November is around the corner. You look out the window: the weather sucks. The year-end festivities are still two months away. A gloom settles in… Don’t get down, get writing.
For those who don’t know what we are talking about, a quick recap: the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a challenge that started between 20 friends in 1999 and registered more than 413,000 contestants last year.1 Your mom, your kids, your favorite author, anyone can join.
The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is to get writers start a writing routine that they can maintain beyond the challenge.2 Along the years, it turned out to be one of the most followed events for writers around the world with a kind and supportive community.
It’s a free contest and there is no prize to win. See it as a writing marathon, a competition against yourself. Register on their website and enter your word count as you go. If you reach the 50,000-word mark in 30 days, you will get a certificate saying you’re a winner. Spoiler:
Tips From the iA Team
First of all, we are going to spoil you the fun: most people who will join NaNoWriMo for the first time will not complete it. And that’s okay.
If you read blog posts and other feedback from participants, you quickly realize that many don’t make it to the end, but keep on joining NaNoWriMo year after year.3 For motivation, or the community feeling. And to get better at writing.
It’s quite unlikely that you will start November as a total noob in novel writing and become a future best-seller author by December 1st. The idea is to have you starting the draft of this book you’ve always wanted to write. It surely won’t be perfect and maybe won’t stretch to a 50,000 words, but the result isn’t as important as the journey itself.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” —Richard Bach.
Now that we have lost half of our readers, let’s get into more details:
Preptober Is No Joke
The first year joining NaNoWriMo was without doing Preptober for some of us at iA and, no surprise, it didn’t go very well… There are different types of writers–planners vs pantsers–but the majority of us needs an outline. We have a series of short posts dedicated to Preptober, check it out for next year!
Block Your Calendar
Do not schedule anything and tell your friends and family that you will see them in December. Plan your writing sessions around your full-time activities, and start meal prep to maximize the time you can dedicate to writing. Not everyone can do a final rush of 20,000 words in the last two days, so start as early as possible and try to do the more you can each day. Also, block a few days of rest, you will need them. If you have a nine to five job, put evening and/or early morning blocks into your calendar. You will need at least one to two hours every day.
The average person types between 40 to 60 words per minute (WPM). At 60 WPM, it would theoretically take about 28 minutes to type 1667 words. Distractions like emails, social media, or environmental factors could lengthen the process, so block them. If you’re writing on a well-understood topic without editing, research and distractions, you might be able to complete 1667 words in around one to two hours.
No Looking Back
Do not waste time making folders or a solid structure and above all DO NOT EDIT your text. Your NaNoWriMo draft will be clumsy, disorganized and definitely very embarrassing. By the time you edit it, a few months later, you will have to rewrite and cut a lot of scenes, well, entire chapters, and maybe you’ll trash the whole thing.4 And that’s okay. NaNoWriMo’s goal is to write every day, as much as you can. Everything else comes later.
“No wonder you don’t write and put it off month after month, decade after decade. For when you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free,—free and not anxious. The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny.” –Brenda Ueland, If you want to write.
Don’t Stay Alone
Half of the fun of the NaNoWriMo challenge is the community. Join a Discord channel, drag along friends, check YouTube and Tik-Tok or join a local group.5 Just avoid distractions while you write. Do not do it alone, you have the rest of the year to be a hermit writer.
Keep Working, but Stay Kind To Yourself
Writing 50,000 words in 30 days means 1,667 words daily. Without a routine, it’s going to be tough—expect one or two hard hours each day. The Roman poet Juvenal famously said:
“You should pray for a sound mind in a sound body.” –Juvenal, 10th Satire
Today, we swap prayer for exercise. Your mind needs a workout just like your body. Think of daily writing like hitting the gym. It’ll be tiring at first, but stick with it. You’ll get stronger and at some point you’ll start to enjoy it. Remember: When you go for a run, running is not the tedious part. The toughest part isn’t the run; it’s putting on your shoes.
But if you feel overwhelmed, be kind to yourself. Set a personal goal that is within your reach. It’s not a competition. Finishing with 20,000 or 30,000 words only is already a great achievement.
“Nothing contributes more to becoming a productive writer than a daily habit. Remember that a page a day equals a book a year. [Stephen] King shoots for 2,000 words per day. But even 200 words (with 65 days off) gives you 60,000 words per annum.” –Roy Peter Clark, Murder Your Darlings.
If your body isn’t feeling great, your mind won’t work at full speed either. You can pray for a sound body, and you can do something about it as well. Go out for long walk (great to spark creativity and rest the mind), stretch regularly, try some yoga or keep up with any sports you were doing already. Pamper yourself sometimes and, as you should do every day, take good care of what you are eating and drinking.
“For me, a long five- or six-mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day. I have done this for many years. It is at these times I seem to get re-charged. If I do not walk one day, I seem to have on the next what van Gogh calls “the meagerness.” “The meagerness,” he said, “or what is called depression.” After a day or two of not walking, when I try to write I feel a little dull and irresolute. For a long time I thought that the dullness was just due to the asphyxiation of an indoor, sedentary life (which all people who do not move around a great deal in the open air suffer from, though they do not know it).” –Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write.
iA Writer for NaNoWriMo
To be able to win NaNoWriMo, the regular challengers (those having a full-time activity) will need to be good at time management and able to focus to reach their peak productivity. Our distraction-free app, favored by many writers and journalist for years, will help you write faster and better.
Several features of iA Writer stand out as particularly valuable for NaNoWriMo participants, including:
- Word Count: Keep a real-time tally of your Word Count as you write.
- Focus Mode: The core feature of iA Writer, is a distraction-free environment allowing you to focus on achieving those @*&#!-ing 1667 words per day.
- Shortcuts and Markdown: Keep your hands on the keyboard and swiftly format your work as you go.
- Wikilinks: Getting lost in your worldbuilding or with the relationships between your characters? Link files together and connect your ideas with Wikilinks.
- Content Blocks: Add images and other files to your documents or compile several documents into a single manuscript using this feature.
Need Further Inspiration?
NaNoWriMo won’t make you a professional writer in a month, but some wrote their best-selling novels thanks to this challenge. Get inspired by those 10 most popular books that were created during NaNoWriMo:
- Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
- The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
- With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Wool by Hugh Howey
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” —Beatrix Potter.