According to my NaNo author page, 2013 is my 7th year doing NaNoWriMo. That’s crazy. I’m crazy. But anyone who tries to write a novel in a month—and succeeds—needs a certain level of craziness for sure. Especially if that month is one of the craziest of the year.

Let’s take a look at November: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, early Christmas shopping. Not to mention midterms for you high school and college students. That’s a lot going on.

But that’s the point.

Sure, it’s nice to have a complete first draft of a novel at the end of November, but the point of NaNoWriMo is that you, the writer, are sitting down every single day for x amount of time to write something. That string of write something’s will create a novel, one which you will have completed (or written a good chunk to) in 30 days. A lot of time writers complain that they don’t have time to finish a novel.

Well, NaNoWriMo is here every year to prove you wrong.

As a NaNo Veteran, here are my tips for completing the challenge:

  1. Break it up. 50,000 words is a lot to write in 30 days. It actually works out to 1,667 words per day, or around two and a half pages, single-spaced. Or three bouts of 600 words each day.  Or six 200-word sprints. If you type at 50 wpm, it should only take you a half hour to write your daily goal, or two 15-minute sessions. Those fifteen minutes could come from your lunch break, the collective time of television commercial breaks to an hour-long program—anywhere. Be creative. Breaking up the daily word count goal will make that 1,667 words look like a piece of cake.
  2. Don’t edit. Unless you have all the time in the world (or type ridiculously fast), you can’t write a 50,000-word novel in a month, keep up with your daily ins and outs (working, mothering, going to school, etc) and edit your work. You just can’t. To do NaNoWriMo, you must accept that what you are writing is a first draft, that first drafts are meant to be messy, and that you have all winter long to edit that first draft. It can be hard to shut off your inner editor, but to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge, you’re going to have to.
  3. Write every day. It’s okay to take a day or two off, but I strongly suggest trying your very best to not let those days land consequatively. Every day you don’t write those 1,667 words is another day you fall 2k behind. And that 2k can add up pretty quickly. Then you’re stuck doing what I call the “10k weekend dash” bit, where you spend an entire Saturday or Sunday (or both!) doing nothing but getting some quality time with your word document. Point is: Write every day. Even if it’s only 500 words, write it down. You don’t have to hit the goal for the day, but writing only 500 of 1,667 words is better than writing nothing at all.
  4. Plan. On some level, planning is important. I’m a panster, always have been. But for NaNoWriMo, I’ve found that having some kind of outline, even if it’s just a list of scenes you’re going to write in the next five chapters, is key. On those days where writer’s block is creeping up on you from the sidelines, having that list will steer you in the right direction. That way, even if what you write is utter crap, you will have at least written—again, the point of NaNoWriMo.
  5. Build a buffer. In the first two to three days, the rush you feel of starting a new project is important to harness. Figure that you are not going to write much on Thanksgiving, or Black Friday if you work retail or plan to go out shopping. So on Week 1, give yourself permission to write 2-3k a day, because that buffer is so, so important to have.
  6. Connect with other WriMos: Go onto the forums and chat with other writers. Go to your regional meetings. Connecting with other WriMos just as crazy as you are will not only be fun, it will help the both of your realize you can do this. Connecting with writers is the best thing in the world, because writing is often a solo act. You are not alone. So go out there, find some other WriMos, and have fun!
  7. Have fun. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a crazy, break-neck-paced ride. But it’s not meant to be stressful or horrific. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. Have fun. Enjoy what you’re writing. Don’t stress. If you run out of plot steam by 30k, go a little crazy. Add purple bunny rabbits. Add a talking horse that wears a top hat and travels through time and space. Add aliens. Add zombies. Hell, add vampires. Remember that you can always edit whatever you don’t like. JUST HAVE FUN.