How to Get the Most Out of #NaNoWriMo

Every November, many aspiring novelists are taking a crack at participating in what’s become a huge sensation in the publishing community: National Novel Writing Month. The goal: Write a complete story from beginning to end during the month of November.

But, writing a novel can be a grueling process. As many writers are plugging away at their drafts, they might doubt that their story is any good, or that they won’t find the time or energy to keep their commitment.

Here are 3 ways to ensure you finish strong with #NaNoWriMo:

1. Banish insecurity.

Many writers I’ve worked with often come to me with the same questions: Do you think I’m any good? Do you think this story is any good? Do you think I’ll get published?

Would you believe that many great writers — namely, Stephen King, Pearl Buck, Agatha Christie, and J.D. Salinger — were initially rejected by many publishers? Bottom line: They didn’t let those rejections stop them from reworking their stories or queries and trying again. And again. All aspiring writers have the potential to be published; it’s simply a matter of committing to their craft and believing in themselves.

2. Find a writing space.

Are you trying to write your novel at a desk in your family room, amidst your child’s toys, your barking dog, or your visiting friends? No wonder you feel frustrated! I’ve found that when I have work that requires creative concentration, retreating outside of my home — to a local café, the library, or even to a quiet inn for a weekend — gives me the energy and focus I need to accomplish my tasks.

Finding a space can be as simple as using noise-cancelling headphones. Also, if you’re writing a novel set in a foreign land, try listening to music from that setting. It might be the right thing to sweep you away into your story world.

3. Embrace the egg timer.

Do you feel that you can’t even bring yourself to start writing some days? Use an egg timer. Write until it goes off.

One of my authors, Joanne Tombrakos, swears by this tactic. It makes a lot of sense: procrastination studies show that just by forcing yourself to start a task and commit to giving it a shot for even five minutes puts your brain into work mode more effectively than if you were to decide to write for a whole day. Sit down and commit to writing for five minutes — nine times out of ten, you’ll find that your mind is so full of character descriptions or ideas for cheeky dialogue that you won’t be able to stop.

What tactics do you embrace during NaNoWriMo?


NovelMakersHandbook_3Read more tips like these, along with other great writing advice, in my book, The Novel-Maker’s Handbook. Purchase your copy today!.


7 comments on “How to Get the Most Out of #NaNoWriMo

  • Trying the egg timer for the first time this NaNo. Funny, as soon as it goes off I keep setting it for another 10, fifteen, then 25 minutes! Not sure if that’s the point…my kids have wondered where mama has gone but I’m writing away! LOL

  • The idea of writing an entire novel in a month is just insane. How many poorly written, rushed-through, unplanned drafts are busted out in this crazy ritual (which coincides with Thanksgiving, the most sacred of holidays, no less)? I appreciate your comments here (and on Twitter and in your YouTube videos) to finish “strong” — not simply to finish. I commend your encouragement of those participants who love and depend on NaNoWriMo like their breath (for some reason), but also for your reminders that authors should work on their craft to achieve a work of exceptional quality. It’s not about simply getting to the finish line; it’s about writing a book readers will actually find engaging.

    Sorry for the rant! But also…I’m not sorry. 😉

  • I felt great when I started writing but things are dragging a ton in the middle. A couple of scenes in and of themselves just don’t work. Do I keep plowing through my word count goals? I am totally stuck. Do you have any advice for me?

    Many thanks,

  • Ah! I almost didn’t want to click on this once I saw it on my Twitter feed (I shouldn’t even BE on Twitter right now, first of all) but I’m super glad I did. Just the short-but-sweet boost I needed. Breathing. Idea of timing yourself is just superb. I do that often when at work, when I’m NOT writing!

    Thanks for your advice, Diane. Please keep up the blog……I need something to read when I’m avoiding edits on my novel. Hahahaha

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