NaNoWriMo – The Ultimate Guide To Winning It


NaNoWriMo is one of the greatest procrastination killers and writing incentives ever to hit the internet. This is, as it is phrased, a very subjective statement – but I will bet you the most participants would back it. And as the National Novel Writing Month approaches, it is time for us to prepare. And if you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo yet or hadn’t considered joining it until now – I’ve left enough time for you to prepare and join.

In this extensive guide I will explain the basics and then give you tips and tricks authors use while participating in NaNoWriMo with a single goal in mind – writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The sole purpose of NaNoWriMo is to make writers write. The same purpose has an article I’ve published and republished recently – How To Stop Procrastinating. If you are having troubles, consult with it as well.

In this article we will discuss these major subjects:

  • All About NaNoWriMo
  • How To Win NaNoWriMo
  • What Next?

All About NaNoWriMo

The official About page of National Novel Writing Month says:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

This is a project founded by Chris Baty, dedicated to helping authors overcome their block in the most fun way imaginable – a joint effort, a competition, a month of writing, writing and only writing.

National Novel Writing Month is for everyone who wants to write a novel. If you have troubles making yourself start writing every day, this is the right place for you.

The basics are simple.

First, you create a new account if you don’t have one and follow the instructions. After all of the formalities are completed, start prepping your novel because then comes the best part! During November your mission is to write a first draft of 50,000 words.

Various Segments

The website serves authors in every aspect. There is a forum with boards on every subject you can imagine. There are boards about your genre, your age group, plotting, writing… All you could need – it’s there. So, be sure to pay a visit to their forum.

Communicate with other authors because there are plenty. It is such an organized event for authors that I find it irresistible. You will surely meet new people, have new writing buddies and have your stats public while being able to check up on your buddies’ stats.

You will also be able to share anything that you find helpful as will everyone else One great example is the writing music – there is a little segment where you share your writing music playlist so people can find inspiration. If you don’t have one – NaNoWriMo will help you find it as other writers have their music playlists.

How To Win NaNoWriMo

First up – this is not a competition. It’s very simple: you write 50,000 words in 30 days. Congratulations! You won! Now you can dive into editing and rewriting if needed. This month it’s all about quantity and not quality.

Critics often say that the mere fact it’s all about the quantity kills the point of NaNoWriMo, but I would argue that at the first stage nothing matters except having those words out. Where would you be in December if you hadn’t written the fist daft in November? Most of us never write anything very good at out first attempt.

But, writing a book is like chiseling a statue from a very big stone. However, authors first have to turn dust into a stone to be able to start chiseling. This metaphor got out of my hands quickly. The point is, once you have you outline and you hit your word-count you’ll have something to work with, something to improve.

And here I collect all the tips for getting there that I could find useful!

Split Them Up

50,000 words is a lot of words – spoken like a true wordsmith. So don’t look at them all together.

50,000 words is a lot of words - spoken like a true wordsmith. Click To Tweet

We already talked about creating outlines and that is what you should do in the next few weeks, just before November starts. But you should also make a plan for writing.

If you were to write every day equally you need to write 1,667 words a day to reach your goal by November, 30. Look at your calendar to see if there are any days when you know you won’t be able to write. Subtract the number of those days from the total and get your final daily goal.

For example, I know I won’t be able to write on Mondays in November so that leaves me with 26 days and 1,923 words per day. But, just to be sure, make your goal somewhere around 2,000 – easier to remember and easier to split further.

Write In Shifts

If you can’t spent two hours writing than find the times in your day to write for an hour. This way you will have two sets of about 1,000 words to reach. That’s not too much.

You will have plenty of time to work, study, relax, read or socialize as long as you can promise to finish the second set later.

Be ruthless these days. Sacrifice a little social media time or a bit of TV time during November.

Start Today

Well, don’t start writing your draft. First make sure you have an outline. But write every day nevertheless. Write short stories or some other WIP you have. Diving straight into 2,000 words a day can be scary. So start practicing right away.

Do The Writing Sprints

This is a great hack for writers who only want to throw the words out. I use it whenever I have little time. The point of this exercise is to improve your writing speed. During the sprints it doesn’t matter if you make a typo or if nine out of ten sentences are bad. The only thing that matters is that you are throwing it all out on the paper.

Here’s how it woks. Set up a time for as much time as you have or can handle writing without stopping. Somewhere up to 30 minutes works best. That can be as little as 10 minutes or in the middle at 20 minutes.

Now start your timer and write without looking away. No peeking out of the window, no checking your phone, no talking to people. When the alarm sets off, you’ll have written more words than you expected.

This is a good exercise because when I have a lot of time for writing I spend too much of it on looking out the window or answering calls. I often stop because my thought escape and I have to track them down. This way the writing flows and you can remove all the unnecessary words later.

It’s easy to write 500 words in 30 minutes this way – even more but let’s keep it low.

After a sprint, take a little break to reward yourself for being awesome.

Define Segments

If you like having your book outlined and ready to be filled with words, segmenting it will immediately improve the ease of writing it.

First up, we have three acts of your book. After it we have chapters. With a NaNoWriMo book of 50,000 words, 30 chapters is a nice round number. Of course, these all vary drastically depending on your style and on the importance of each scene you are describing.

If you do settle for 30 chapters make a spreadsheet with little descriptions and expected word-counts. That will be again somewhere around 1,667 words per chapter. This way you know how to hit your goals and what to do every day of November.

But, split it even further. Every chapter has an introduction, middle and end. If you really love prepping, describe those too and decide how much space they take. 10-80-10 is a good measure for anything written. This means, depending on the chapter, that you should spent 167 words on introduction and the same on conclusion, with everything else in middle.

And if you are really super excited about spreadsheets you can do the same for every scene. Be sure to use Scrivener for this unless you are using pen and paper. I use it all the time and it’s amazing o us who like seeing out outlines neatly organized. I’m not paid to say this – just a fan.

What Next?

So, you won NaNoWriMo! Now you’ll get a badge that you can post on social media and your website as a proud winner.

But you have a first draft and you don’t know what to do next? No worries. NaNoWriMo has a program for that. It’s a lively community of authors and you’ll be connected to all sorts of services if you are interested.

First up, you’ll get tips o editing. You can do some of that yourself – a lot actually. You will be guided towards the second and third draft step by step.

Then, they will guide you to publishing your book if you want to do so.

And after you do that, come back to us to learn how to market it and ensure profits!

I hope this was helpful and that you will join NaNoWriMo this year. I also hope to see you there so be sure to add me as your writing buddy – Mladen R. is the name.

Keep writing!

Author: Mladen Reljanović

Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.

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