Everything you need to know for your first NaNoWriMo

With the National Novel Writing Month upon us once more, a small army of writer-hopefuls will soon be chasing that sweetest of nectars: the triumph of writing 50.000 words over the course of a single month. Although many will conclude their best efforts just weren’t enough, those brave souls who do persevere have a more-than-glorious trophy to show for it. Should you intend to join their ranks this November, here’s everything you need to know before venturing off into the unknown.

Being terrible is fine. In fact, it’s the point

On the first day, thousands of happy-go-lucky authors will impatiently watch the ink dry on their very first chapter, only to fall into a frown that is very much still right-side-up. Few things are so utterly discouraging as pouring your heart and soul into your would-be masterpiece, only to find your first draft could very believably moonlight in a bathroom stall.

Let me stress this, then stress it again: it is perfectly fine for your work to suck. NaNoWriMo isn’t about having starlight flow out of your pen from the get-go; it’s about painstakingly producing 50.000 words that didn’t exist until you came along. That’s hard work, to be sure, but it’s a magical thing all the same. They say the worst thing you write is still better than the best thing you didn’t, and this month is all about taking that quote and sticking a pepper up its butt. Remember: editing is why December was invented.

You’re doing this for you, and you alone

More than anything, NaNoWriMo is a lesson in perseverance. It’s about pushing your boundaries as an author, and providing undeniable proof of your ability to wrap yourself in a blanket and kick some novel writing ass. You’re chasing an incredible feat, and achieving that feat should be your one and only motivation to participate. After all, you can’t reach for the stars without building a rocket — so be ready for some late nights and cramped-up fingers. 

I say this because all too often, I see aspiring authors set off for all the wrong reasons; their minds filled with Instagram likes and street cred rather than characters and storyworlds. Now, sure, dedication is an admirable thing, and you can totally humblebrag about it at your next family gathering, but outside validation shouldn’t be your primary goal this November. When push comes to shove, those fleeting moments of recognition aren’t what’ll get you to your word count; just hard work and unwavering dedication. And fine, maybe a handful of Skittles.

Get ahead while you can

For those more mathematically inclined, an even 1667 words a day will see you sliding right over that finish line. Still, life rarely adheres to the clean logic of arithmetic, and odds are your daily writing sesh’ will be rudely interrupted at one point or another. After all, laptops implode, dogs projectile-vomit onto newborns and anything that can go wrong will most certainly set out to do just that.

It’s good practice to assume a plethora of cosmic fuckshittery will unleash itself onto you at some time this month, and writing a bit more every day can help you face it without flinching. Personally, I like to aim for an even 2000 a day, safe in the knowledge that ending just south of that will still have me sitting pretty at the end of the month.

Failing isn’t the end of the world

This may sound counter-intuitive, but NaNoWriMo really isn’t a hit-or-miss kind of affair. Sure, that 50.000 is a pretty rigid number, and you should definitely go to great lengths to achieve it, but you didn’t waste a month if it ends up not being in the cards for you.

For one, you had the amazing courage to chase something that most people only dream of; to sit down and truly get shit done. That’s an incredible feat, and you’ll be forever incredible for achieving it. And those however-many-words that you did write? They’ll still be there after all this is over with, and you’ll still be a far better writer for putting them to paper.

Not entirely sure how to start writing? Take our free online writing course!


About the author

Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

Mentioned in this post:


about the teacher

Creator of Nearly Complete and author of Dav Iven. Very fond of semicolons.

Covered in this lesson: