It’s that month of the year again. To “normal people”, it’s just November. But to anyone with a writing dream, it’s National Novel Writing Month. Hundreds of thousands of writers around the world spur each other to finish a novel draft in 30 days. Is that actually doable? (Hint: yes it is! 40-50,000 people do it each year). But can you do it? Of course you can! Here’s how:

1. Outline early

October is popularly referred to as Preptober, because that’s when the most experienced wrimoers start preparing to be as ready as possible on November 1st. Outlining is one such thing. If you’ve already got a good idea of what you want to write, you don’t have to waste time thinking about plot twists or plot holes during your precious few hours of sleep in November.

2. Do your research

The same goes for research. If you have outlined your story well, you will know what you don’t know before you start writing. Doing your research under stress is rarely a good idea, and November is going to be a stressful month, unless you have the luxury of being able to work full time on your book.

3. Write every day

But don’t write too much. 30 days of constant writing is a marathon. If you push too hard early on, you might hit a wall or run out of energy before you reach the goal. 50,000 by 30 is ~1,667 words per day, so set a goal higher, but not much higher than that. If you aim for 2,000 words per day, you’ll have 5 days to spare in the end. If life happens and you miss one day, you won’t have to double your word count the following day.

4. Remember that this is your 1st draft

The hardest thing in writing is to finish the first draft. A full story, from start to end. And first drafts are always bad. Yours doesn’t need to be perfect, either (that’s what December is for). And if you’ve done your outlining homework well, your main problem in December will be to tighten the prose, not to fill plot holes.

5. Use placeholders to keep your flow

Every now and then, you’ll land yourself in a wonderful flow, with the story just pouring out of your fingertips. It’s the best feeling, until… It stops. It can be a word that’s just out of reach, or a simple fact, like what the opening hours were for the local pub during the fall of 1973. When that happens, don’t stop to look it up, or you’ll have to rev up your writing engines again when you come back to the text. Instead, just put a simple placeholder where the word or fact would have been, and continue to write. Then go back and replace all these when you edit your text after you have won NaNoWriMo.

That’s it! If you to these five golden rules, nothing can stop you from winning National Novel Writing Month.