Seven Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

B&N Press is excited to celebrate NaNoWriMo! November is national novel writing month, and we are here to support all authors working to reach 50,000-words in 30 days.

To help you reach your goal, check out these “Seven Tips for NaNoWriMo Success.”

A guest post by Grant Faulkner, Executive Director, National Novel Writing Month


Studies to discover the key ingredients of NaNoWriMo success have been conducted by data scientists, wizards, alchemists, two plumbers from Toledo, a rodeo rider, and a winemaker from France, to name just several.

In our endless search to find the recipe for success, we held debates to find the definitive answer, but we’ve concluded that because everyone is different, there is no single formula to cross the finish line.

The main thing is to keep trying new approaches and find your way to write. Here’s the NaNoWriMo recipe that works best for me.


1) Write Your Story, Your Way

This is perhaps the most important tip for NaNoWriMo success. Choose the story that’s calling to you. Don’t worry about what anyone else will think about it, or whether it’s “marketable.” If you tell your story and tell it the way you want to tell it, your passion will be as powerful and eternal as Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper.

Here are two good quotes to think about while you write:

“Write the book you want to read.”

—Toni Morrison

“Write the book you want others to read.”

—Matthew Salesses


2) Prepare To Write Before November (Even If Just a Little)

Some people like to write meticulous outlines. Some people buy extravagant novel-planning software. Some people brainstorm “what if” scenarios and fill a wall with post-it notes of scenes. There’s no right way to write a novel—in fact, sometimes people write wonderful novels by the seat of their pants (we call them pantsers in NaNoLand).

In general, though, I think some preparation will help you whack through the inevitable writer’s blocks that clutter the path of any novel’s journey, even if you just scribble some notes about your main characters or spend an afternoon daydreaming about your story before November. You don’t necessarily need a plot before you write a novel—because a novel, especially the first draft, is an exploration—but having a sense of your novel’s direction will help propel you forward.

As Walter Dean Myers said in a NaNoWriMo pep talk, “Planning a book does not limit your creativity. When I take the time to plan a book, I’m exploring whether or not I really have a book idea in the first place.”


3) Experiment (Which Also Means Have Fun)

NaNoWriMo is about some serious writing, but writing with abandon is also an invitation to be playful, wild, and downright wacky. How to be fun loving in such a writing endurance test? I recommend donning a writing hat to remind yourself of the whimsical powers at your disposal, or participating in some NaNoWriMo Word Sprints (which happen round-the-clock on Twitter in November at @NaNoWordSprints).

“Writing is at its best—always, always, always—when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer,” said Stephen King.


4) Write With Others

Writing a novel has always been more of a community endeavor than it’s perceived to be. Proust talked through his ideas with his housekeeper for hours each day. Zora Neale Hurston found inspiration and kinship in Harlem Renaissance writers such as Langston Hughes. And C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein were buoyed by the feedback and encouragement they received from the writers in the Inklings.

Since NaNoWriMo is an extreme experience, it’s important to be involved with a community of writers to share “war stories,” get encouragement, and enact a system of accountability. NaNoWriMo has nearly 1,000 Municipal Liaisons who organize “write-ins” in approximately 750 different regions around the world — including a partnership with Barnes & Noble! Your local store might be hosting an event, so be sure to search store and events near you.

If you can’t make it to a write-in, the NaNoWriMo forums are vibrant with rollicking discussions of every writing topic under the sun, and NaNoWriMo’s online community spreads its reach to nearly every nook and cranny of the Internet.


5) Get a Dog Who Will Force You To Take Walks

A dog clamoring for a walk often seems like an interruption at a crucial juncture, but dogs have a preternatural instinct to know when you need to get the blood flowing in your body. Or so my dog Buster tells me. This is particularly important during the “muddy middle” of a novel, where so many novels go to die. There’s nothing like a dog walk (or your version of a dog walk if you can’t get or borrow a dog) to welcome in unexpected imaginative insights, ward off back spasms, and spark an idea for the next plot pivot.


6) Practice The Art Of Letting Go

No one can do everything. If you’re going to write a novel in a month, you have to let go of things. Maybe you have to let go of a clean house. Maybe you have to let go of social engagements. The house can be cleaned in December, and your friends will be there as well. Or if they’re not, they’re not the kind of friends you want anyway.

Also, let go of the idea of perfectionism and banish your inner editor. Remember, nothing is permanent in a first draft, and everything can be fixed—later! If you keep your expectations low, you’ll be better able to get the words on the page so you can edit later.

“Part of writing a novel is being willing to leap into the blackness,” says the novelist Chang-Rae Lee. “It’s like spelunking. You kind of create the right path for yourself. But, boy, are there so many points at which you think, absolutely, I’m going down the wrong hole here.”


7) Practice The Art Of Not Letting Go

It’s easy to talk yourself out of any creative project—you might get sick during November, win the lottery, lose your favorite pen, or fall in love. Whether you have good luck or bad luck, you committed to writing a novel. Even if you fall behind and can’t hit the 50,000-word mark, it’s important to hold on tenaciously to one thing: you are a writer, and writers write. So keep showing up and write with abandon.

As Newton observed, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. One sentence tends to lead to another sentence, so keep writing!

Need further inspiration, motivation, and advice? Don’t take it from us! Take a page from other authors who’ve written the book (really, all kinds of books) on the art and craft of storytelling. Explore the collection today!

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