Well this is exciting!
You’ve got 30 days to write your novel…
I’ve got 30 ways to help you rock it!
It was clearly meant to be.
Shall we get started?
1. Write Your ‘Why’
So, you’re giving yourself 30 days to write a novel. Why? Seriously, NaNo is hard work! Some people would say it’s insane.
You might be tempted to give up half way through. So – when that happens – you better have a killer reason to keep going.
Ask yourself…What do I really want?
I don’t just mean a novel to your name. Think about how you hope to feel. What difference will it make to your life? Your goals? Your self-image? The way others see you? Remember all the obstacles that have stopped you in the past, then list all the reasons you’re finally going to smash through them.
Write your vision down and keep it close, as a bright shield against the low moments.
2. Set Your Own Goals
Now’s the time to decide exactly what you want to hold in your hands at the end of the month.
A full novel? A short story? A rework of an existing story? That’s allowed, you know. 50,000 words of a brand new novel is just a suggestion.
The only rules are the ones you set…
Download my custom Goal Tracker to set your targets and record your progress.
3. Pace Yourself
NaNo is about hitting targets. So before you can track your progress and measure your success, you need to know exactly what your targets are.
Once you’ve decided on your final goal, break it down into day-by-day targets. But remember to include rest days!
Top tip: ease yourself in, up your targets mid month, and remember to leave some wiggle room at the end.
4. Be Realistic
This is about managing your own expectations. I mean writing a big, beautiful, perfectly finished novel in 30 days sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?
It’s also unrealistic.
If you expect to have a shiny manuscript all ready for publication at the end of the month, you’ll be horribly disappointed. NaNo is for getting words onto pages. It’s about quantity, not quality.
A realistic expectation is a first draft with enough words to start the fun process of editing, refining and polishing.
5. Go Public
The solo writer is a myth. Before you publish, you’re going to rely on critique partners and beta readers and, eventually, an editor you trust. You'll need to build a community. This starts with your friends and family.
Tell the people who care about you what you’re doing. Get them on board. That doesn’t mean you should share any details just yet: don’t ask for opinions too early, and don’t let their reactions sow any seeds of doubt. This is your time. Theirs will come later. But do let them know how much this project means to you.
Once your support network knows how important NaNo is to you, they’ll be your best cheerleaders and help keep you on track.
6. Make Friends
Your friends and family aren’t the only ones who can support you and keep you accountable. You might write alone but thousands of people, all over the world, are doing the exact same thing – experiencing the same dilemmas, obstacles and thrills as you. So why not add them as ‘buddies’ and share stories, struggles and triumphs?
Connect with people you already know, or find new friends in the NaNo forums.
7. Post Your Word Count
If you sign up to the NaNoWriMo website, you can update your word count every day (or as often as you’d like). Compare your word count to others in your region or even in your genre. Add a widget to your blog, announcing your progress. Or go head-to-head against a friend also doing NaNo and spur each other on with some friendly competition!
You can also earn badges for momentous milestones… which can be quite addictive, and useful if you start to flag.
Recording your progress keeps you on schedule, but making your progress public keeps you motivated.
8. Join the Mighty Pens
What if the words you write – the words you’re planning to write ANYWAY – could do more than pave the way to a novel? What if they meant that a girl with no previous access to schooling gets a proper education? That’s what your words could achieve when you join the Mighty Pens.
NaNo is essentially one big writing sprint. And just like runners get sponsored for races, you can get sponsored for writing! Your friends, family, colleagues, teachers, neighbors, social media followers, and anyone else you have any connection to, can pledge to donate money when you hit your word goals.
As a bonus: when you hit certain goals, you get prizes! For example, if you raise just $100, you could win a query letter critique from me!
Words have power. Use your power – and your passion – to help others.
9. Fall in Love
You’ve heard the famous advice ‘Write what you know’? Well, I’m overruling that.
I say: ‘Write what you love’.
The story you’ve chosen to tell is going to be your life for the next 30 days – at least. So don’t write the story you think you ‘should’.
Write the story that intrigues, inspires and excites you.
10. Map it Out
You don’t have to plan out every plot point (though you can), but it's good to have at least a rough idea of where you’re going.
I really like Pixar’s guide to getting your story straight. Just fill in the blanks:
Once upon a time there was a ___ . Every day, ___ . One day, ___ . Because of that, ___ . Because of that, ___ . Until finally, ___ .
