6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

How to Utilize NaNoWriMo When You Aren’t Participating

UntitledEvery November, we flood The Sprint Shack’s blog and Twitter with NaNoWriMo advice. And while that advice is helpful for the many writers who do partake in the annual challenge, what about those of us who don’t? Thankfully, the lessons learned during NaNoWriMo apply to writing throughout the year—first draft writing, at least. And the tenacity, dedication, and supportive camaraderie displayed throughout the month is always a source of inspiration.

I, personally, decided not to do NaNoWriMo this November. When Faye, Taylor, and I posted our kickoff post, I had every intention of participating. I sat down, started writing, almost hit my word count goal for the first day… and immediately stopped. I had no love for the story I was attempting to write and very little time to spend working on one that I did enjoy. I knew starting out that this would not be an optimal time for me to attempt such a large goal, but I wanted to at least try. And while I don’t consider giving up after the first day a real concerted effort, I knew that I was making the right decision for myself this year.

That, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to write at all this month. I still plan on being productive, only on a much smaller scale. So what if you’re like me and aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo, for whatever reasons you may have? What if you’re in the middle of editing rather than penning a new draft? Try using these tips to feed off the NaNoWriMo vibe to still stay productive, even if you aren’t aiming for that 50,000 by November 30th:

1. Read the pep talk emails. One of my favorite things about NaNoWriMo is the regular pep talk emails they send from various NaNoWriMo staff and acclaimed authors. Having your own personal cheering squad can be incredibly exciting, not to mention those who are writing the pep talk emails often have great advice that applies to all stages of writing.

2. Scroll through the forums. Don’t do this while you’re writing, of course, but take a few minutes in your spare time to peruse the NaNoWriMo forums. This can be especially helpful if you have writer’s block since many generous wrimos will often drop unneeded characters, settings, prompts, and entire plots into the Adoption Society for anyone who needs some fresh ideas.

3. Watch your friends closely. If you don’t have any “writing buddies” on the site, now’s the time to get some (the forums mentioned above are a great place to start). Watching everyone else’s word counts climb steadily throughout the month can be incredibly inspiring and can often kick your muse into action.

Of course, these are also great tips for those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo and are struggling with those second week blues. For more on that, check out Taylor’s last post on getting back on track!

Are you choosing to participate in NaNoWriMo this year? If not, what are you working on instead and how are you staying focused? Let us know!

Fallen Behind During NaNoWriMo? 5 Tips to Get Back on Track!

Behind During NaNo(1)How has the first week of NaNoWriMo been treating all of you? Are your novels coming to life as you zip through your words? I sure hope so!

But, realistically, a fair amount of us have already fallen behind.


It happens to the best of us. We all start out each November with a few thousand words and the undeniably optimism that this will be the year that we write AT LEAST those 1,667 words (the bare daily minimum to write 50,000 words in 30 days) each day during NaNoWriMo. But, while our muses and creativity are in a frenzied excitement, real life doesn’t slow down.

Maybe you had to work some unexpected extra hours, or maybe you caught a nasty cold. Or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to face another bout of writer’s block the other night. Whatever the reason, many of us have already fallen behind where we should be for the NaNo word count and are now playing the desperate game of catch up.

We’re all human and it happens to most WriMo’s. But you can’t beat yourself up about it if you still have your eye on that 50,000 target.

To aid you in your quest to claiming that NaNoWriMo victory this month, here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

1. Do the Math

Go into your NaNoWriMo dashboard and see how many words you should have, then look at how many words you actually have. What’s the difference? If you’re behind by 1,000 words, just write 500 extra words (on top of the typical 1,667 per day) for two days. Or distribute the difference in smaller amounts over larger days. Whatever seems doable to you. In fact, NaNoWriMo’s site has a section that tells you how many words per day you need to average in order to finish on time. To find this, navigate to the stats page of your current novel and look on the sidebar for “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. Use this is a guide for how much you need to write in order to catch up.

2. Take advantage of small pockets of time

If you find yourself at a loss for extra writing time, start using those little lulls throughout your day to get those words in. Use part of your lunch hour to write. Or if you find yourself in a waiting room, whip out your notebook or laptop and start writing. Even if you just get 50 words written, those little spurts of writing will add up and boost your word count.

3. Make time

If you can’t seem to find enough time to get your writing done, it may be necessary to go on the offensive and create the time you need. Get up 30 minutes earlier (or whatever is plausible for you) than usual, and use that time to write the extra words you need. Or maybe order in some food one night to save on cooking/clean up time. Start carving out time so you can get back to writing.

