16 Practical Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo


Friends, NaNoWriMo is upon us. Cue your excitement. Cue your panic. But don’t panic too much, because you’ve got this. You are a fighter, and 50,000 words is a walk in the park. That said, our bad habits sometimes sabotage our best efforts to be productive. Perfectionism plaguing you? Post-work fatigue dragging you down? These are issues that every writer faces. So without further ado, here are my best tips for surviving NaNoWriMo.

Get up an hour early. This gets the bulk (or all) of your writing done before the workday even begins, so you can’t use post-work fatigue as an excuse not to write! Plus, knowing you’ve already cranked out a good chunk of words before 9 a.m. will lift your spirits for the rest of the day.

Put a piece of cardboard over your monitor. If you have a problem with editing as you go, this is a good way to put a stop to it. If you can’t see what you’re writing, you can’t mull over the same sentence for three hours.

Make a playlist. As Georgia Cates said, “Music is what feelings sound like out loud.” If you need inspiration for a character, a scene, a chapter, or the entire book, prepping a playlist before you get working is a solid way to keep the inspiration flowing.

Forgo breaks. Are you in the zone? Then don’t stop writing. Once you’ve gotten the creativity ignited, the words just pour onto the page — and before you know it, your count has jumped by 1,500 words. (Disclaimer: this doesn’t apply if you’re about to pass out from hunger. Go get a snack and feed that brain!)

Turn off your Wi-Fi. The internet is one of the world’s worst distractions. If you feel like you need to research something while you’re writing, just don’t. Make a note of it in the document and go back to it later.

Don’t stop when you hit your daily word count. As long as you have some juice left, just keep pushing! It’s always better to be ahead of your goals than struggling to meet them.

Carry a notebook. Write at the doctor’s office and on the bus. Use it to jot down notes when inspiration strikes while you’re out and about. A notebook is the writer’s most important tool.

Use your phone’s voice recorder. Most smartphones these days have a voice recorder. This is a great way to preserve your ideas, especially if you don’t have a pen and paper handy.

Block off a dedicated time in your schedule. Your writing time is as important as your day job and dinner out with friends. Schedule an hour or two each day for writing and make sure the people in your life know not to disturb you during that time.

Use jot notes to write. NaNoWriMo is about putting words on the page, not becoming the next William Shakespeare. (Well, maybe it is for some.) Just write the first words that come to mind, in jot note form if you must, and stop worrying about perfectionism. You can link the jot notes into proper sentences when you go back for draft two.

Attend a write-in. Writing is by nature a solitary activity, but when you work from home, it’s easy to get distracted by Netflix or the PS4 or the pile of books sitting on your bedside table. At write-ins, you don’t really have the luxury of being distracted—and you’ll get the support of other writers. (If you’re lucky, maybe free pizza, too.)

Don’t attend a write-in. On the flip side, write-ins can be distracting, especially once you get to know your fellow NaNo participants. Instead of a write-in, try the library. It’s quiet and doesn’t have Netflix to distract you.

Cut out the simple sugars. Simple sugars are bad for your brain. They make it harder to learn and remember things—like your vocabulary, for example. Plus, they make you crash after the high. It’s hard to write when you have no energy! Fruits are okay in moderation, of course, but cut down on the cupcakes and you’ll likely find yourself writing more (and better).

Go for a walk. Have you hit a wall in your writing? Not sure how to get your characters out of the pickle they’re in? Try a walk. The solitude will give you time to think and the fresh air will wake you up.

Go for a run. Haruki Murakami once wrote, “Most of what I know about writing fiction I learned by running every day.” Just like walking, running gives your brain time to wander. Plus, vigorous exercise is proven to stimulate creativity. It’ll keep you clear-headed and healthy!

Just breathe. Take it one day at a time. You’ll get there eventually.

What are your tips for conquering NaNoWriMo?


Add Yours
  1. C.D. Gallant-King

    I’ve never participated in NaNo, though I have written large numbers of words in short amounts of time (My record for 50K is 18 days, and my best record is 32K in 2.5 days). My best advice for NaNo is not to talk about NaNo. I know many people enjoy the social aspect of it, checking online to see how their friends are doing or brag about hitting or missing their target or updating their counters or whatever, but every word you type in those condolence messages to your acquaintances who missed their targets are words you could have been putting in your manuscript.

    For example, I just wasted over 100 words. 😛

    • Amy Allen-MacLeod

      32K in 2.5 days?! You’re a wizard, my friend.

      I think the support aspect of NaNo is important for a lot of people, but I do agree with you that it’s important to focus on writing more than talking. 🙂

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