5 Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo 2019

With National Novel Writing Month coming up soon, here are five tips for writing through November.

Tip Number 1: Plan ahead!

Focus on outlining some scenes that will inspire you to write. One of the hardest aspects of NaNoWriMo is keeping up your momentum.

If you haven’t done so already, outline the basic plot points of your novel. Don’t stop there!

The inevitable day will come this November where authors feel burnt out, not at their best, or lacking time. Overcome this issue by planning ahead. You don’t want to be stuck in a scene thinking, “Where is this going? What am I going to do?

Tip Number 2: Decide what you will write at the beginning of your writing session . . .

Sometimes writing a simple sentence about what you are going to write will drastically reduce writing-related stress. This is different from a traditional outline.

Take these sentences from my notes for the opening scene of my novel The Witch’s Uprising (to be published via Amazon KDP in February 2020).

“In this first scene Aurelia finds a shapeshifter in the woods near her home. The scene starts in her thoughts and fills us with a general feeling of “What will happen? What’s going on?” End the scene with the shapeshifter changing. Show Aurelia’s thoughts.”

The Witch’s Uprising Outlining Notes

I then took this scene and wrote approximately 1000 words, describing each part in detail, and re-arranging the pieces until they made sense. The first draft was nearly incomprehensible, but the final, edited version worked out.

Start small each day, and see where the scenes will take you.

Tip Number 3: Make a quick decision whenever you get stuck . . .

For NaNoWriMo, the goal is to finish as much of a drafted novel-length work as you can. Getting stuck in a scene can slow you down.

When you’re stuck in a scene, you have two options: stick with it, or move forward. Sometimes it’s best to make the decision flipping a coin. You can always go back and revise your work later.

Let’s look at the benefits of each option.

  • Stick with it – If you stay with the scene long enough, you may discover better ways to phrase your passages or capture good characterization.
  • Move on – With the second option, you have what I like to call “an opportunity to practice scene creation.” The constraints of NaNoWriMo are what provide this interesting opportunity. While many authors use NaNoWriMo as a way to quickly draft a novel, taking the event from another angle could prove very useful.

Tip Number 4: View each day as practice, and stress less!

What if an author viewed each day of NaNoWriMo simply as practice? What if each day was an opportunity to practice creating a different scene? This would alleviate a lot of stress, surely.

Some days you will spend more time on any given scene than another. That is ok! With each day, you are crafting your storytelling technique, expanding on previous scenes, or laying down new ground for your novel.

Tip Number 5: Just try writing one scene each day as a start!

With the one-scene-a-day approach, you could end up with 25-30 well developed scenes just from the habit of writing. If you spent some time reworking, revising, or editing previous scenes at the end of the week, your word count would grow along with the quality of your work.

Bonus Tip – Track your progress and motivate yourself

For some people, simply seeing how much work they have accomplished will help them get through NaNoWriMo. I use a calendar to keep track of my word count. You can actually download here.

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