Thirty days to write 50,000 words!
It sounds crazy and tortuous to some people, to others exciting and energizing, but for all of us–it’s daunting. How do you write a novel of 50,000 words in a month? Better yet, why would you? Ah, well November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and people who love fiction come together with the goal of meeting that high NaNoWriMo word count.
We make our plans, whether we are Pantsers (People who write by the seat of their pants or Plotter (those who plan their story) and start writing on November 1st. Those writers that reach the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word count win. There is the certificate, bragging rights, and the satisfaction that we wrote something instead of dreaming about writing something.
Rising to that challenge takes a lot of work, stamina, and likely caffeine.
I’ve won and lost NaNoWriMo; I’ve felt the high of accomplishing your goal and the disappointment in failing to reach it. I know the difference between whether you are successful or not.
I want you to feel the joy in winning, so in this post, I’m giving you my best tips for winning NaNoWriMo!
5 Tips to Reach the NaNoWriMo Word Count
#1 Build up your word count endurance
It takes a lot to meet the 50,000-word count. You have 30 days in November, so sticking to a daily word count is necessary. To reach 50,000 words in a month, you need to write 1,667 words per day. However, that means you cannot miss a day. I suggest writing at least 2000 words per day to have room to spare if you miss a day (like a family holiday).
Reaching that 2000 words a day milestone takes endurance. You would not run a marathon without building up your muscles and stamina, so why would you write 50,000 words without upping your word count and likely word writing speed? I don’t have 4 hours a day to write 2000 words, but if I wake up early, I have 2 hours or even 90 minutes, so I want to make the most of that time by writing at least 2000 words during that time.
I recommend training yourself. Keep a writing tracker and set a word count goal for the day, and reach it!
Word Sprints are a great way to improve your writing productivity to increase the number of words you write during that time. A word sprint is where you take a chunk of time: 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. and write non-stop. Then when the timer rings, you stop and count the number of words you wrote. The average speed for me is about 150–200 words in 10 minutes, but by the time I start NaNoWriMo, my word count and speed will increase.
#2 Find time to write words
How do you find the time to write that many words? There are different approaches to this, but one of the best ways to find time is to schedule writing. I look for 90-minutes to 2 hours each day. However, that approach won’t work for everyone. You may find it easier to schedule time at shorter intervals during the day.
If you use word sprints, finding 30 minutes a few times a day will give you a boost on your word count. Have a few word sprints during that time.
Another useful thing is to attend in-person or online write-ins. A write-in is where you gather with other people and write at the same time. It’s a way for people to spur each other on so that they write more.
Part of what works is the social commitment you make to show up, be there, and write. Another part is knowing you are not alone in this journey, and for those of you with a love of competition, there is also the satisfaction in knowing how many words you can write compared to other people.
#3 Track your word count and measure your progress
Tracking and measuring your progress is satisfying. You see yourself accomplishing the task of writing a certain number of words per day. NaNoWriMo has a tracker on its website so that you can enter your word count. It calculates how many words per day, you need to write to reach 50,000 words.
Even better, they give you badges for milestones you reach along the way. Like the first time you write 10,000 words or when you write a certain number of days in a row. Badges encourage you by celebrating what you achieve.
You can also track your words in a spreadsheet-like Excel or Google Tracker. I do this even when I’m not racing to meet the NaNoWriMo Word Count.
Since I start building up my writing endurance a couple of months before NaNo, I create a weekly word count tracker and a word sprint tracker. In the weekly word count tracker, I have a column for the week’s dates and days of the week (Monday-Saturday for me). Under each day, I add the number of words I wrote for that day.
I see my progress and my consistency, and I notice when I’m not doing anything. What is great about this technique is that you can measure how much time you need to spend writing each day to meet your daily word count. Seeing how fast you can reach a word count is gratifying.
While, I never tell students in my class to write an essay, paper, or project fast, but to get a first draft done during NaNoWriMo is different. It isn’t like you will hand in your novel and send it to a publisher without revising and editing it or even re-writing large parts of it.
If you wait to write a novel until all of your words and ideas are perfect, you won’t write that novel in a month, and for many of us, you may not complete a novel.
#4 Plan your novel or writing premise
Wrimos (people who participate in NaNoWriMo) tend to categorize themselves into one of two different groups: Plotters or Pantsers. Plotters create an outline or notes about the story. Pantsers start with an idea (they may not even have one before the first day of NaNo) and write whatever comes to their minds and see where it takes them. Each technique works depending on what type of writer you are.
Either way, I suggest you do some planning. If you are a plotter, plan as much as you need to finish a novel. I create index cards with what will happen in the story. Then I shuffle them into an order that makes sense. Other people write outlines or a scene tracker.
Pantsers do very little planning. If you are a pantser, I suggest knowing your story premise and the characters in your story before you write. You might also consider thinking about the world or the location of your novel.
Come up with some ideas that help you know where you want to go. When you start writing your novel, the shape of your story will develop. It can help you if you think about what could happen next and write a few bullet points or notes for the next day after writing.
#5 Study Writing and NaNoWriMo Resources
Before you start NaNoWriMo, learn what you need to do to succeed. If you’ve never written a book before, pick up some books on creating characters, writing a plot, writing scenes and dialogue. Anything you feel you need guidance on, study, and practice writing.
Also, there are many online writing classes or writing groups you can join. If you know the genre you will be writing in, study how that genre works.
A free resource for those interested in science fiction and fantasy is Brandon Sanderson’s course Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy on his YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3g-w83Cb5pEAu5UmRrge-A: It covers different aspects (plotting, developing characters, world-building) of science fiction and fantasy.
You should (even if you want to be a pantser) learn how to write a novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo has a ton of resources that will help you prepare for the challenge. Take advantage of those resources. Now is an excellent time to check NaNoWriMo Prep 101 https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101 so that you can figure out a story idea, develop characters, and build your story world before you write.
Get started by declaring what you will do!
Post on social media, call your friends, tell everyone you know that you will reach the NaNoWriMo word count, and write your novel. The more you declare what you will do publicly, the more you will want to prove you can do it. We don’t want to fail in front of others, so that motivates us to succeed. Plus, when our friends and family know what we are doing, they can cheer us on and encourage us when we feel we can’t write more.
Are you ready to join NaNoWriMo? Comment below, and declare, “yes, I will do it!” Good luck Wrimos!