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How to Survive National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo


If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a novel, now’s your chance to do it with free support. Approximately 400,000 people are expected to start novels as part of NaNoWriMo, this November. The idea is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, which is almost 1,667 words a day. You can register on Signing up is the easy part. The question is: Can you write a book in a month and survive? Yes, with some helpful hints, it can be done.

Tips for success

Plan for it. Some writers swear by planning out plots in advance, but you don’t have to. What I really mean is plan out your day. Where will you find the time to write 1,667 words a day? Will you get up an hour earlier? Will you cut out television for the month? Are you able to hire a cleaning person to help you clean up your home so you don’t have to? Will you pack a lunch and write at your desk on your lunch hour? Will you have marathon writing sessions on weekends?

Have a conversation with your family about how they can support you. If you have a child or pesky significant others, consider putting a sign on your door: “Writing in Progress” and explain under what circumstances they can interrupt you–ideally emergencies only. Training children and your significant other to give you uninterrupted blocks of time to write will prove invaluable. With little ones, their naptime can be a useful block of time for a writer parent who is able to stay conscious and motivated.

Be part of the NaNoWriMo community. Sign up at and connect with other writers online. Also, find your local NaNoWriMo community. Many local libraries, community centers, bookstores and writing groups have hours for people to write during the month of November. Look around and see if there is a group where you can meet and write for a few hours, to help keep up your writing morale. Also, consider writing in different places. Get out of your home and write in coffee shops if you need a change of pace or fewer distractions like the dishes in the sink.  

Don’t get hung up on revision during this stage. You are aiming to create a crappy first draft. Give yourself permission to write however it comes out without judging whether it’s good or bad. Revision will take time. That’s a whole other ball game. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is you have to tell your inner critic to shut up in order to meet your word count goal. It can be quite freeing.

What If You Don’t “Win” NaNoWriMo

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t technically win. You can always keep going in December. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. If it takes you a year to get your draft done or you prefer to self-edit as you go along, that’s okay, but it’s worth giving it a try. NaNoWriMo is great for developing your writing rhythm and discipline, as well as getting a draft done without letting your inner editor get in the way. Even if you don’t win, you will likely write more than you would have without it.

NaNoWriMo will help move writing to the top of your to-do list and help teach you what you are capable of creating in a short span of time. Why not give it a shot?

Full disclosure: I have won Camp NaNoWriMo, which takes place in July and allows you to set a custom word count, but haven’t actually won the November version. I would love to hear your strategies for surviving NaNoWriMo in the comments.

If your book is fiction and you’re interested in an editor, or if you’d like a free consultation about publishing your book, you can connect with Kirsten via email at


kb jensen

K.B. Jensen

Publishing Consultant, Fiction Editor, and Author

Kirsten (K.B.) Jensen is a bestselling crime novelist and a senior publishing consultant and youth writing camp director with My Word Publishing. She is also a ski downhill instructor and a former crime reporter. Her first novel, Painting with Fire has been downloaded more than 75,000 times. Her award-winning second book, A Storm of Stories, veers into more literary territory, while her latest, Love and Other Monsters in the Dark, tackles the horrors of everyday love.

Learn more about KB Jensen!