How to Complete the NaNoWriMo Challenge

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a wonderful opportunity to sit down and get the first draft of your novel on paper. But how do you do it? Read on to find out.


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    Prepare well. In order to get those words onto the page, you're going to need to do a lot of planning beforehand.
    • Do character sketches or outlines. In order to write about them, you need to know your characters - what are their back stories, their motivations? Get inside their heads!
    • Outline each chapter or section your book. Write down what happens, and make a list of scenes, conversations, and plot points you'd like to include. If you have a lot of time to prepare, make it very detailed - it can be helpful to have a "to do list" for every day that you'll be writing. That way there's no staring at the screen, wondering what to say when the time comes to write!
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    Throw away your inner editor. NaNoWriMo isn't about producing polished, final-draft quality writing - instead, focus on getting the words (50,000 of them!) on the page. Think big picture, not little details. Editing will only slow you down and discourage you - save that for December!
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    Use Week One wisely. The first week is usually the best - you'll be excited about writing and you might find it easy to meet the 1,667 words-per-day goals because you've got a lot of ideas driving you. If you can, use that momentum to get ahead on your word count - you'll thank yourself later in the month when you inevitably hit a slump.
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    Don't give up during Week Two! You might feel like giving up, you might start doubting yourself, and you might be tempted to start editing - don't! Remember that this is only a draft, your only goal for this month is to keep writing and pushing forward, and you can edit later. After all, it's easier to edit something that's not so great than it is to start something from scratch that doesn't exist at all! Connect with the NaNoWriMo community by using the forums on the website or following the hashtag on Twitter - you're in good company! Many famous novels, including "Water for Elephants", were born during NaNoWriMo.
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    Hang in there for Week Three. Week three is tough because the deadline is looming, as are distractions like the holidays, and you may find yourself behind on word count. Just keep writing! Use a "plot ninja" (an unexpected twist thrown in when you're at a loss or you feel the story stagnating), do some word sprints, and just let the words flow - make your inner editor shut up and let yourself be free to write without censorship.
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    Write, write, write in Week Four! You're coming down the home stretch and you just need to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing! You may be on track or you may feel hopelessly behind - set aside dedicated writing time, eliminate all distractions (log out of social media accounts, or even turn off the internet!), and get down to business. Nothing worth doing comes easy, and you might be in for a few late nights as you near that 50k finish line.


  • Plot ninjas (unexpected twists used to move the story along when things are getting dull or you're feeling blocked) can shift the story in interesting new directions and help you make your word count goals - remember, you can always edit them out later
  • Reward yourself! Set a word goal and a reward - maybe you get to eat 5 M&Ms for every 100 words you write, or you will buy a winner's t-shirt from the NaNoWriMo website when you hit your goal
  • Do word sprints - write 200 words, take a 5 minute break, repeat
  • Write-ins are a great opportunity to set aside dedicated writing time and also commiserate with people who know what you're going through - find one in your area via the NaNoWriMo website


  • Make NaNoWriMo work for you - remember, the purpose of this challenge is to get your creative juices flowing and help you write your novel. If you find yourself truly dreading your daily writing time or putting nonsensical things into the story just for the sake of word counts, reconsider your strategy. Take a step back and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. If you don't make it to 50k but you did make some good progress toward writing an awesome story, then you still came out a winner. Keep writing, and remember that there's always next year.

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Categories: Writing