantly! Next thing you know, three hours have passed and you have no idea which direction yellow tastes like anymore.

You should also be careful when looking things up, especially on Wikipedia. Because the internet has lots of links. And you’re going to click on them.

Stock up on food and drinks

99% of writers get through the writing process with this magical liquid also known as “coffee”. If you’re one of these coffeeists, make sure you have enough coffee in stock. Other products you may need are tea and chocolate. Nuts and berries are known to boost brain activity, so they might come in handy, as well.

Rally your troops

I seriously don’t think many people manage to get through NaNo all by their onesies. You need to tell people you’re doing this, so you’re less likely to give up on it. Get some motivation in the form of a writing buddy or a writing group — you don’t need to exchange drafts if you don’t want, but it helps to know others are suffering writing alongside you.

Create a buffer

It helps to have a few thousand words stocked up for when you can’t write. Like if there’s a day when you’re not feeling well, or there are things to do and people to see and books to read, or you just feel like taking a day off. There should be no pressure to write every day, but also don’t stress yourself out. Get a little buffer going and you won’t feel as guilty for taking a day off. You won’t get as demotivated as when you fall behind. You won’t have to have one of those crazy days where you inhale coffee like a sponge and you’ve been at your computer for eight hours and you’re not sure you know how to English anymore.

I personally don’t think it’s cheating to have a few thousand words at the beginning of the month. It honestly helps me get through the project. It’s crazy enough as it is — whatever helps you feel a bit more relaxed.

Give yourself permission to write crap

Turn off your inner editor — don’t look at the clunky sentences or the fact that your spellchecker seems drunk or that there are gaping plotholes the size of China in your draft. First drafts are supposed to be crappy — only every writer ever will tell you this. Editing takes up a lot of time, but you’ll have all the time in the world after NaNo. You don’t have all the time in the world now. You have 30 days. Just sit down and write.

Push through!

There will be days when you’ll simply feel like slamming your head against the keyboard. There will be days when you’ll be staring at your screen and nothing comes to mind. It’s okay. Don’t give up. You CAN do this.

Good luck, young grasshopper.

I’m not doing NaNo this time around, but good luck to everyone!

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10 responses to “How To Survive NaNoWriMo

  1. THIS POST IS GOLDEN BASICALLY. I totally agree with just writing crap. Edit later!! I think first drafts are just about getting it out, whether it makes complete sense or not. 😛 And yes, get rid of those distractions. I’m not cooking while I’m writing, I’m delegating that to my dog. Also housecleaning and laundry? His jobs for the next week or so. He loafs around far too much as is. *sniffs*

  2. Aaah, I think I might actually do it this year. CUE PANIC. I have absolutely zero time, because I also need to write a term paper and read books and just generally do annoying stuff for university, BUT I never really have the time, and in a fit of overconfidence I put it on my goals list for this year, so I should mayyybe at least try. I’M ALREADY FREAKING OUT. I should probably grab one of those infamous writing buddies somewhere (I’m thinking kidnapping?) to get me through. Thanks for the tips, even though I’m 98% sure I won’t actually turn off my internet. I’ll try to allow myself to write crap though; I think that’s what stops me most of the time. Well, that and laziness, but let’s not go into the details.

  3. Inge, I have to ask you a question: what do you do if there are no troops? Like, am I kidding myself that I can do this alone? Last year I wanted it to work out so badly, but it was a mess. This year, I have a more… cemented project, but even less of a support system and/or childcare, if that is even possible. I was so, so down last year when I managed to write fewer words than a typical blog post. I don’t want to do that again. So, is it something I should just put on the back burner? I don’t know what to do, and I could use some advice from someone who has been through the process! Thanks for the awesome tips!! 😀

  4. I’m like 7k behind in Nano but when I got to England I will have no internet and it shall be like a reading and writing retreat where I get to forget about the blog and do NOTHING BUT READ AND WRITE. I will write 7k. I will catch up. I will, I will, I will.

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