The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide


NaNoWriMo is coming! In three days you will begin a mad dash to write 50,000 words in just 30 days! It will be chaotic. It will be stressful. And if you don’t have the right tools and techniques, you might not survive!

So here it is, my ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide!

Stalk the Forums

Want to take a break? Need a hug? Choking on a plot bunny? The forums over at NaNoWriMo are awesome! Support for yourself (and your story) is just a click away!

Indulge in Your Liquid Vice

Coffee? Tea? Whiskey? Diet Coke? Normally I wouldn’t endorse such indulgences, but this is NaNoWriMo people! Whatever your liquid vice, stock up on it and keep it close at hand for emergency pick-me-ups.

Put Socializing on Hold

You don’t have to go to every party, wedding, and girls night out. This is a month to focus on you and your writing. Your true friends and loving family members will understand and still be there when you hit 50k.

Set up a Writing Oasis

A cuddly cat? A firmly closed door? The TV blaring? What do you need to create a writing oasis? If you’re not sure, trial and error is a good way to start. Figure out your perfect writing conditions and make sure it’s available when you need it.

Don’t Panic

You will get behind at some point during NaNoWriMo. You’ll run out of ideas, have a family crisis, or collapse in a heap of tears unable to lift a pen. It will happen. But don’t panic. Catching up on those lost words isn’t as hard as you might think. Just take a deep breath and plow forward.

Connect with other WriMos

Whether on Twitter (#NaNoWriMo), the NaNo website, or beyond, find a community of fellow NaNo Warriors and connect. You need the comradery, the cheerleading, the shoulders to cry on. Don’t try to NaNo alone!

Find Your Mantra

What is it that holds you back from your writing? Create a mantra to counteract it, write it down, and stick it on your desk or computer screen. Some examples: I deserve a chance to do what I love; I can accomplish anything; Excuses get me nowhere.

Change Your Scenery

Sometimes you just need to move out of your writing oasis to get the juices flowing. Find a nice coffee shop, get yourself an expensive latte (or whatever you drink) and bang out some words away from home.

Turn Off the Internet

If you find yourself spending more time reading about writing than actually writing, it’s time to turn off the internet. Take a notebook outside (a real one, you know, with paper), or turn your WiFi off (smart phones too!). Then get to work!

Stash Your Favorite Snack

Gummy works? Peppermints? Jalapeno potato chips? NaNoWriMo is not the month to be watching your waist line. A hundred extra calories a day? We gotta do what it takes my writer friends!

Take (Structured) Breaks

Sometimes sitting and staring at a blank screen can do more harm than good. If you need a break, take one, but keep it structured. One level of Candy Crush. Fifteen minutes cuddling your cat. A half hour TV show. Keep breaks short and sweet, but don’t deprive yourself of mental rest.

Attend Write Ins

NaNoWriMo provides handy local groups where you can connect with writers in your area and get together to write. There’s nothing like a roomful of furiously typing fingers to get you focused on your own book.

Participate in Word Sprints

Word sprints are a mad dash to a certain word count. When you’re accountable to other writers, it helps you really keep your focus. You can find word sprints on the NaNo forums and on Twitter (#NaNoWriMo & @NaNoWordSprints).

Bribe Yourself

There’s nothing like bribes and rewards to get words on the page. Bribe yourself for both big and little goals: a bathroom break when you finish the page, an episode of Mad Men when you get to 10k, a NaNoWriMo T-shirt when you cross the finish line.

For Pete’s Sake, Don’t Edit!

The last thing you want to do during NaNoWriMo is edit your work. Put the words on the page and then don’t look at them again! Not even a peek. Always move forward and never look back. You’ve got the rest of the year for editing.

Read the Pep Talks

NaNoWriMo is nice enough to get real authors to write pep talks. Don’t ignore them. These talks are awesome! Make sure to read them and get yourself all revved up!

Track Your Progress

There’s nothing more rewarding than watching those little bars climb up and up and up on the chart tracking your progress on the NaNoWriMo site. Check out this chart often and bask in the glory of how far you’ve come!

Always Believe in You

Don’t let that little voice inside your head tell you that you suck, that you’ll never make it, that you’re not a real writer. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Every writer starts somewhere. You WILL make it.


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