Ready, Set…Write! 5 Tips to Make Your NaNoWriMo Successful

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, started in 1999 as a challenge: write a book (or, at least 50,000 words) in one month. It might sound impossible, but with a deadline, the support of fellow aspiring writers, and a daily plan, finishing your book in a month can become a reality. 

Have you always wanted to write a book, but never felt that fire to start? Have you had a story playing out in your head that you simply have to get down on paper? This might be a great challenge for you. Here are five great tips to make your NaNoWriMo successful, this year, or in the years to come! 

1) Plan Ahead if You Need to 

Many believe that there are two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters will carefully outline every step of their book, from the opening image to the final scene, while pantsers write “by the seat of their pants.” Whichever you are, November is a time to write by the seat of your pants. To get those words down in only a month, you have to write without looking back. That’s why many plotters like to use the week, or even the month, before, to plan their book. Plotters, like myself, call this “Prep-tober.” 

2) Read Books on the Craft of Writing 

If you’re stuck in the process, it can help to read what authors say about writing a first draft. Stephen King, for example, tells authors to write like the wind, but put their draft away for over a month before touching it again. Jessica Brody takes Blake Snyder’s book on screenwriting craft (Save the Cat), and breaks it down for novels. Advice from a professional can break you out of a writing funk before you know it. 

3) Don’t Look Back 

Once you’re ready to start the book, just start! NaNoWriMo is only a month-long, so don’t let yourself get bogged down in editing, even though it’s very hard to follow that advice. One of my favorite quotations about this is from children’s author, Judy Blume: “I hate first drafts, and it never gets easier. People always wonder what kind of superhero power they’d like to have. I wanted the ability for someone to just open up my brain and take out the entire first draft and lay it down in front of me so I can just focus on the second, third, and fourth drafts.” In short, let yourself write badly for now, because you can fix bad writing, but you can’t fix a blank page. 

4) Make a Routine with Accountability Built-in 

The best way to get out that 50,000 words in 30 days (couldn’t they at least have picked at 31-day month?) is to make a schedule. Set yourself a goal every day. If you work, make sure that the word count is reasonable. You might only be able to crank out a thousand words a day on some days, but then ten thousand on another day, and there’s nothing wrong with that! The best way to hold yourself accountable is to connect with other writers on the challenge (self-proclaimed “Wrimos”). By attending write-ins and participating in sprints with fellow authors, you’ll feel that urge to reach your goals. Also, do utilize the tools offered at the NaNoWriMo site—they are invaluable. 

5) Write the Book of Your Heart 

This advice is actually as simple as it sounds. Don’t write the book you think will sell, or the book you think you should write because it’s in the news. Write the book you always needed to read. Write the book of your heart and, not only will the words come faster, you’ll have a story worth fighting for when the dust settles. 

Good luck to all of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Alameda County Library will be hosting virtual write-ins for all four weeks of November with writing sprints, prompts, and encouragement. Keep calm and write on! 

NaNoWriMo

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National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, started in 1999 as a challenge: write a book (or, at least 50,000 words) in one month.  It might sound impossible, but with a deadline, the support of fellow aspiring writers, and a daily plan, finishing your book in a month can become a reality. 




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