I Survived #NaNoWriMo: A Pantsers Tips for Successful NaNo-ing


For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, here's what you need to know. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is to write a novel in one month - specifically the month of November - and 'novel' is defined as 50,ooo words or more. That translates to 1667 daily for an entire month. Now if you think that's easy, think about the last time you had to write a speech or even an email that was more than two paragraphs long.

Now that we have the basics down, you must be asking yourselves, if she was supposed to write 50,000 words, why is she boasting about her measly 18,802. I will tell you why.

  1. I'm a pantser - that means: (1) I do not write on a schedule, (2) I have to edit as I go along, because new things crop up as the story unravels that need an adjustment to be made in a previous chapter/page.

  2. I'm an emotional write - meaning I usually write when the mood hits, so I can spend days/weeks having written nothing and I can spend an entire day in my room writing.

  3. I have never written new material every single day for any significant length of time.

  4. This is my first time following through and actually participating in NaNoWriMo. I've signed up two times before but I never wrote anything.

  5. ...well, you get the picture

So considering that I wrote new material every single day in November, I'd say 18,802 words is pretty good. Plus, I actually wrote more than that. 18,802 is just the new material that fit chronologically in the story. There were several scenes I wrote that I shelved for later.

Anyway, this brings me to the actual purpose of my post: my tips for successful NaNo-ing.

  1. Fill your mind with your story. I know writers who say they write during lunch breaks and other pockets of free time during the day. I don't know how they do it, because if you're like me, you often need some 10 minutes to read over the last couple of paragraphs, or gather your thoughts, or summon your muse. If your break is only 15 minutes, that strategy isn't going to work well.
    What I did was to use my pockets of free time to think about (read: plot) the scene I was working on - e.g. what I last wrote, what should happen next etc., so when I sat down to write in the evening, I was already pretty much in the zone.

  2. Be creative about finding time to write. One thing I did was let my hubby drive so I could write on the way to work. It's not more than a 30-minute ride, but it often got me on average 250 words each morning.
    If you can't have someone else do the driving (or carpool), maybe you can take public transportation. The other alternative is to have your recorder on and talk as you drive - works best if you're driving alone :-).

  3. Stay an hour longer: if you work in a place where you are allowed to stay late, spend an extra hour after work writing. If you've been doing point #1, you should already have material that will help you maximise the time. This is especially important for those with home/family commitments.

  4. Limit TV time: If you're like me, you follow quite a few TV series, or sometimes you're more comfortable just lounging in front of the TV and unwinding after a full day at work. Snap out of it! Choose your top three or four shows and forsake the others - especially those you watch because the TV is on and they are kind of interesting.
    If you're going for a short-term writathon (like NaNo) and you want to cut out TV completely, be my guest. As for me, I have never been a proponent of drastic measures when it comes to food and guilty pleasures - just moderation.

Well, that's what I have for you today. So here's my question to any writer who stops by this post:

  1. Did you NaNo?

  2. If so, what are your top four tips (whether you 'won' or not)

  3. If not, what's your regular routine for writing consistently?

  4. Do you think my tips will help you?

  5. I look forward to all your comments. Have a wonderful weekend.



  1. Congrats! And thanks for the info.

  2. Congrats Empi. It is fulfilling to finish NaNoWrimo. I didn't go along this year. I wrote THE GARDENER'S ICE MAIDEN in 2010 and I won. I shared 50,000 words by the number of days (excluding Sundays) to work out my daily word target. And I wrote every day. It worked for me.

    I try to write everyday when I'm writing a novel but it doesn't always go according to plan. Only recently, I began to write down sketchy notes about the plot before plunging in. Your tip of limiting TV time is true. I find TV a distraction when am writing.

  3. You did well. Congratulations. The challenge is not easy (I'm going to wait until I am no longer working a full time job to do it). Thanks for the tips.

  4. I didn't nano at all but a group of writing buddies did our nano in January of this year n I wrote 17k words I was excited because I am like you an emotional writer. Thank you for the tips. www.secretlilies.com

  5. That's awesome. Well, January is a couple of weeks away. Let me know if you are planning to JaNoWriMo - I might be able to join.

  6. You are welcome, Celestina. I hope it works for you :-)

  7. NaNo is a big commitment - not just for the writer but her/his loved ones too. Congrats on The Gardener's Ice Maiden. Life gets in the way of our writing schedules, but I think it is still important to set some goals.

  8. Thanks, Nana. It is a big commitment, but I am glad I followed through. It was equally important to have a certain some ;-) IM me everyday 'wordcount'. LOL. It helped, so thank you!


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