My sister, Sarah Baar, writes fiction and is an EIGHT TIME NaNoWriMo Winner — eight times!
I asked her to share her wisdom and experience for those taking on the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.
This is it. This is your year. You *will* write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. It’s time for NaNoWriMo!
Here are 5 tips to get you through:
1. Tell people!
Accountability partners are a must. Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers, your kids. Post your word count on social media.
First of all, it will keep you honest. When someone asks you what your word count is and you’re behind, you’re more likely to write your butt off that night to catch up, so when they ask the next day, you can proudly say you’re on target.
Secondly, it will make it easier for you to beg off social events so you can write. When your friend asks you for coffee, say, “No, sorry. I’m writing a novel this month!” Or when the school bake sale chairperson asks for 3 dozen homemade cookies, you’ll need to respond, “Sorry, I can’t. I’m writing.” Or, you know, pick up store bought and pretend you made them. Whatever.
2. Get up early.
I know, this is hard for night owls. But the good news is, you don’t even need to get out of bed. Set your alarm, roll over, and grab your laptop or a pad of paper.
Do not–I repeat, DO NOT get up, brush your teeth, or do anything that might cause you to wake up any more than necessary. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is quantity, not quality. Before you’re fully awake you’re less likely to second guess yourself or delete things. Just write.
3. Get Scrivener!
It’s my favorite writing tool, and perfect for NaNoWriMo. There are tons of amazing things about Scrivener, but my two favorite things in relation to NaNo are the Project Targets and the fact that it saves your place. (Watch a video demo here.)
When you start writing you can set up Project Targets that track your word count goal for your whole manuscript and your daily word count goal. As you write, the color bar fills in and changes from red to green. It’s so satisfying.
This might not seem like much, but Scrivener saves your place when you close the project. That means you don’t have to scroll all the way down your Word.doc or remember the key stroke to get you to the end of the document. Just open the file, and start writing!
(If you already have Scrivener but want someone to teach you how to use it best, try Learn Scrivener Fast.)
4. Set your daily word count goal high.
You might have noticed that in the Project Target screenshot my session, or daily, word goal is 2,000.
Technically, to reach your goal, you need to write 1,667 words per day. But it’s guaranteed that there will be one day (or more than one) when you either can’t write at all or you write 10 words and then stare at your screen for an hour. That’s when your 2k a day goal will save you. It gives you a nice buffer for those days when your word count falls a little short.
(That being said, if you have a day where you hit 2k and you wanna keep going, keep going! Write 4k a day! Write 10k! Write your little heart out!)
5. Have fun!
You chose to do this. You want to do this. So if you’re not having fun, what are you doing?
This will look different for everyone. Some people make it fun by showing up for group writing sessions (NaNo schedules them all over the place). Some people give themselves rewards. (This is me. Every time I get to 1,000 words I get a cookie. I eat a lot of cookies.)
So have fun! And go write!
Sarah Baar is an eight-time NaNoWriMo finisher.
She lives in West Michigan with her husband and their adorable dog, Bear.
Another guest post from Sarah: When It’s Hard to Find Hope in the Rubble
Need more inspiration to get you through the challenge?
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This is awesome! So empowering! Thanks for the great advice!
Oh my goodness, Sarah! Congrats on the 8 wins. I’ve participated twice—the second time I won, but the first time I participated knowing I wouldn’t be able to complete. I might participate again, but give myself a much, much lower word count. Just forcing myself to write more words is a win in my book!
And for anyone out there considering Scrivener, they give a longer trial period during November specifically for NaNoWriMo (then you can buy it for half price at the end of the month if you complete the 50,000 words).
Thanks, Janyre! Congrats on winning NaNo! Definitely set goals that work for you. Excellent choice!
Ooh, good advice re: Scrivener. Good to know!
This has got me all excited for writing. Now I need to get myself, Scrivener. I think I’ve heard enough 🙂
Go for it, Alice! You won’t regret it.
Thanks! I needed this. I said I was going to work on my book during the October Write31days challenge but here it is oct 24 and I have only written once to a total of 1008 words. 🙁 I even post it on Instagram. Ugh! Really must get motivated.
IT’s tough when you have a chronic illness but I don’t want to use it as an excuse. Let’s get this done! 🙂
As a 4 time NaNoWriMo finisher/winner, I can say without a doubt that I agree with all these tips.
I will add one more. Go to regional events and get to know the other writers in your area. Writing IS a group sport! Going to write-ins will help keep you focused on writing and having fun. It will also increase your chances of winning. My NaNo name is: Flygirl409 (https://nanowrimo.org/participants/flygirl409) feel free to help hold me accountable as I go for my 5th consecutive win.
Where do you live, Karen? And what’s the story behind “flygirl?”
My friend just forwarded me this site. I am in awe. Looking forward to buying it. I blog and write and in the process of finishing my first book. Looking forward to the research and brown board options
Thank you for your words. I am taking the leap of faith. This will be my first book. it is so much more fun then I ever imagined. Just hope I will finish in time.