Participate in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is a competition to write a 50,000-word novel entirely in November. If you are under the age of 18, you can take part in the young writers program and choose your own word goal, but if you are 13 or older you can choose to do the adult program. It is a fun way to write in a community atmosphere. There even are many prizes for winning (including bragging rights) such as: free copies of the book written, guides on how to edit and self publish, software discounts, and much much more.

NaNoWriMo is known as NaNo for short, and started when Chris Baty challenged some of his friends to write 50,000 words in one month in 1999. It has grown to over 100,000 participants worldwide, of whom more than 15,000 finished in 2007. [1]


NaNoWriMo Help

Doc:Writing Schedule,NaNoWriMo Brainstorm,NaNoWriMo Excerpt

Participating in NaNoWriMo

  1. Visit and sign up for an account. The competition begins on November 1, but you can sign up any time during the year. For those of you under 13, you can sign up for their Young Writer's Program. (NaNoWriMo also has "Camp NaNoWriMo" which is during April and July.)
  2. Join the forums for support in your novel and help. They help get you excited to write and are full of information to make your novel more realistic, ideas to pad your word count, links to online thesauri and dictionaries, and even a forum for other writers in your region. Lurking and posting at the forum will give you more determination to keep going, because you will be surrounded by people doing the same thing.
  3. Pick up some NaNoWriMo dares from the forum. Dares are silly (or not-so-silly) plot twists, characters, or objects that you try to work into your novel. NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality, so many writers work in as many dares as possible. One of the most popular dares is the Traveling Shovel of Death™, a shovel that is used to kill or bludgeon characters. Another popular amusement is to incorporate characters whose names are anagrams of "NaNoWriMo": Mr. Ian Woon, Norman Iwo, and so on.
  4. Read "No Plot? No Problem" by Chris Baty. This person started it all. The book is, of course, optional. However, it is great preparation for November and keeps some brain cells occupied in October while waiting for November. There are some great tips and you will get a preview of what to expect during those four glorious, fantastic, fabulous, and grueling weeks. In addition, help you customize the supplies you should lay in before November 1 hits.
  5. Develop a plot. Do not be afraid to drop by the adopt-a-plot thread in the forums; those are up for grabs. You do not need to make it detailed; you do not even need to follow it completely. Chapter summaries will do, and the plan is just for if you go into a corner and cannot continue. Do not be afraid to veer off the plan or change completely. Many NaNoWriMo writers title their novel and name their characters before they have even thought of a plot. It is perfectly acceptable under the rules of NaNoWriMo to outline your plot before November 1. You may bring in as many notes and supporting documents as you wish, but the work of fiction itself must be written during November.
  6. Prepare a writing spot. In order to validate your word count, your final submission must be in .txt format or an electronic document you can copy and paste as text, but you can hand write or use a typewriter, and enter it into a computer after it is finished. Have a lamp and a comfortable chair—you will be spending a lot of time there.
  7. Get together your "NaNoWriMo Survival Kit." Writers stock up on energy drinks, soda, and one-handed snacks so they do not have to leave their writing spot while they are writing. Many also prepare specific "writing playlists" of CDs or MP3s to listen to. Buy a supply of notebooks and your favorite pens to carry around for whenever inspiration strikes.
    • Start writing immediately when November begins. Midnight (in your time zone) on November 1 is the official start of NaNoWriMo. You should have your notes handy, and just start writing based on what you have plotted out. Refer to them often, because you may forget a key component later, which means you have to think some more.
    • Keep a list of your characters as you name them. You may be surprised at how quickly you will forget who was who. A simple page or text document will help you keep them in order.
    • Don't go back and reread your previous day's writing each day; you will be tempted to fiddle with it. Read back only enough to get your place in the story and continue. Notes will help you keep your place without too much back reading.
    • Do not delete words. The backspace key will only reduce your word count; do not let it! If your novel is utter junk, well, you are not alone. Someday you will look back at the hilarious typos and the Freudian slips and laugh. (Also, there is a thread in which to post such amusing disasters.)
    • Try to overdo it the first week. Try to get 20,000 words by the seventh day. No doubt, it will be nearly impossible to do it, but even if you do not make 20,000, you will be a good bit ahead in case you miss a day of writing. Try to hit 35,000 by the next week, 45k the following week, and 50k in the next few days. See the pattern? You have a smaller and smaller goal every week. This is to accommodate for writer's block, which you may get from time to time. However, don't overwhelm yourself so much that you experience burnout. This is optional, but it does help you stay positive and encourages you to keep going.
    • Keep track of your word count. You can update your word count at any time through your user profile. The website keeps a graph of these updates.
    • Read How to Freewrite and do it.
  8. Develop your story. You may have only a vague idea of where you are going. That is all right. The objective here is quantity, not quality. Still, your story will be easiest to write if it is interesting. Do not be afraid to throw in a complication. Kill a character, have somebody get pregnant, bring in a new villain, or reveal the extent of a character's flaws. Then, see how your characters react. Take the plot somewhere, even if it is not where you intended. Sometimes the surprises are the most fun.
  9. Verify your word count. Now for the hard, painful part: when midnight, local time, the night of November 30 hits, stop. Even if you have not hit 50,000, you must stop now and turn in your word count. You can finish writing it if you think you have anything to salvage, but your word count as of the end of November 30 is your final NaNo word count. Remember that even if you only hit 10 or 20k, that's more than most people ever write.
    • To verify your word count, you will upload your entire manuscript or paste it into the website once at the end of the month. The NaNoWriMo website does not save or publish your manuscript, but if you are concerned about anybody reading your story, there is a tool available that will jumble the manuscript so it will become unreadable without altering the word count.
    • Verify your word count early if you can. The website gets a great deal of traffic during the first and last couple of days of November. Verification is available starting on the 25th of the month. If you have reached the 50,000-word goal, you will receive a downloadable certificate, your name will appear on the list of winners, and in December, you'll be able to collect your prizes.
  10. Plan when you will edit your novel. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, you should have done no editing during November, which means your novel will need cleanup to be the best it can be. If you decide to work with it, expect to put in a year or so of editing to get it ready for others to see.
  11. Decide whether to share your finished novel (or soon to be finished novel), and how. If so, give copies to friends, family, and other NaNoWriMo authors.
    • A few NaNo authors do publish their books in print with book publishers, but most manuscripts require extensive revision to achieve that quality.
    • It is easy to publish a manuscript online. Be sure to mark it with your copyright or a free license of your choice. The other option is to self publish, which many people do, or you may also go through a traditional publishing house.


