How to survive NanoWrimo

Have you signed yourself up for NanoWrimo? If you have, then well done. Pat yourself on the back and prepare for some hard work. But hopefully you’ll find it a lot of fun too.

I am something of a Nano veteran. I did my first one a very long time ago (2001 I think) and have only missed two years since, both of which were due to being out of the country for the entirety of the month. For me, I love the challenge. My daily writing habit already has me at a minimum of 1000 words before breakfast, so Nano doesn’t step it up that much of a notch for me.

Which is why I do NanoWrimo hardcore.

The first attempt, due to my super competitive nature, I completed in two weeks, rather than the whole month. Every year since then, I’ve tried to shave a day off. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. But my goal now is to do it in a week. I’ve achieved that twice; both times whilst holding down a full time (and fairly hour intensive) job.

This year I will have no choice. Due to other commitments, I only have the first seven days when I can write, so it is make or break. Two of those days will include commutes to other parts of the country. Fun times and the fast track to a mental breakdown. So how do you survive NanoWrimo?


Be honest with yourself

If you’re planning to do NanoWrimo over 30 days like a normal, sane person, then you need to be honest with yourself about your other commitments for the month. Know that you have a friend’s birthday one of the Fridays and that’s your best writing time? Take that day out and recalculate your overall word count. It might mean that on the days you are writing you have to do 3000 words instead, but at least you’ll know. Otherwise, you get to the last week and see that you have an almighty push to try to make it.

Don’t start on the back foot

NanoWrimo doesn’t always start on the most convenient day. Depending on what is going on in your life, then it may clash with a multitude of other commitments. Know this, and still set aside the time to write on day one. There is nothing more disheartening than going in on day three and seeing everyone’s word counts roaring off into the distance in a cloud of dust. Start. Like anything in life, that is the most important step.

Don’t edit

I know this is the whole point of NanoWrimo, but it is worth repeating. Don’t know if your clear blue sea is turquoise or aqua marine? Who cares? Don’t waste a few minutes googling colour palettes to see which one is the closest to the image in your mind’s eye. Add all those little distractions and your writing will slow way down. These things do not matter in a first draft.

Have a plan

Plotting prior to 1st November is completely within the rules. If this is your first time doing NanoWrimo, or sustained writing in general, it might seem enough to have a great character or idea. Trust me, when it’s after midnight and you still have 500 words before you hit your word count, then it won’t be. If you enjoy writing on the fly, then I’m not suggesting you pin down every chapter in excruciating detail. I would simply suggest having at least 5 key plot points written down and know where they fit in your overall story arc. That way, you’ll always have something to be working towards when the words start to dry up.

Be kind to your body

For many people, NanoWrimo is their first attempt at consistent writing. It is awesome for that. It also means sitting for a long time. Be sensible. Make sure your back and wrists are getting the support they need. It’s meant to be fun, not a quick route to a lifetime of pins and needles in your extremities.

Have fun

Yes, that’s my final point. Enjoy it. Even though I go crazy and it can be a special type of self-inflicted stress, I love every minute of it.

Good luck! More importantly, just keep going!


2 thoughts on “How to survive NanoWrimo

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons why I’ll be using Scrivener for NanoWrimo | Sherri Nicholds

  2. Pingback: 2014 NaNoWriMo Trashy Romance Challenge: Act 2 Scene Assignment 5 | Write on the World

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