10 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

POSTED ON October 31, 2018 BY Austine IN Discussion, General

Happy Halloween! My favorite holiday is finally here and I am SO excited for today’s festivities.

But October 31st marks another important date: the eve of NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a worldwide “competition” where the goal is to write 50,000 words of an original novel in the month of November. I use the word competition loosely here because you’re only competing with yourself, but there are plenty of cool prizes for those participating AND those who hit that glorious 50K at the end of the month.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2009 as a high school student, and this will be my 10th year (wow it’s been a while. . . ). The last few times I’ve attempted to hammer out a story I’ve had in my head for who knows how long but this year I’m taking a break and tackling something COMPLETELY different!

I’ll share a bit about my story later on, for those of you who are curious, but that’s not my main reason for posting today. With 9 years, soon to be 10, under my belt, I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for surviving this month!

The first and most important is COFFEE. DRINK LOTS OF COFFEE.

No, okay, drink coffee if you want, or tea, or hot chocolate, or water. Whatever your preference. My REAL first tip is also likely my most practical:

Carry a notebook (app) EVERYWHERE

Some of you may already do this and if you don’t, I highly recommend it! Whether your preference is paper and pen, or typing on your phone, always have somewhere to record snippets of your story, inspiration, anything that may come up when you’re not at your computer.

I’m a pen and paper sort of girl so when I’m not at my computer, I keep a small composition book with me for quick ideas. If I have the space, I’ll bring a larger notepad, usually one of those cheap legal pads you can get from the dollar store. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a place for musings.

But sometimes pen and paper don’t cut it, and you’d then have to type everything up. For these moments I’ve found both Google Docs and Google Keep (online sticky notes) are my 2 go-to’s. Google Docs makes it easy to copy/paste whatever I write into my current project regardless of what program I’m writing in (this year I’ll likely be using Scrivener again for my “official” copy).

Google Keep is great because you can use the widget on your phone and also work on it as a website on your computer. It makes it easy to type out idea snippets and you can even tag them for easier navigation later on. And like with Google Docs, you can copy/paste to your main document.

And everything syncs online! Yay for not losing your writing! Any “notebook” type app will work for this, but it’s helpful to have one that syncs online once you really get into November.

(I apologize, Apple users, I have never had an iPhone so I can only offer what I use with an Android. But please leave your recommendations in the comments!)



One of the WORST feelings is working on a project and suddenly your computer dies or there’s a power outage or the program crashes or you drop your notebook in a puddle (not much to be done about that one unfortunately. . . ) AND YOU FORGOT TO SAVE YOUR WORK.

Nowadays you can usually recover files but not always and do you really want to risk that?

Make sure to back up your work, whether it’s to a flash drive, an external hard drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, the Cloud, it doesn’t matter. Find a system that works for you and make a habit of backing up everything.

You won’t regret it!

And you’d think this would be an obvious one but I hear horror stories every year of thousands of words lost so. . . back it up!


Stockpile inspiration

One of my favorite things to do before starting a project is creating a Pinterest board for it. I’ll spend hours (not writing. . . ) collecting photos that feed my creative muse for both current projects as well as just general inspiration to check out at a later time.

Writing isn’t just about the words. You have to keep those creative juices flowing too. So whether you’re inspired by photos or music or writing prompts, whatever the case may be, start a file for it all.

For my writing projects, I keep a Pinterest board (and it’s much easier now that you can have sections within a board too so I can have places for characters, locations, etc). I’ll also start a playlist on Spotify and in whatever program I write my novel, I keep a running document of writing prompts from Tumblr, the NaNoWriMo forums, Pinterest, and anywhere else I see them. They’re great to fall back on during writing blocks.

For your reference, a few places to check out for inspiration:

Pinterest Boards (curated by me, primarily fantasy but includes a variety):

Tumblr Blogs (writing prompts)


NaNoWriMo website


Remember the end goal, not the daily

If you go by the NaNoWriMo website, if you write 1,667 words a day, you’ll hit the 50,000 goal by November 30th. I don’t know about y’all but I rarely write the same amount every day. Between work and other life stuff, it just doesn’t happen, AND THAT IS OKAY.

One big thing to remember going into November is that there are many paths to that 50K. Maybe you write less on weekdays and more on weekends. Do you have a holiday break near the end of the month? Maybe you’re saving your writing for then. Whatever the case may be, don’t despair if you can’t manage that 1,667 words each day because that’s not what’s important.

You’re writing. Consider that an accomplishment in itself and if you happen to also hit 50,000 words at the end of the month, even better, but don’t sweat the daily counts.


The only person you’re competing against is yourself

Seriously. Biggest struggle I ever had in my early years of NaNoWriMo was thinking I had to keep up with everyone else. This isn’t a worldwide competition. This is between you, yourself, and. . . well, you. You are your best friend and worst enemy.

First CONGRATS. You’re writing a novel, that is AMAZING! Seriously, even considering this daunting task is a great step. And any words you write is better than no words at all.

