What is NaNoWriMo?
Since 1999, each year during November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world gather around the non-profit site NaNoWriMo.org to spur each other to write a brand-new novel of at least 50,000 words.
Each writer writes their own novel, has their own agenda, and are accountable only to themselves, but with the help of the massive NaNoWriMo community, around 40-50,000 writers “win” by finishing their novel drafts this way, each year!
Want to join the fun? It’s never too late to sign up!
How do I win NaNoWriMo?
You win by writing 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. You are yourself responsible for updating your NaNoWriMo account with your progress, and if you choose to write all 50,000 words on the last day, that’s totally up to you.
We’ve put together some tips to help you get there below:
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.
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 researching under stress is rarely a good idea, and November is going to be a stressful month, trust me.
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, 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.
What do I do when I’m done?
Congratulations to you! You’ve just finished your 1st draft. Next up is polishing (no, not publishing) it.
1. Send it to beta readers
Send it to at least 3 – 5 readers, preferably more. The best beta reader you can get is a regular reader in your target audience, i.e. someone who you would want to buy the finalized novel when you eventually publish. Someone you don’t know, and who would recommend it to their friends (who you also do not know) if they liked it. You can find beta readers and beta swap with other authors in our beta reader discovery.
2. Listen carefully (and selectively)
Your beta readers are bound to find minor typos, but will also have opinions on your work. Now, don’t listen to everything they say, but if at least two readers point out the same thing, it might be worth rethinking it.
3. Repeat #1 & #2 until satisfied
If you’ve really narrowed down your target audience, this is when you no longer have several readers point out the same issue. (Mind you, it might of course be that they all get annoyed with the same thing, if that’s the effect you are seeking!)
4. Get your pitch perfect
If you want to publish traditionally, you’ll need an agent in most places of the world. And even where you don’t, you’ll need to be able to pitch your story. You’ve probably already started this work when trying to win over beta readers, but now is the time to perfect it. You’ll need a 1 sentence and a 5 sentence pitch, as well as a 1 page synopsis.
If you choose to self-publish:
5. Have it professionally edited
If you can afford it, having your manuscript professionally edited is definitely worth it. It will mean more rewrites, but it’s all for the better. Make sure to find an editor who knows your genre – there is no use in having an expert on non-fiction comment on your romance novel!
6. Get a good cover
In order for readers to pick up and begin to read your carefully crafted words, you need a good cover. Most important is that it doesn’t look like someone photoshopped it at home. It should look like whoever made it knew what they were doing, otherwise your potential readers will think the inside is just as unprofessional.
Now, you’ve made sure your story is the best it can be, and you’re ready to hit that Publish button.