NaNoWriMo · Writing

8 Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, is quickly approaching. I’ve won six times now, which I suppose gives me enough knowledge to provide information that would help others win. I’ve had several people ask me what advice I have, so here they are: 8 short and simple tips to improve your odds of winning.

#1: Reverse NaNo

Reverse NaNo is a concept that has you writing more words at first and then finishing on day 30 with one word. I tried it one year and never looked back. It takes into account my overwhelming enthusiasm on day one and my “is it over yet because I’m tired” feeling on day thirty.

The best part about it is that you are always over where you need to be according to the NaNoWriMo stats, which makes you feel like writing more and more even when most people are wallowing in the terror that is Week 2.

So where can you find the word counts then?

I haven’t been able to discover who created the idea and there are a couple variations, but I have a page with calendars with daily and/or total word counts per day here. Someone has created a PDF file here. There’s also an Excel file from 2014 here from

If that isn’t your style, has other options too here including low weekdays and high weekends.

#2: Planning Helps – Even if You’re a Pantser

I am a notorious pantser, which means I come up with ideas on the go. I think you’d have to agree that it is ironic considering I have that massive list of over 100 planning tools.

If you like planning, I suggest you check out the list since it covers just about everything from character development, world building, dialogue, and even revision. I can’t really tell you how to go about using those since I’m not a planner, so hopefully exploring will help you figure your story out.

However, if you’re a pantser like me, I find it is most successful to at least have your characters figured out. By that I mean, know their names and what they want out of the story. Knowing your main conflict is helpful as well because it means you’re always going towards something. Of course, I know part of the excitement, at least for me, is discovering the plot as you go. For that reason, I usually know what the main problem is but never bother to figure out how the characters get there/discover it or what the resolution is.

Even when I plan, I never know the resolution because I tend to now want to write the story anymore.

Speaking of knowing things, if you’re a pantser, it may be in your best interest to have a couple of backup ideas just in case you get stuck. That has saved me every year.

#3: Write about something that gets you excited

This year, I intend to work an on entirely new project instead of a work in progress like I usually do. I had two ideas, one of which was continuing Raveek’s story. The other was a previous NaNo idea entitled At Plot’s End that never got very far because I abandoned it in favor of something I had already been working on. Now though, I have a new idea that I just discovered within the last couple of days.

I’m really excited about that idea, currently titled Wolf at the Door. I know that enthusiasm will help carry me through NaNoWriMo. Will it carry me all the way through? I suppose it depends on how much planning I’ve done, which is minimal since the idea is so fresh.

#4: Don’t be afraid to change ideas midway

If an idea isn’t working for you, remember rule #2 and swap it out for something else.

Every year except the first, I have dropped my original plan and worked on something else. While it means I am no longer working on one continuous story, I believe it is still enough to allow me to win because I am writing. That is the main focus and drive behind NaNoWriMo. It’s to turn you from wannabe writer to Writer.

#5: Lock away that inner editor until December

If you need to, write in white on white so you can’t see what you’re writing. Turn off suggestions and editing in Word. Remember that your inner editor will have plenty of work to do, just not right now. Instead, the creative genius gets to type whatever he or she wants to even if it doesn’t make sense. The inner editor will take care of the diamond in the rough ideas and the character that continually reappears even though they’ve died fifteen times.

#6: If you don’t like a scene, put in an archive for later; don’t delete it completely!

All the ideas I have for this year are due to subplots and plotlines that didn’t work in other projects. I am constantly mining my archive of deadends to find a beginning for a new project. So just because it does not work in this story doesn’t mean it won’t work later on in another project.

#7: Remember, no one has to read it but you.

You don’t even have to read it if you don’t want to at the end. Give it your best shot and approach NaNo in a way that makes you happy. Even if you decide that writing isn’t for you after this or your story should never see the light of day again, you have gained valubale experience in the writing world.

Next time you read a book you don’t like, you’ll have an appreciation for what the author went through.

Next time you write a story, you’ll be a quicker typer and better at putting together scenes. After all, they say it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something. All those hours you put into NaNoWriMo, even if it results in the worst story in the world, is fantastic practice for the next work of art.

#8: Participate in Word Sprints and Word Wars & Write Ins!

The competition is bound to drive you to write more. You can find them on Twitter through: @nanowordsprints via #NaNoWordSprints, @latenightsprints, @TheSprintShack, and @NaNoWriMo

Lastly, your area might have a local write in you can attend; however, if you’re shy or in a rural area, don’t forget about the virtual write ins every Wednesday and Saturday (plus November 1st). This link should take you to add their Google Calendar to yours. Sadly, I don’t know the URL to just view it.

You can also go to YouTube and see when the next scheduled virtual write in is. If you see me, feel free to say hi!

#9: Bonus Tip for After NaNoWriMo

No matter how great you think your novel is after November, revise and edit it before you dare publish it

People who don’t do this give NaNoWriMo and self publishing a bad name. Don’t be that person. Polish it up and then look for beta readers either in the critique section of the forums or in a place like Scribophile.

Your Turn

Any tips you would add for success? 

Any thing you want to know about NaNoWriMo?

Are you participating? If I haven’t added you as a buddy yet, send me a request at KristinaVH

Can’t comment here? Feel free to continue the conversation on Twitter or Facebook with me!


6 thoughts on “8 Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

  1. Thank you for this. I looked up the reverse Nano type after you mentioned it last time and decided that is the way forward for me. I am hoping to stick to the format and get this done! Being the very first Nano that I am participating in, I am very nervous! 😀

  2. I tweeted this as my #NaNoSix advice the other day: Give yourself permission to write badly. It’s the most important thing NaNo has thought me about writing. When I’m having a bad writing day, I still tell myself that it doesn’t have to be any good, it just has to be written.

    I’ll have to check out the reverse NaNo links – thanks for these. I need to get most of my words written during the week, with smaller targets for the weekends.

  3. A great list of tips. I am not participating this year though. After reading one of your previous posts on it, I was thinking of giving it a shot but then things started going wrong in the “Not-blogging” world – and had to decide otherwise. Best Wishes for the challenge.

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