You. Can. Do. This. Just remember that. Everyone works differently and at a different pace so don’t compare yourself to others. The journey to that final draft will be different for everyone.


Deleting is for December

Don’t like a scene you wrote? Don’t delete it. Store it somewhere else but don’t delete it. You wrote those words and they’re helping you create this story. They count towards that word goal as much as anything else you write.

In Scrivener, I’ll create a separate “Chapter” with all my deleted scenes and snippets so that they’re included in my total word count but aren’t in the manuscript proper so I can keep on writing. But they’re still there to reference during edits. I’ve also done this in Microsoft Word by putting a section at either the very beginning or end of my novel document for those deleted pieces.

Don’t be afraid to separate out the writing you don’t like, but save the deleting for December.


THINKING about your story counts as writing (sort of)

Part of the NaNoWriMo climate is that you’re racing to get in all those words in 30 days. But you’re not always going to be writing and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing. Sometimes you need to figure out something in your story and writing doesn’t do the trick.

When you THINK about your story, you’re still writing. Will it count toward your word goal? No, but it WILL allow you to hit those goals easier. I know when I get stuck, sometimes I just need to sit back and let my mind wander through my fictional world before I can get back to writing. And when I do, the words flow.

Writing is as much plotting and prepping and thinking as it is writing. Don’t feel guilty for taking time to work through your story off the page/screen.


Take mental health breaks

Please please PLEASE give yourself a break this November. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play some video games. Do something that ISN’T writing. Your creativity will thank you for it later and so will you.

NaNoWriMo shouldn’t be stressful. I know that it can be easy to say that now but when November hits it flies out the window, but please don’t stress over these next 30 days. Your story is important but not at the cost of your mental health. Take care of yourself, and that includes your mind as well as your body.

You’ll be better off to write a novel and make it through the journey!


Don’t let NaNoWriMo get in the way of your life

When it comes down to writing, it can be a solo job. But don’t let NaNoWriMo consume everything this November. Check your messages, hang out with friends, keep doing what you’re doing now. November is only 30 days and there’s no sense in pushing people away when life will resume as scheduled in December.


WOW that was a lot! And, in fact, this post proved to me that I can hit that daily word count in an hour and a half (when I have something to say). Kind of amazing how few words it really is (and how sometimes it can feel like a million).

I hope that whether you’re new or returning to NaNoWriMo this November that you found something here worth considering as we make this 30-day journey together!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your story in the comments!

If you’re not participating and want to enter the giveaway, tell me one of your favorite books from this year!

Now for anyone curious, I’m going to share a bit about my NaNoWriMo story for this year in the next section. You’re welcome to skip over it to the giveaway at the end of the post!


NaNoWriMo 2018

“Beneath the Thistle Hill”

It’s a working title, but it does exactly that, it works! I’ve been so centered on one story for so many years that the idea of changing ideas completely has been a bit daunting to say the least.

This year I’m tackling something I’ve wanted to write for a while, actually, but keep putting off. To put it simply, it’s LABYRINTH meets HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. And I’m talking the 1980’s David Bowie Labyrinth here.

I have a fascination with the whole Goblin Market and the lore behind goblins and the fae, so I’ll be merging those two concepts and forming something new from them (at least that’s the plan)!

You can keep up with me and my NaNoWriMo progress through my NaNo profile, and I also have a Pinterest board + sub-boards dedicated to this project if you’re curious. It’s dark and fantastical and I can’t wait to write it!

A few aesthetics I put together for your consideration:


Spooktastic Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive their choice of book from ANY book mentioned during my Spooktastic Celebration! That’s 7 days worth of posts to pick from by the end!

Since the prize of this giveaway is a book of your choice from any mentioned in the past 7 days of this Spooktacular Celebration, and this post is all about writing and NaNoWriMo, I’m including ANY book about writing as an option if you win!

This giveaway is open internationally
(as long as the Book Depository/Wordery ships free to you)

You can gain EXTRA ENTRIES each day by commenting on that day’s post and answering the Let’s Chat discussion question in the comments!

Giveaway ends November 1st. Enter using the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4 responses to “10 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

  1. these are good tips though I wish I can remember not to delete as I write, it’s kind of hard not to edit.

    your novel sounds interesting, I love ‘howl’s moving castle’ the movie not really the book though. I actually have not seen labyrinth but I have seen the trailer and I must say combing these two is quite new to me. good luck with your novel.

    have a lovely day.

  2. Kel

    Great tips! I haven’t done NaNo since 2013, but I remember hitting a bunch of these issues back then. I agree, it’s super important to remember than anything above 0 is more than we had before. I actually found myself writing a scene today from a different story idea I’ve had for years. I was about to ignore it and try to write for the story I picked instead. Then I thought, why not write this scene? Who says I’m stuck on the one story? I’m just here to write, lol. Hope all’s going well with you!