  • Keep writing even if you do not have the next move in mind. You may be surprised at what happens. Think of it this way: writing a novel is like driving in the dark. You can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
  • Talk about the weather. Describe the character's meal or wristwatch in detail. Besides filling the page, this sort of filler information can get your writing moving if you are stuck simply by putting you in the mindset of the story.
  • Word wars (typing for a set time, without going back to edit even the typos, as quickly as possible) help a lot, but do them in short bursts (45 minutes at the most).
  • If you are using a computer, save often. Back up your manuscript daily.
  • Don't be afraid to ignore something here and improvise or write your own way! Everyone's NaNo experience is different. Some don't touch notebooks, some forget their plot on day one, some procrastinate until the last week and go insane writing to catch up.
  • Substituting caffeine for sleep is a good alternative to trying to write copious amounts of words during daylight hours, though this method should not be used more than three or four times during the month and not more than twice consecutively. That being said, people have managed to write more than 50,000 without any caffeine at all. It helps for an all-nighter, but it's not necessary.
  • 50,000 words in one month is a lot, even for an experienced novelist (which most participants are not). Do not aim for more than 50,000 words your first year. If you would like to accelerate your schedule, aim to write 50,000 words sooner. You can always continue if you find yourself with days left after you hit 50,000 words early.
  • If you are handwriting your NaNoWriMo novel, every time you have finished the page count the words (which you will have to do manually) to avoid doing this later. It is tedious, but will keep the pile of pages down later. When it comes time to verify, try to find a random word generator and tell it to generate the exact amount of words you have written. Copy and paste this text into the verification box at the NaNo site.
  • If you do 1667 words a day, you will hit 50,000 exactly on November 30. However, this isn't recommended because you might be hit with something in real life at the last moment and have to catch up. Instead, use weekends to catch up and get ahead of your word count, especially early on when your energy is fresh.
  • Learn to type quickly beforehand (if you are using a computer), which will help a lot.
  • If you are a young novelist, go to This site is for people under 18! You can set any word goal on this site.
  • 50,000 words works out to about 175 pages. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (which you may have read in high school English) are both about 50,000 words. Other near-50,000 word books include Shattered by Dean Koontz, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells.
  • A good way to back up your work on the computer is to use Google Drive. It automatically saves, and you can use it as long as you have internet access.
  • Write, write, write! Fluff is your friend, and thinking is not. The key is to writing fast and to achieve as insane a goal. Let your hands do the talking, and shut down your brain for a bit. All you have to do us stay awake until the wee hours of the morning!


  • The forums are addictive. Have fun, but do not get so distracted by the forums that you are not spending time on your novel.
  • Make sure you have enough time to keep up with your other responsibilities. NaNoWriMo is not an excuse for ignoring work, school, friends, family, or other obligations you may have.
  • And remember, this is for Fun. Hard won fun, but fun.
  • Characters will most likely hijack your plot. Just go with it. The result will probably be better than what you would get if you just went ahead with your original plot.
  • You may hear something about a second-year curse. It is just a myth. Repeat, just a myth. Don't let it psyche you out.
  • You'll be tempted to edit. DON'T. You will have the entire rest of the year to make your novel the best it can be. If you hate that last word/paragraph/page/chapter, highlight it and turn it white, then continue. Or cross it out in notebooks, don't erase.
  • Beware of unsupportive family or friends.
  • Your NaNo novel's first draft will be dreadful. Remember that part of the point of NaNoWriMo is to prove that you can write a 50,000-word story in a month. If you can do that, imagine the great novel you could write if you had a whole year to do it.
  • Beware of crashing computers and wetting notebooks. Back up often and keep a supply of pens handy.
  • Your writing quality may go down after doing this. Use some word prompts and write like you used to before November and it'll come back quickly.
  • Be careful of all-nighters. Don't do them unless you're behind, and it's almost the end of the month already. Remember that you need to sustain a pace to finish.

Things You'll Need

  • A computer with a word processor and word count, or a few notebooks and pens. Actually, you'll always need the notebook and pens, even if you're not writing it by hand. Inspiration can strike at any time.
  • Copious amounts of your favorite non-keyboard-threatening snack.
  • Caffeine (optional).
  • Someplace to back your story up. Losing your story halfway through the month can be a depressing event.

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Sources and Citations