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Carry On My Wayward Writer There’s Still Time! A Crash Course to Surviving NaNoWriMo

 So….you’re finally taking that plunge, huh? Welcome to the trenches, kid. Jokes aside congratulations in taking initiative in one of the most ambitious month-long activities of the year: NaNoWriMo.

In a nutshell, the moniker stands for National Novel Writing Month where writers from all over dedicate a month to write a 50,000 word novel. Founded in 1999, for over two decades NaNoWriMo has seen several novels come into fruition and several established writers, including those who have made their careers through this activity, come and give pep-talks from how to get through their first drafts to conquering their writer’s block. Some notable books that have been results of NaNo are Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. 

Now that you’ve been briefly acquainted on what is NaNoWriMo, the big question is: how to survive this month-long writing event? Well, there are

Pre-write if you can

A lot of writers underestimate how pre-writing is a big help when planning or even writing a novel but it’s also one of the hardest to do. Why? The easiest mental image to associate to this is jumping into a pool you think is shallow but is a whole lot deeper than you think. Pre-writing involves research and if you’re writing novels such as high fantasy or sci-fi, this is a must especially when you must do complex world building in your novel.

Also, outlining the sequence of your novel’s events also falls under pre-writing. Yes, outlining isn’t just applicable when you’re taking notes for studying for an exam, it’s also handy if you want to have an almost smooth sailing NaNoWriMo experience. Almost.

On a tight budget? Free tools are your best friend

One of the reasons why NaNo is fascinating are the tools and tricks shared by your fellow writers in the forums. Some of these are free to use and are extremely handy since not all writers in NaNoWriMo can afford like Scrinever. Tools such as Grammarly, to help check your grammatical errors you may have overlooked while in a deep writing streak, or the Hemingway Editor, a free web app that helps writers be more conscious of their writing especially the grade level readability (which huge help for those who wants to write children’s books and keep it within their reading capability). You can see more of Dr. Wicked’s free tools for writers over at (Btw, this is not a paid ad)


Stuck? Write or Die.

We’re not telling you that literally. There is an app called Write or Die and it’s a rather useful app if you’re chasing a word count or simply want to challenge yourself into achieving a word count without any breaks or distractions whatsoever. The current app has new features but back then some of the punishments for those writers that decide to look away from the screen would be really grating violin music or their hard-written words slowly disappearing from the screen bit by bit. Scary but effective in beating writer’s block.

Have playlists ready

One of the things I learned from my near decade of writing during NaNoWriMo is that when you’re having a hard time writing or even thinking up of a scene that music is the best medicine for that. Whether it’s a Youtube playlist or a carefully selected string of tracks loaded into your phone, having a playlist that caters your mood will help set a scene. For me, I have a separate playlist set for action scenes (loaded with cinematic pieces and upbeat music), romance and just nice anime music that helps inspire me to write – even this very sentence (again by Yui’s currently playing as I’m writing this).

Take breaks, hydrate!

Okay, so you’re in the zone and the stream of words are coming along great. However, you suddenly feel dizzy and the whole world begins to spin as you sit on your desk. Maybe it’s time to break out that Kit-Kat and take a break. I, myself, admit that whenever I’m on a good writing streak tend to forget that sitting down for long periods of time is bad for one’s health. Having someone send you reminders, keeping an alarm, or downloading fun apps like Plant Nanny that remind you to get up, drink and eat every now and then will help you survive NaNo. Remember that writing a novel also takes up energy so don’t forget to rest!

Stumped? Read the pep talks!

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that every year they invite established authors to leave inspiring pep talks every now and then. This year features V.E Schwab, Maurene Goo and Anne Lamott as the pep talkers. However you don’t have to look at the current year’s series of pep talkers for some inspiration. In fact, they have a whole archive of author pep talks including Brandon Sanderson, Lemony Snicket, Garth Nix, Holly Black, Jenny Han, and Marie Lu. Even Niel Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss have given their own pep talks for Wrimos.

Join a circle and write with buddies!

Another thing that NaNoWriMo is well known are its area circles. Here you get to meet writers within your area and then you can all arrange to meet up and have a write-a-thon or just hang and be supportive of each other’s project. Though most of the site-establish writer meetups are from the Metro, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your own in your area. That’s why region forums are made – that you can also connect with writers close to your area and organize your own if you find the one made by the admins too far for you, especially if you hail from the provincial areas.

It’s okay to throw the towel.

Not everyone has the liberty to having a full month with no real-life problems getting in the way of their writing. If you think that work or certain life-events needs more attention, prioritize them. The novel will always be there waiting for you to come back, life doesn’t.


There you have it, a crash course to surviving National Novel Writing Month. However, these are just basic survival advice. How you’re to completely survive this month is all up to you, however, don’t forget that NaNo is not a requirement to be an established author, it’s simply a challenge no different from INKtober. Always remember: Write at your own pace.

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Henlo! I'm Kat and I'm a freelancing writer of fiction, maker of tabletop games, an artisan and crafter, and a cat mom of two!

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