NaNoWriMo—Quick Tips to Keep You Going
Updated: Sep 20
Here are a few suggestions to help you win NaNoWriMo this year.
It is officially November, which means that NaNoWriMo is here. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual event in which writers are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel. That means that you’ll need to write 1,667 words a day.
There is no shortage of websites offering advice on how to get started, but since we are a few days into November, we will assume you are already on your way to starting your novel. Here are three tips from an editor to help you be successful:
Skip the writer’s block.
Use comments, highlighters, and brackets.
Shush your inner editor.
1. Skip the writer's block.
You have your outline. You have your plan. Writing chapter 1 was a breeze. But now, writing chapter 2 feels like running through mud.
Skip it. Move on to chapter 3, when your character gets kidnapped by fairies, or chapter 4 when their love interest enters the scene. Don’t get caught up in writing chapter by chapter. Remember: the single goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words, not to write a polished draft. Don’t get stuck in a boring part of your novel by holding yourself to ambiguous standards.
2. Use comments, highlighters, and brackets.
Using comments, highlighters, and brackets in software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs can be a lifesaver during NaNoWriMo.
Let’s say you’re eagerly writing chapter 5 when you get a sudden flash of inspiration for a scene in chapter 4. Don’t disengage from what you are writing to go back to chapter 4. Just leave yourself a very brief comment. You can go back to chapter 4 later or simply move on and make changes after you’re done with NaNoWriMo. Highlighters and comments in brackets are also good ways to get your ideas, notes, and to-dos out of your head and on paper without stalling your progress. These tools are most effective when you know something should be fixed or changed, but you don’t know how to do it at the moment.
3. Shush your inner editor.
One of the most common tips you will hear when seeking NaNoWriMo advice is to write now and edit later. This advice makes sense as the goal is to write 50,000 words, not a perfect, error-free novel. But how do you shush your inner editor? We have a few tips:
First, try covering your screen. Spell checkers are amazing inventions, but seeing those red and blue lines under misspelled words and incorrect grammar can interrupt your flow. Covering your screen with a piece of paper or even turning off your spell checker can make a big difference with not only your flow but also your confidence.
Second, don’t reread and revise your content. Unless you need a refresher of where you left off, don’t go back and read what you wrote the previous day. Keep moving forward. If you know a sentence isn’t quite right, don’t revise it. Compromise with your inner editor by making a quick note and moving on. You’ll likely find the words you want when you look over your manuscript with fresh eyes later.
Lastly, remember that you’re only “shushing” your inner editor, not banishing them. Your inner editor likely wants to create a masterpiece—and you don’t want to lose that part of you. But for the November writing process, they cannot be a part of it. As Patricia O’Conner puts it:
“Write a first draft as though you were thinking aloud, not carving a monument.”
(O'Conner, Patricia T.. Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000, 38.)
Your inner editor can come out to play (and destroy and rebuild) when November is over.
Let us know if you are doing NaNoWriMo this year. We’d love to hear all about your progress. Have a great time writing, and we’ll see you on the other side.