NaNoWriMo is Coming: 5 Tips for Preparing to Write Your Novel

NaNoWriMo is Coming: 5 Tips for Preparing to Write Your Novel

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo: a frantic month of writing with the goal of drafting a 50,000 word novel.

Want to give it a shot? NaNoWriMo season will be here before you know it. But here is a little-known fact that you may not know: most writers who actually accomplish their goals during NaNoWriMo don’t start with a blank page on November 1.

Does this mean writers cheat and start halfway into their book? No. But an experienced novel writer knows that it takes time to flesh out a story.

In addition to having a general idea of what your novel will be all about, you should follow these five tips to get your novel done before the end of the month.

1. Set up your work area

You need a quiet place to write. Having your writing desk in the middle of the kids’ playroom is obviously not a good idea. However, if you need to keep an eye on a toddler while you’re writing, it’s fine to move your laptop or tablet around the house with you as needed.

Your work area doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, some writers work inside a closet. It’s a good idea to have a decent chair to sit on, a big-enough computer screen to read the words you type, and a safe place to put your choice cup of caffeinated beverage.

2. Start writing now

Have you thought about how many words you’re going to have to write every day in order to write more than 50,000 words in one month? If you don’t take a single day off, then you “only” have to write 1667 words every day.


Does that sound like an incredibly large number? It’s really not. In fact, this article is almost half that amount. Unfortunately, if you’re not used to writing a lot, then chances are, you’re not going to write enough during November, either.

In order to work your way up to 1667 words a day, you might need to start slowly. Start writing something every day now so you’ll be ready to write a novel in November.

3. Take advantage of progress-tracking tools

There are a lot of different tools available for novel writing. Many of them allow you to keep track of your progress and will even send you encouragements and reminders. It doesn’t really matter which of these tools you use as long as you keep track.

Fortunately, keeping track of word count is easy. Almost every writing program will do it for you, and you can even track your word count through the official NaNoWriMo website.   

If all else fails, you can put the number of words you write each day on a sticky note on your fridge. You can also share it through social media — maybe you can get your friends to cheer you on!

4. Write while you wait

Writing doesn’t have to take up all your spare time, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing for many authors. When you’re in a time crunch where you really have to get a project done, it’s a good idea to work on your novel every spare minute of your time.

Do you spend a lot of time waiting? Whether you’re on the bus, riding the subway, in line to eat at a restaurant, waiting for a date, or waiting for your turn at the doctor’s office, you should be working on your novel instead of staring off into space.

Fortunately, there are online novel-writing programs that allow you to write on any device as long as you have internet access. Yes, you could even write your entire novel on your cell phone. But even if you don’t currently own a smartphone or iPad, you can bring along an old-fashioned notebook and type your notes up later.  

5. Finish the novel before you edit

National Novel Writing Month is not about getting a novel ready to publish. Instead, you’re only expected to write the first draft of your novel. As much as many authors really hate the editing process, it can be tempting to stop writing and start editing too soon.

Does that mean you don’t have to edit your novel? No. But it means you should wait until you’ve finished it to edit. That’ll give you something to do in December.  

Are you ready for NaNoWriMo? What are you going to do to ensure that you finish your novel on time?

Filed Under: Craft
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  • sharmishtha says:

    Never participated in nano but the tips are great. Thanks.

  • Brie Bias says:

    I did NaNoWriMo back in 2010, and I found that it was a lot easier to write a lot of words when I gave my characters strong voices. That way they kind of write themselves.

    This year, I’m taking another crack at it, with a novel based on a roleplaying game scenario I recently did with my friends. Since the base characters and key plot points already exist, I feel like it will be easier to build a fully fleshed-out novel within the time limit, rather than building everything from scratch.

  • Kate says:

    I am doing my online research now, so I don’t need to take the time away from my writing. My project involves traveling to places that I have never been to, so a dose of reality is necessary. I have already noted the requirements for my chosen method of travel, which is a passenger carrying freighter. Certain extra steps are necessary for a person of my age, so knowing these in advance will give the story a sense of authenticity.

  • Stephen Milano says:

    Having done NANOWRIMO a few times, the most valuable advise I can give: Don’t edit! Kill the inner critic for now. Just write and don’t look back. That shitty first draft is critical. Honest.?

  • I’m looking forward to writing my novel in November, I’ve never written anything that fast but am ready. Thanks for the preparation tips……

  • Annette says:

    This is the first year I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been brainstorming ideas, but it would be helpful to be more deliberate in creating an outline. I write about 1500 to 3000 words a day already, but the idea of writing an additional 1700 has been weighing on me recently. I really needed your last reminder as well because I have a bad habit of editing while writing, and it would be interesting to avoid doing that as I write a novel this November. Thanks for the reminders!

  • Preparation is everything!

    It is a glorious fantasy that we can just sit down at the keyboard and watch the gold pour from our fingertips. Authors need to list their story ideas, narrow the list to one particular event, and plan/draft from there. Without characters and conflict in mind (and a setting to put them in in), authors will really struggle to get the most out of NaNoWriMo, or any writing scenario.

  • Alicia Rades says:

    Great tips Anita. One thing I’m doing is outlining my novel. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for months, and this month I’m trying to get all those ideas fleshed out before I start putting the actual novel to paper.

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