NaNoWriMo: A Dozen Tips

November is here and with it comes National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The annual writing event asks authors and aspiring authors to write a 50,000 word novel is just thirty days. Are you going to be one of the hundreds of thousands of people that participates in this web-based event? If so, then we have a dozen tips you should know before entering NaNoLand:

#1 - Progress not perfection

While this first bit of advice is probably the opposite of what your parents taught you, during NaNoWriMo put quantity above quality. Your motto needs to be: Write. Write. Write. Then write some more.

#2 - Party like its 1969 — pre Internet, that is

Unplug as much as you can for as long as you can. Ignore your email's inbox, let your Google Reader fill up and cut back on social networking.

#3 - Forget about facts

Take a tip from journalists and utilize the abbreviation ‘TK’. TK stands for ‘to come’ and can take the place of a fact that needs to be researched. If knowing the exact height of the Eiffel Tower, for example, is not integral to your plot, then just leave it out and come back to it later.

#4 - Change it up

If writing in your office isn’t working, then move to your bedroom. Are the kids being too loud? Head to the basement. If facing a blank computer screen is intimidating, grab a pad and pen to write longhand. Try new things because you never know what is going to kick your writing into overdrive.

#5 - Don’t be afraid to plot

If your novel isn’t flowing like it should, stop to plot. While outlining will take time away from writing, in the long run it can help speed things up because it gives you a roadmap to follow. Also, don't forget that plotting can be done while doing other things — cooking, waiting for a traffic light, talking on the phone with your mother…

#6 - Fall in love with your characters

If you don’t care about your characters then how can you stay motivated to finish their story? Characters should be interesting, unique and fallible. And remember, writing fast is no excuse to leave out character development.

#7 - Start a ticking clock

No, we don’t mean an actual clock — although some authors absolutely swear by using an egg timer set on short increments while writing — we are talking about introducing a ticking clock into your plot. Create an event that has a deadline. Maybe a wedding or birth is coming. Maybe a life-altering meeting or a move is in the works. A ticking clock can help you get a handle on your story’s plot and keep it, and you, moving forward.

#8 - If you have trouble writing a scene, try following this outline:

  • Start with an inciting event
  • Escalate the conflict
  • Bring the scene to a crisis point
  • Resolve, at least temporarily, the scene’s main issue

If, after using this shortcut, the scene still isn’t coming to you, then move on. Books don’t have to be written in order.

#9 - A watched word count never boils

50,000 words in just one month means writing about 1,667 words a day. However, you are an artist, not a mathematician, so don’t get too hung up on word count because this can harm your creative process.

#10 - Sacrifice your personal hygiene

While showers and tooth brushing remain mandatory, other grooming habits during NaNoWriMo are optional. Wear your pants two days in a row without doing laundry. Skip straightening your hair in the morning. Avoid shaving your legs (hey, it is November and cold, no one is going to notice anyway).

Let this tip extend into other parts in your life. That rug doesn’t need vacuumed right now and the piano can stand a little dust. Eating off of paper plates to avoid dishes is more than okay, it is encouraged.

#11 - Find support

Writing a novel is difficult even under the best circumstances. Trying to write one in just 30 days is nearly impossible. So in order to keep motivated, we suggest you form a strong support team. This can be made up of friends, family and fellow writers. There are also some great online resources that can help. Here are our favorites:

  • The NaNoWriMo website has online forums as well as listings of regional groups which means you can meet up with other NaNos in real life.
  • Harlequin has a NaNoWriMo "support group" for romance writers.  
  • On Goodreads there is a general forum for NaNoWriMo participants.

We do want to add a note of caution here. While online help can be invaluable, remember tip #2 — it can be necessary to unplug if participating in these groups becomes an excuse to not write.

#12 - Leave the edits for December 1st

November is National Novel Writing Month, not National Novel Editing Month.

Do you have any tips you would like to add? Let us know in the comments below. And good luck to all you NaNoWriMos!