NaNoWriMo is coming. Are you ready? Articles

Yesterday my son reminded me that November is almost here, and I realized it’s almost time for NaNoWrimo aka National Novel Writing Month! I know, some of you are thinking I have such a thoughtful son, right? Hah! He’s more concerned that I don’t forget his school play and less about me being ready for NaNoWriMo.

But I digress. November sneaked up on me. I’m still in the process of creating my writing space after playing musical bedrooms when my daughter left for college and my son wanted her room. But we finally got my new computer desk put together in my new office, which will double as my writing space. I have my comfy chair, computer, headphones, music, chocolate and caffeine.

If your plan is to participate in or support someone in NaNoWriMo this year, I’ve put together a few things to make NaNoWriMo go a little smoother.

Have a plan.

NaNoWriMoHow many times have you heard “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? Too many times, I’m sure. Will having a plan guarantee NaNoWriMo success? Nope. But it just might make life a little easier, especially with all the demands on your time.

Do you know what story you’re going to write about or are you waiting for inspiration to suddenly strike on November 1st? If you haven’t already decided what your story is about, it’s not too late. Make a decision today. You’ll still have time to bounce around ideas with your favorite betas to flesh out the story before you start writing.

Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, you still need to have the premise of your story and a vision of where it’s going. Print off some character sheets and write down the basics of your main characters. Do the same with your plot and setting. But don’t get so hung up on the details of character names, physical attributes, and world building that you forget to do the big picture stuff to be ready to start.

NaNoWriMoKnow where you are going to write.

Do you have a designated place to write? Whether it be your office, the coffee shop or the cupboard underneath the stairs, pick your designated writing space. Can you have more than one? Of course! Have as many as you like. Just know where you plan to write and then have a backup for those unexpected hiccups along the way. Then stock your writing cave, nest, nook, or whatever name you want to call it with those things that help you get into that creative mode.

Make sure you have all the equipment you need to get the job done. If you’re going to write on your computer or laptop, make sure it is in working order. And save often. There’s nothing worse than reaching your goal for the day only to have your computer crash, leaving you sobbing in your coffee and bingeing on Haagen-Dazs. Okay, that last one doesn’t sound that bad. Who doesn’t love Haagen-Dazs! But the idea here is to make sure your tools of writing aren’t causing you grief.

There is no crying in NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMoIf you like to use your tablet or your phone or multiple devices, store your manuscript on the cloud for easy access so you don’t have to deal with multiple versions. And if writing your story using pen and paper is what gets your creative muse hot, make sure you are never without a notebook and your favorite writing implements. This means several designated writing notebooks and fancy pens and pencils. I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

Set aside time to write.

There’s no right or wrong time to write. It can be in the wee hours of the morning, while the kids are at school, riding the train to work, or any time you’re able to catch a few minutes to jot down more of your story. If all you can fit into your schedule is several 15 minute blocks scattered throughout the day, then use them. One of the hardest parts of trying to write anything is finding the time.

Decide how often to write.

I know, I know. That first week of NaNo everyone makes a vow to write for 1 hour or 2,000 words every day. While these goals are great to motivate, they can also add discouragement if you fall behind. So make sure your goals aren’t too aggressive, but not so laid back that you don’t get anything done. Plan a day off here and there to rest, to get reacquainted with you family, and catch up on the other important things in your life.

NaNoWriMoAlong the same line as taking a day off… Take a break! If you’ve planned a long stretch of writing, stop every 45 minutes or so and step away for a few minutes: take a walk around the block, grab a snack or a drink, anything. Just take a quick break and then come back and write some more. Not only will this help you regain focus, it will get the blood moving. Use a timer to help you remember those breathers.

A note about timers: Timers can be wonderful tools for motivation if you’re the type who likes to play “beat the clock.” I am very deadline driven, so I use this technique to help me focus on what needs to get done. I also have the added benefit of a few hours between work and school where I can get some things done. Of course that doesn’t stop the telephone and the doorbell from ringing. This is where the headphones and music come in handy. I close the door, put on those headphones, hit play, and tune out the world. I also set a timer so I don’t forget my other responsibilities.

Be kind to yourself.

NaNoWrimoI mean it! Be nice. Don’t kick yourself because you didn’t make your goal or you simply couldn’t squeeze one more minute out of the day. This type of behavior leads to discouragement and failure. Instead, set small daily and weekly goals and a reward system to help motivate you. No one knows better what those motivators for you are than you. So decide what those pick-me-ups are and use them to help you reach your goals.

Find your cheerleaders!

NaNoWriMoLet all your cheerleaders know what you’re doing and ask them to help motivate you. Now when I say cheerleaders, I mean those people who will let you call them, cry on their shoulder, and then tell you to get your sorry butt in gear and get writing. These are also the same people who will dance around the living room and celebrate when you reach your daily goal.

But not everyone will make the cut. If your sister is your greatest pal but she doesn’t really support your writing, she’s not gonna make the NaNo Cheer Squad. I’m just saying… Pick those people who have your back.

And now for the boring technical stuff.

(I can’t help myself. I’m an editor, so sue me. Okay, you can try, but I got no money, honey. So good luck with that one.)

Don’t forget to have the tools of writing somewhere near, so when you need that thesaurus, you’re not digging through those boxes of books that have been in the storage closet since college and have been through three moves, but never opened. Of course, dictionaries and thesauruses… thesauri… (looks up in NaNoWriModictionary only to find that both words are correct) are online. But if you have a few favorite books on characters, conflict, emotional words, settings and plots, put those in your writing haven so you don’t waste prime writing time (or use as an excuse to stop writing) looking for stuff.


If I have to sum up in two words how to succeed with NaNoWriMo, it would be seek balance. I find that for me, at least, if I don’t make time for the other important things in my life, I have a difficult time justifying adding something else. Find that happy medium and see how far it takes you.

Now… go write something!


  1. Thanks for this post! It’s my first time trying nanowrimo, and I’m trying to learn what to expect from it! My name there is @claragwrites.

    • I’m glad you’re giving NaNoWriMo a try! I have yet to “win,” but hope to do so this year. Good luck and thanks for your comments! I’ll look for you on the NaNoWriMo boards. – Janine

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