Pam's Ten Top Tips to Smash Nanowrimo

Pam's Top Tips to Smash nanowrimo.png

I’ve done Nano numerous times, have cracked the 50K once and that draft became my first published novel, Blackwattle Lake. The other times I’ve registered I’ve made less than 20K but as you’ll see in point number 5 below I still think it’s worth doing, even if you don’t ‘win’ by reaching the magic number. That first time I did nano proved to me that writing daily, not worrying too much about quality in the first draft and pushing yourself to write fast definitely keeps you in the dream of your story and taps into things in your subconscious you would otherwise not discover.

So I’m diving in again this year and hoping you’ll join me!

 If you’re new to nano here are my top ten tips for getting the words down and maintaining your sanity. You can also listen to Kel and I chatting on this topic in this episode of Writes4Women.


1.     Have some idea of what you want to write before November 1. This could be a character you want to explore, an image you have in your head (which is all I started with in 2009) or a more detailed outline of your plot. A scene list could help – 30 days can be divided into 15 scenes or 30 shorter ones depending on your style.

2.     Set up a writing space, clear your desk and/or generally prepare your space. It’s always easy to find an excuse NOT to write, and not being able to get to your computer is an old trick many hardened procrastinators have used before.

3.     Let go of perfectionism. Nano is about quantity not quality. This is the time to use your writer’s brain not your editor’s. It’s all about the number of words on the page. To reach 50K (if that’s your goal) you need to write about 1700 words a day. You won’t get there if you agonise over every word. If you do feel the need to re-read your words force yourself not to skip the desire to do a full revision. It’s all about moving the story forward.

4.     Register on the official website. There are loads of goodies there to encourage and inspire you including the word count graph which shows you if you’re ahead or behind in your word count. Very inspiring if you’re ahead; very butt-kicking if you fall too far behind.

5.     Buddy up. Find nano buddies either through the website or your writing friends or check out nano sprints happening in your local writing centres and libraries. It’s a great way to inspire each other, meet new friends and nut out plot points if you get stuck.

6.     Use your diary and plan your time. I am woeful at time management so I’ll be suing November to hone my planning skills by scheduling in writing time FIRST and then working everything else around it. I’m doing weekly meal plans and shopping trips, diarizing my exercise and work commitments and hopefully by the end of the month I won’t recognize myself. J I’ll let you know how that goes!

7.     Similarly, if you know there are going to be days you can’t write because of other commitments, circle them and be sure to increase your word target on the days either before or after.

8.     Get a good start. Try and do extra words during the first 3 or 4 days. Seeing your impressive word count will be so motivating but don’t get cocky about it – make sure you keep on top of that word count beast.

9.     Put your family – and friends if need -  be on alert and recruit them to help you out.  To get to your goal your writing time must be sacred. Let your housemates/loved ones know when you’ll be writing and that you do not, under any circumstances (barring something life threatening) want to be disturbed. Put a sign on the door and lock it if need be, use noise cancelling headphones, find a space to write outside your home – in short, do anything you can to ensure you won’t be distracted from reaching your daily word count.

10. If life does happen to drag you down a detour do not beat yourself up about it. Shit happens. And if you end up with more words on the page on November 30 than you had on November 1 it’s a bonus!

11.  Bonus tip: if you get stuck at any point and do not know what to write next follow the writing mantra Make Things Worse. What can happen next to your character that will make things worse? Conflict os the lifeblood of story. Don’t be nice to your characters, give them hell. And then see how they’re going to get out of that hideous situation!


Make sure you keep us posted on your progress on the Writes4Women facebook page.


Happy Nano!