Et voila! Easy as that, you have your map.
11. Find Your Own Space
Do you know where you do your best writing?
Is it… in a noisy coffee shop, surrounded by chatty strangers? In the quiet of a library? Among the tranquil solitude of nature? Perched at a perfectly organized desk.
Wherever you feel most inspired, most focused, most productive… claim it as your own for this entire month!
12. Switch Off
Set your phone to silent and your status to ‘busy’. Ignore social media, turn off the television, and minimize distractions.
For just one month, drop any non-essential responsibilities, warn your friends you’ll be out of contact, and let your house get messy.
You have permission to feel no guilt.
13. Pick Your PoV
Your Point of View (POV) just means who is telling your story and how they’re telling it.
You can choose first person (I, me) or third person (he, she, her, him). They can tell their story in the present, as if it’s happening right now, or in the past, as if they’re recounting events that have already happened.
Why is this important? Because your POV sets the tone and impacts the scope of your story. For example, it feels really personal when a narrator speaks in first person – but then they’re limited by how much of the story they’re able to see. Of course you can have multiple narrators…
Picking the right POV – and sticking to it – will help your readers develop a closer relationship with your Main Character.
14. Turn Secret Agent
Now’s the time to do a really thorough background check on your main character.
I’m talking FBI-profiler standard.
Who are they? What do they do? Why they do it? Where are they from? Where are they going? What’s pushing them forward or getting in their way? What are their hopes, needs, and deepest desires? What are they afraid of? How do they interact with other people? How do others respond to them?
You want to know all this so that, through every situation you’re about to throw them into, their actions will always make sense and ring true.
15. Start Writing… and Just Keep Going!
Seems obvious, right?! But sometimes the hardest thing to do is just make a start. Especially if you’re a Plotter. It’s tempting to keep planning, keep researching, keep refining your idea and getting to know your characters.
There is a time for planning, for researching, for choosing a title and cover art, for agonizing over character names and word choices. NaNoWriMo is not that time.
NaNoWriMo is a time for action. It’s about putting aside your fears, your doubts, your guilt, your insecurities and your self-consciousness. It’s not for second-guessing yourself, or hesitating, or overthinking.
NaNoWriMo is about jumping in. Feet first. It’s about splashing around and getting wet. It’s about writing like no one is watching. It’s about trusting your abilities. It’s about freewheeling down a hill squealing ‘Look! No hands!’
So just keep freewheeling. One word after another. Never looking back.
16. Ignite Your Senses
Art, music, food, nature, light, colors, photos, candles… When you use all your senses, you engage different parts of your brain and you might just surprise yourself with how fully you can immerse yourself in your characters’ experiences.
Turn off the lights to darken the mood. Turn up the heat to better understand life in a warmer climate. Eat the food you’re writing about to more vividly describe the taste.
Surround yourself with anything that makes you feel part of your story world.
17. Delete Nothing… Save Everything
If the goal of NaNo is to put words on a page, why on earth would you willingly take them off?
The thing about writing a novel in 30 days is that you start to lose objectivity. You become a terrible critic of your own work. If you start deleting words, there’s a good chance you’ll have a crisis of confidence at some point and end up scrapping half your book. Which would be tragic. Instead, Copy and Paste into another document. Who knows? Maybe you can use them again later – or even in your next book!
The only thing worse than losing words on purpose, is losing them by accident. It’s always heartbreaking, but when you’re pushed to your limit and you only have 30 days to get it all done, it can be soul destroying.
Save regularly. Use a memory stick, an external hard drive, email yourself at the end of every session, set up automatic backups, write in the cloud.
I repeat: delete nothing, save everything.
18. Ignore That Little Voice
You know the voice I mean. The one that whispers you’re not good enough. The one that tells you you’re wasting your time, and that you’re not a ‘real writer’. Can you hear how rude and nasty that snide little voice is? Why do you listen? That voice is Doubt.
It doesn’t deserve any airtime.
19. Silence Your Inner Editor
You are a writer. And for 30 days, that is your only role. Do not try to be an editor: do not obsess over vocabulary or get bogged down with grammar. Accept that you will write sentences that suck. You’ll fix them later.
NaNo is about self-expression and creativity, without rules or limitations or judgment. Not even from you.
