Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. Every November the NaNoWriMo foundation encourages would-be novelists to just sit down and finally write that novel in a supportive environment. Writers from all over the world sign up for the challenge and commit to trying to write 50,000 words in just one month. It may sound impossible, but last year alone almost 400,000 writers signed up. 

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What does it entail?

  1. Writing every day- By joining the challenge you are committing to writing every day for 30 days.  This adds up to 1,667 words a day.  Completely doable as long as you stay on track and don’t fall behind.
  2. Updating your word count in your profile- We’ll get more into what that means in a minute, but you’ll need to consistently keep track of and update your word count both to keep yourself motivated and to fully participate in the challenge.


It might sound like a big deal when first looking at it, but writing, and keeping track is all you have to do. I’m sure you can handle that for 30 days.

Why NaNoWriMo Works

  1. You’re in a community.  This huge community can give you the help and motivation you need to finish this goal, or just help to hold you accountable.
  2. You have a deadline. Plenty of writers never finish a project because they don’t have a deadline and it’s hard to set one for yourself. With NaNoWriMo there’s a deadline that helps you finish in a timely manner.
  3. Rewards set up. On your NaNoWriMo profile you can earn badges as you complete goals such as checking in your word count for days in a row, hitting different word count goals, and for completing the challenge.  This little nudge and recognition from outside of your own head might just be the motivation you need.
  4. Inspiration and Motivation directly to your inbox– Because so many others are on the exact same journey as you, at the exact same time, you’ll get relevant and helpful tips, advice, and stories from accomplished writers right in your messages on your NaNo account.

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How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

  1. Register- Before starting, be sure to register on the NaNoWriMo website. Here you can update your word count, track your progress, and connect with other writers.
  2. Develop a story idea- Have some idea before you start writing, that way you don’t waste valuable writing time with being stuck or unsure where the story is going.
  3. Embrace a new mindset- if only for 1 month commit to writing every day and embrace the process. 
  4. Make a Plan- Decide on when and how you’ll write every day.  Maybe for this month you get up earlier, or commit to writing on your lunch break.  Decide early and stick to it for the 30 days.
  5. Claim every spare minute- During this time make sure you take advantage of every moment.  If you have free time, try to squeeze in some writing.  Even if it’s only 200 words you’ll quickly see that it adds up.
  6. Tap into a network- Built into the NaNo website is different regions. Find the region closest to you and see if they are having any meetups. Join in on their discussions and plan to write with them if possible.
  7. Silence your inner critic- This month is not the time to think about how good your writing is. This time is only to get words on a page.  December can be for revising.
  8. Unplug- If you find yourself distracted by technology get away from it.  Write on paper or just go where you can’t connect to wifi. Take away any distraction that could come between you and your words.
  9. Think of this as a jumpstart- whether you’re trying to whip out that novel banging around in your head, or you’ve tried writing but can’t seem to find the time. This is a way to jumpstart your project.  This is a great way to get started, either finish the novel or get the majority of your project done. But, the month doesn’t end your writing goals.  The month is a way to kickstart your motivation, get those 50,000 words under your belt, and start on the road to finishing your novel.
  10. Create a Toolkit to help throughout the month

Ideas for your NaNo Toolkit

  • A Notebook
  • A pen or pencil
  • A computer
  • A bottle of water
  • All your novel planning and character notes
  • Your favorite writing music
  • Snacks
  • Coffee

What do you win if you finish?

I mean…. No one’s sending you a check in the mail if that’s what you’re looking for.  But you win a finished first draft.  Even if your novel isn’t exactly finished you are so much further along than you might have been otherwise. This is the whole purpose of this challenge: just getting you to write 50,000 words in a timely manner—or at all.

How to Keep Writing after NaNoWriMo:

  1. Set yourself a small post-challenge goal- Whether it’s to finish a round of edits on what you just wrote, or writing beyond your 50,000 words, have something to push toward after November.
  2. Slowly increase the habit to a realistic level- if you can’t commit to writing 1,667 words per day every single day of the year, start smaller after NaNo.  Try just 500 words and increase that number until you are writing a significant amount without infringing on your other responsibilities or burning you out.
  3. Track your progress- Tracking your progress, as you’ll see in November, is a great way to help you stay motivated and on track.  You’ll be able to actually see that you’re making a dent in your novel.
  4. Reward yourself each time you write- To keep your spirits up, it could be a good idea to reward yourself.  Buy your favorite coffee and drink only while writing. Or give yourself some free time to do what you please after a session.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up when you miss a day- Life happens. While it’s ideal to write every single day, and you should aspire to do so, it isn’t the end of the word if you miss a day, or a few. As long as you get back into the habit as quickly as possible there’s no harm done.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Leave a link to your… site below so we can support each other on the site!


Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, puppy, and son. She’s traveled to 65 countries solo, now taking the baby along. She blogs about family travel at A Wandering Scribbler while writing novels and binge-watching British TV.

To write for Soaring, Contact Me at

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