NaNoWriMo 2017: How to Get Started

Posted Mon, 10/30/2017 - 8:00am by  |  Category:

Notebook and pen

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in two days on Wednesday, November 1. NaNoWriMo is a great way to finally achieve that novel-writing dream because of its clear goal and short deadline.

To participate, all you have to do is sign up on the website and submit your 50,000-word novel by November 30.

“All I have to do?” you might be thinking. I know 50,000 words may seem like an insurmountable accomplishment.

But I also know it can be done because I’ve done it. Twice.

My first NaNoWriMo story was about the sole living zombie in the modern-day world. The second was reflections from a dentist’s chair.

Were these stories good? No. But they were ideas I wanted to explore and I proved to myself that I could make a story out of them.

I encourage all aspiring writers to do NaNoWriMo at least once — you’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself and your creativity.

To help those of you taking on this 50,000-word quest, I’ll be sharing a blog each Monday in November with some writing and story tips I’ve learned through my work.

How to write 50,000 words

The most important way you can prepare to write 50,000 words isn’t extensive planning on characters, plot, or setting.

It’s planning when you can write and putting that time on your calendar.

Everything else is wasted work if you aren’t able to write on a regular basis.

To plan your writing days, let’s break down that 50,000 word count. It’s a huge number by itself. But divided into daily chunks, it can be accomplished.

Dividing 50,000 words by the 30 days of November means writing roughly 1,600 words a day. That’s much more doable than that scary 50,000. Heck, 1,600 words isn’t much more than a few long emails.

Unfortunately for our scheduling purposes, though, November is a holiday month. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, November 23, and I’m guessing many of you have plans.

To account for the holiday, I recommend subtracting five days from your schedule. Running the numbers again means you’ll want to aim for 2,000 words each day — a little tougher but not unmanageable.

Whatever number of days you settle on, treat them like any meeting on your schedule. You can’t miss it because you have to do it, for the sake of yourself and your story.

Just write

Now, give yourself a good look in the mirror and accept that, for this project, you’re allowed to write really badly. This month, it’s OK to just mash your fingers on the keyboard and write what comes to you as quickly as possible to get those 2,000 daily words.

This loose style may seem to contradict the goal to plan diligently but remember: NaNoWriMo is all about writing a draft. Nobody said it had to be good. The exercise is just to get your idea on paper.

Even more reassuring: You don’t have to show your 50,000 words to anyone, so use this opportunity to not worry about mistakes. Instead, focus on having fun creating. You can always revise things later. It’ll make the writing go faster and will be much more fun.

You’re ready

Now, look at your calendar: You have a plan to complete NaNoWriMo! That’s a huge step toward hitting that target 50,000 words.

I recommend easing into these first few days of the month. Focus on showing up everyday to write and hitting your set number of words, and soon enough you’ll have written the story you’ve always wanted to tell.

Talk to you next week. Keep writing.

Jay PetersJay Peters is a Seattle-based writer and editor who offers manuscript editing and developmental editing at He’s happy to chat with you about your NaNoWriMo story — just email him through his website. In his spare time, he likes to run through the city and read in the most comfortable chair he can find.