20. Stay the Course
You are going to get tired. And frustrated. And probably stressed out. You might even feel guilty about devoting all this time to you and your dreams. That’s when you’ll need to remind yourself of your ‘why’ – the reason you’re doing this. Just imagine what it will feel like to reach that finish line.
Write even when you don’t feel like writing.
21. Jump Around
You don’t have to limit yourself to writing in a straight line. Feel free to follow inspiration wherever it leads. If it leads you to a scene near the end of your book, skip ahead. The same goes if you get stuck. Just make a note and move on.
The rules are: there ain’t no rules!
22. Look Ahead
When it comes to making the most of every minute spent writing, one of the best tips I’ve come across is to leave a note for yourself at the end of each session, with instructions about where to pick up next time. You’ll be amazed how much brain power this saves!
End each writing session by planning how to start the next.
23. Stay Hydrated
This one is pretty simple… thirst and dehydration lead to fatigue, so keep your energy up with plenty of H2O. For extra zing, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon.
You can’t go wrong with water!
24. Write the Story You Want to Read
Plans can change. That map you made at the start can be redrawn. If you find yourself heading in a different direction and getting excited about a new idea, follow it!
If you’re excited by it, your readers will be too.
25. Take Note
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not stop for NaNo. Sometimes, life intrudes. But that doesn't mean you have to stop creating. Keep a notebook with you at all times. Or keep notes on your phone. It could be when you’re in that queue, or on that bus, or waiting for that appointment… that your best idea comes along.
Always be prepared for a visit from your Muse. She doesn’t need tea or cake… just your attention.
26. Beat Writer’s Block
Writer’s block sucks at the best of times but you really don’t have time for it during NaNo. If you’re going to consistently hit your targets, you can’t waste time on a blank screen.
If it’s your perfectionism that’s getting in your way, you need to get over that right now! Write anything. 10,000 ‘bad’ words are infinitely better than no words at all.
If you’re stuck for inspiration or you’re not sure where to go next, you’re in luck! Check out my 23 Writing Prompts to Jump Start Your Story.
Remember, anything that disrupts your flow is the enemy and must be vanquished!
27. Write by Hand
One of the best cures for writer’s block is just to start scribbling. Instead of staring blankly at your screen, grab a pen and some paper and just let loose! Doodle. Jot down random words. Draw arrows connecting them. Write out your last sentence and then just see what your hand keeps doing…
Give your subconscious free rein.
28. Mind the Gap
You won’t know absolutely everything you need to know. After all, you’re a writer—not a jewel thief/astro physicist/medieval witch. But when you come to a tricky section, don’t be tempted to switch to research mode.
Just make a note like insert *knowledge* here and come back to it next month.
29. Embrace Conflict
Have you heard the saying ‘You’ve got to be cruel to be kind’?
Well, I say you’ve got to be cruel (to your characters) to be kind (to your readers).
We all love a bit of drama and conflict – in our books. No one really wants to read about a happy girl who only has lovely things happen to her. It’s not that we’re awful people; it’s just a lot harder to care about and relate to a character with such an easy life. And I know you want your readers to care about your characters as much as you do!
So make your characters sympathetic. That means putting them in difficult situations. It means taking away the things they want. It means making them work for their goals. Sometimes, it means making them suffer.
If you feel like your story is losing a bit of pace, if nothing exciting has happened for a while and you’re not sure how to liven it up… throw in a curveball. Ask yourself, what does my character want? What is making them happy?
Taking your characters’ happiness away creates instant conflict!
30. Celebrate the Good Times
Whether or not you make 50,000 words, finish your novel, or hit all your goals, remember that simply participating in NaNoWriMo is an achievement! And one that most writers can never claim.
So celebrate each and every win!
Treat yourself after every milestone. It could be every 1,000 or every 10,000 words! It could be a bar of chocolate or a pair of new shoes! The point is, you deserve it.
And at the end, remember to look beyond your word count. Think about all the knowledge you’ve gained, the skills you’ve developed, the talents you never knew you had, the pride you felt… the fun you had!
Maybe you’ll discover an epic plot twist. Or get to know your characters on a whole new level. Perhaps you’ll end up with a much better understanding of the themes in your story.
No matter where you end up, I guarantee you’ll be in a better place than when you started.
Writing a novel in 30 days is intense. If you’re going to hit all your targets, nothing can be allowed to get in your way. That’s why a blank page is the Ultimate Enemy.
Luckily, I’ve scoured the internet for you and found out how super-successful authors banish writer’s block.