4. Set aside a whole day

Let’s say that you’re REALLY far behind. Or maybe you just can’t seem to work productively in short 30 minute spurts. If that’s the case, it may just be time to go all out. That’s right, pick a day in the next week or so and block out a huge chunk of time – if not the whole day. Don’t make any other plans for that time. This is your writing time and you’re going to use it to get back on track with your NaNo word count. It may be a bit drastic, but sometimes you need a whole day to do nothing but write in order to refocus on the goal at hand.

5. Keep writing

No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged! Keep writing and hitting your goals each day. But Don’t get down if you fall behind. You can only catch up and stay on track if you’re both optimistic and defensive of your writing time. So keep at it, hold that 50,000 word goal in your mind, and go for it! You can do this!

2015 NaNoWriMo Kickoff!


Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone! We’ve been hosting word sprints on our Twitter all day to celebrate and get a head start on our word counts, but we also thought it would be fun to throw together a little kick-off post as always.

Over the next 30 days, we’ll be toiling alongside you to churn out 50,000 words (and a few inspirational posts to help you chug along). This, of course, means one thing: word sprints! For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be hosting our usual #SundayScribes and #TalesAndTea word sprints, alongside spontaneous, unannounced sprints, as we grab spare moments to write throughout the days and nights. We hope to see you writing with us; NaNoWriMo is always more fun with company!

And, to hold us accountable, we thought we’d share our goals and what we’re working on for the next month. Feel free to comment below with a description of your story and/or goals!

CristinaCristina Guarino

I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo last year and definitely missed the fun and camaraderie this month brings. This year is just as busy as the last (if not more so), but I’m going to try to take the plunge with a drama/thriller novel that I’ve been brainstorming throughout October.

I typically don’t go into too much detail about my novels before I start writing them, but let’s put it this way: I’ve been reading a lot of Gillian Flynn lately and I love how complex her characters are. I’m hoping to pull off something equally as amazing in this novel, although I know that’s ambitious for a first draft! My goal is to hit the 50,000 mark, but even if I miss it, I’ll be happy to know I tried.

Skye Fairwin


I’m a NaNo rebel at heart. Why work on one project when you can work on two? That’s my aim for the next month: 30,000 words on a fantasy-with-a-dash-of-steampunk novella and 20,000 words on a non-fiction e-book. The (hopeful) result: two first drafts by the end of November. We’ll see in 30 days whether or not I make it! I hope you’ll all keep me accountable (and I’ll return the favour, ’kay?).

TaylorTaylor Eaton

It’s already time for NaNoWriMo? How did that happen? This year has flown by, and I find myself unprepared for NaNo this year. But no matter! I’ll be working on a novel of mine, Firewalkers, which has been in progress since last year. I’ve currently been writing a chapter of it each week and posting it to Channillo. But now, I want to make a final push and wrap the whole book up. I think it’ll take at least the 50,000 words I’ll write during November – maybe even more!

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of word sprints this month and can’t wait to see how everyone does. Let’s write a novel this month, everyone!

What are you working on this month? Are you aiming for 50,000 words or less/more? Let us know!

Writerly Round Up: October 2015 (Plus, NaNoWriMo Kickoff Sprints!)

Writerly Round Up monthly templateHey there everyone, and happy Halloween!

It’s the last day of the month, and that means it’s time for our monthly writerly round up! In case you missed our first post, our writerly round ups are monthly posts with links to helpful blog posts and articles we’ve collected throughout the month. This month, we’re dedicated to bringing you articles that will hopefully help you through the trying month of NaNoWriMo ahead!

But before we delve into that, we just wanted to announce our kickoff sprints for NaNoWriMo! To celebrate the very first day of our adventures, we’ll be hosting some sprints throughout the day tomorrow to help you get a head-start on your word counts! We’ll be hosting sprints during the following times:

10:00-11:00 PDT / 13:00-14:00 EDT / 18:00-19:00 GMT – #SundayScribes, hosted by Taylor

05:00-7:00 PDT / 08:00-10:00 EDT / 13:00-15:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Cristina  

12:00-15:00 PDT / 15:00-18:00 EDT / 20:00-23:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Faye

We hope to see you there! And now, without further ado, some reading material for you last-minute NaNoWriMo planners.

5 Creative Ways To Take Writing Project Notes

Posted by: Alyssa Hollingsworth @ The Great Noveling Adventure

Just because you’re busy working on one project during NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean your muse brain will take it easy on you. Here are some ways to stay organized during the month so you can tuck away any new story ideas that come to you and keep focus strong on the task at hand until December.

Ten Questions To Ask When Beginning A Book

Posted by: Cheryl Reif

An oldie but goodie, this article helps writers start their novel on the right track. If you’re an outliner looking for a few pointers to square away the last of your details pre-NaNo, this article is for you; pantsers, you may still find this useful should you become stuck during the month.

