On Writing: How To Crush NaNoWriMo

Today, I’m both here and at the Zen Zone (click it! you won’t regret it!) to help you crush NaNoWriMo this year and all years to come.

I’m a two-time NaNoWriMo winner and four-time participant.  And with those two wins, I’ve created an easy-to-follow, four-step, NaNoWriMo-winning formula.


1. Plan!

You are more likely to crush NaNoWriMo if you have a game plan going in.  You don’t need to know every single word, plot point, or battle scene your novel will have before you start writing.  A character name, an interesting situation, an entire outline of your novel — whatever you have going in can be as fleshed or bare-boned as you like.  For example, in 2012, I made a list of 30 plot points, one for each day of November, which my protagonist those days.  This way, if I got stuck as I wrote, I had a map to look at to set me on the path to victory again.

Even the plan of having no plan is okay.  If you want to dive straight into November 1 with no idea of what kind of story you’ll be writing, that’s fine, too.  In 2013, I went in knowing some characters and settings, but I didn’t have a 30-day list like last time.  I wrote whatever came to my head.  And I still won.

The key to remember here is to get your mind focused and sharpened on the task at hand next month.

2. Prepare!

Now, real talk time.  I know that I promised to help you crush NaNoWriMo this year, but even I can’t predict the future.

I can’t predict whether you’ll move to another apartment.  I can’t predict whether you’ll have to turn in a midterm or be assigned to cook the turkey at Thanksgiving.  I can’t predict something will stop you from writing cold in your tracks.

However, you know your life better than I do.  And if you want to crush NaNoWriMo, it’s not enough to plan what you’ll write about.  You also have to prepare for anything else that you think might come your way.

In 2010, when I was a junior in high school, NaNoWriMo crushed me instead of the other way around.  I started late.  I had more AP classes to take than the previous year.  And at 10,782 words in, I gave up.  In 2011, college application season ate me alive, leaving me absolutely no time for NaNoWriMo.  And at 8,378 words, I gave up once again.

But in 2012 and 2013, I learned from my mistakes.  I used a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word count and which locations allowed me to be the most productive.  I went in with both a plan and the plan of having no plan and succeeded both times.  I had writing buddies that were doing NaNoWriMo, adding a further layer of accountability and motivation.

So, during this October, prepare yourself.  Block out your November with as much writing time as you can.  Turn those college applications or work assignments in early.  Cancel that trip to Disneyland with your friends.  Take up daily/weekly writing exercises with prompts to find out how fast you can write in a certain amount of time.  Make character sheets.  Formulate your outline.  Find music or soundtracks you love to write to.

Do whatever is necessary for you to reach 50,000 words.

3. Produce!

The single greatest lesson NaNoWriMo has ever taught me as a writer is to produce with abandon and edit later.  NaNoWriMo is not about writing the perfect novel in 50,000 words.  It’s okay to have typos.  It’s okay if Cynthia becomes Patrice halfway through the novel.  This can easily be changed in a subsequent revision.

Mathematically speaking, you need to write about 1,667 words or more every day during the month of November to win.

Which is, literally, what I did.

During those Novembers, I produced an average of 1,667 words or more a day of two horrible novel drafts.  During the second one, I even included a character that was hard of hearing so that my characters would have to repeat lines of dialogue for them, which increased the word count in my favor.

A clever trick, but one that I’m not ashamed of using.  And a trick you shouldn’t be ashamed of using either.

4. Prove!

This November, prove all the naysayers who the boss is. 

Crush it this November. Be as prolific in your writing as possible.

You deserve it, and you can do it.

Go get ‘em.



2 thoughts on “On Writing: How To Crush NaNoWriMo

    1. It’s great to have a 30-point plan to get the writing onto the page 🙂 .

      Another thing I’d recommend is to make sure that your characters are super strong going in and/or strengthening them in subsequent drafts so that it won’t feel too much like a character going through motions and not changing in their arc.

      Good luck to you on NaNo! And thanks for commenting 😀 !

      Liked by 1 person

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