Skip to content

NaNo for Newbies

September is the start of the year for many people. The start of school, the start of kids activities, the start of the holiday seasons.

For others, including me, it is also the start of planning for a year of writing that commences with NaNoWriMo.

A year, you say? Isn't NaNoWriMo only over November?

For some, yes. For newbies, very likely. But for people who have learned how to harness the benefit of this motivating experience, NaNoWriMo is less of a sprint and more of a marathon.

So, for those of you trying on your paper shoes for the first year, those tying your stylus laces and pulling up your tablet sweats, let me loan you an inspiration sweat band.

Tips for the NaNo Newbie:


Not having a writing schedule is perhaps one of the biggest ways to kill your NaNo dream. Whether it is setting aside an hour every night or arranging for an entire day every weekend to flog your keyboard, you NEED to have a set schedule when you can sit down and write.


Some people need absolute quiet, some need chaos. Some need to stimulate their other senses to stay focused - music, smells, lights (or none), textures. There is no set blueprint for a writer's space and what it should be like. With one exception. It needs YOU and some way to record your words. So, if you aren't sure what kind of atmosphere you need for your success, do a few trials before November 1. Write in a park, a restaurant, a coffee house, a library. Blast funk or classical on your headphones, wear sound-deafening ear plugs... Believe me, you'll be glad you got over this major hump right away.


Part of planning for writing during NaNoWriMo is planning for NOT writing. There is a real possibility that whether or not you have done this journey before, you will find yourself five days, ten, twenty-five in with NOTHING to write. For whatever reason, your hands will cramp, your well of characters and settings will dry up, your inspiration will turn to proverbial monkey-crap.

You will be stalled.

This is where having a list of your projects, is helpful. Be prepared by making a list of ideas that could become something, short story concepts, inspirational images you can use, partially completed pieces, and items that just need editing. Having an option of many different genres and pieces is your solution to your writers block with that specific story.


Help is only a word, a text, an email, a facebook message away. There are no rules about NaNoWriMo being a lonely boat on a vast ocean. In fact, many of the very talented guest-writers the site promotes will say that having a support team will be an important key to success. Think about it - instead of rowing that boat alone, pass out the life vests, hand the others each a paddle, and enjoy an easier haul into the horizon.

Your support team is going to be there for you to help you out. They will be there to raise you up and encourage you. When you falter, let them know. I guarantee your team will want to know and share in their own misadventures.


The NaNoWriMo site has a nifty word-counting feature. It will give you a report of how far you have come (percentage and word-wise), how far you need to go, when you will finish based on your daily current word count. This can be both wonderful (if the muse and time are with you) and devastating if you are lagging behind. BUT, recording your word count daily is important.


Being accountable is a NaNo staple. Personal accountability, or reporting within a group is necessary. It is the way for you to know if you are behind and need to catch up, if an idea is lacking and needs some inspiration, if you should quit your job and take up the pen as your main income (just joking - writing as a career is damn hard and difficult to establish as a mortgage payment). Seriously though, being accountable to yourself is a way to develop your own self-discipline. If you want to continue your literary journey, you will have the ability to set goals, break them down, expand on them, and do them.


It doesn't matter what you write. It doesn't matter if you do two weekends of intensive 9-9 pen to paper, or 1600 words a night. As long as you are getting words down, you are succeeding. Want another secret? It doesn't even matter if you do the goal of 50,000 words. Sure, "winning" NaNoWriMo is great - there are all sorts of discounted software, site, and publishing incentives that come with the win. But, above all, NaNoWriMo is to get you to start your journey. As long as there are footsteps in the sand of the literary beach, you have done well.

Learn. Work. Write. Enjoy.