10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips

Posted by: Kristian Wilson @ Bustle

Bad case of procrastination? It happens to the best of us. This is a great go-to guide for those just beginning their first NaNoWriMo journey or procrastinating on their 10th.

There is only so much you can read about NaNoWriMo before biting the bullet, so we’ll leave you with these three this month. After all, there isn’t much time left for you to spend reading. Get to that last-minute outline or brainstorming session and we’ll see you on the other side!

Good luck, everyone!

How to Plot Your NaNo Novel at the Last Minute

In need of some last minute #NaNoPrep? Learn how to plot your story using the Plot Card Method right here.One week left before NaNoWriMo begins. You know what that means. A flurry of NaNoPrep, an extra helping of excitement and a dollop of freaking out.

Do you have a story outline yet? If you haven’t the faintest idea what will happen in your NaNo novel yet, don’t panic. There’s still time and I have just the speedy technique to help you. It’s name: the plot card method. Here’s how it goes…

1. Grab a stack of index cards.

Slips of paper or Post-It Notes work just as well if you don’t have index cards on hand. These are your ‘plot cards’. Got yours ready? Great. On we go.

2. Put your scene summaries on your plot cards.

Write down any ideas for scenes you have in 1-2 sentences, one scene to a plot card. It doesn’t matter if you don’t yet know how these scenes will fit together or where they’ll go in the story. Let your muse take charge and dump any scene ideas you have on the cards.

Done that? Now it’s time to straighten out that timeline.

3. Place your milestone plot cards first.

There are five major milestones I try to pin down before I do anything else. They are the Hook, the First Plot Point, the Midpoint, the Third Plot Point and the Climax.

Before I start using these terms willy-nilly, let’s define them. I use K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel system to plot out my stories, so it’s her definitions I’ll be using for each of these milestones.

The Hook is what reels in your readers, the opening scene that piques their curiosity and asks a question. It happens right at the start of the story and, if it does its job right, it’ll keep your readers reading on to find out the answer.

The First Plot Point falls around the 25% mark and is the point in the story that changes everything. The characters react in a way that is irrevocable and leaves them unable to continue the way they had before. This is their personal turning point and, by the writing gods, it’s going to be exciting.

The Midpoint falls (surprise, surprise) at the middle of your story. Think of it as the point around which the whole story hangs, a centrepiece and pivotal moment in which the tides begin to turn. Your characters stop reacting and start acting.

The Third Plot Point, which falls around the 75% mark, is the moment that sets your protagonist racing along the path to the Climax. They hit their lowest point in the story and it’s from this bleak place that they must rise in order to reach the Climax.

Pretty much all writers are familiar with what the Climax of the story is—the point that has readers on the edge of their seats as the protagonist comes to a life-changing epiphany. The Climax usually begins around the 90% mark and covers the final part of the story.

So now that you know what the five major milestones are, let’s start positioning those plot cards. I recommend grabbing a clear patch of floor to build your timeline on, so that space isn’t an issue.

Where to begin? Here’s the order I position my plot cards in:

I almost always have an idea of my Hook and Climax scenes from the beginning so I start by putting the plot cards containing those milestones at opposite ends of my timeline. If you don’t know exactly what your Hook and Climax scenes are yet but have plot cards that describe scenes near those points, place those instead.

Next, if I know what scene I want at the Midpoint, I place that in the middle, between the Hook and Climax cards (make sure you leave plenty of space between your milestones). Again, if you don’t know exactly what will happen at the Midpoint, position plot cards that you know occur near that point.

Now it’s time to will in the First and Third Plot Points. If I have plot cards that describe these scenes, I place them at the quarter and three-quarter marks of the timeline respectively.

If you have enough plot cards to chart out the five major milestones, your timeline should be looking a lot more structured by now. If you don’t, don’t worry—as you’re filling in the rest of the timeline with your other plot cards, you’ll start to bridge the gaps between the scenes you already have planned.

Speaking of, it’s time to position the rest of your scenes.

4. Fill in the gaps between the milestones with your remaining plot cards.

A lot will happen between the Hook and the First Plot Point, between that and the Midpoint, and so on. Take your remaining plot cards and position them on your timeline where they’d logically fall in the story.

For example, if your characters are in a café in Paris at the First Plot Point, then at a bazaar in Cairo at the Midpoint, you need scenes between that get them from one to the other. This is a good way to brainstorm scene ideas if you have any gaps between plot cards—what could happen between the plot cards you do have to get them from A to B?

Once you’ve placed all the plot cards you can on the timeline, take a step back and admire your hard work. Congratulations. You’ve just created the outline for your NaNo novel. Write down a permanent copy of the order of your scenes, give yourself a pat on the back, and prepare yourself—NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Good luck!


Have you plotted out your NaNo novel yet?