How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

This month marks my fifth year of involvement with the celebrated (or dreaded) National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, in which we are tasked with writing 50,000 words in thirty days. Now, let’s be honest–50,000 words is barely a novel, and most everything written in only a month is crap. Still, I’ve failed miserably every year; that is, until this year. This year, I’m on track to finish next Sunday (the 16th). How did this happen?

I’ll tell you what I think my secret is this time around. I think it’s that I chose to write completely outside my genre. Normally, I agonize over every word. I edit as I go. I have certain expectations of myself when writing horror. Now? I have zero expectations, because I’ve never written in this genre before, outside of fan fiction many years ago. I’m having fun with the project, which is probably the most important thing I’ve taken away from the experience so far. I’m cranking out anywhere from twelve to twenty pages a day, which translates to 2,600 – 4,300 words a day (I’m also writing it longhand). I have largely fired my inner editor so that I can get the story down and worry about revisions in December.

And because I’m having so much fun, I’m making the book a priority to work on. I realize that I’m more fortunate than many–I’m an independent contractor, so I work from home and set my own hours. That doesn’t mean I have endless hours to do nothing but write, however. I have clients. I have housework. A husband. A novella to promote and a novel to query. But because this project is a priority, I work on it until 9 or 10 at night. And now I’ve built up a word cushion so that if, let’s say, I get sick, I’m still going to finish NaNo on time. And winning for the first time, as silly as it may seem, is for me a big accomplishment.

So talk to me in the comments. Are you doing NaNo? What works for you, or what doesn’t?

Published by Jennifer Loring

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Tales from the Lake vols. 1 and 4, Nightscript IV, Dim Shores Presents Volume 2, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Not All Monsters and Arterial Bloom, among many others. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently working toward a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies - Humanities & Culture, focusing on queer possibility in fairy tales. Jenn lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she and her husband are owned by a turtle and two basset hounds.

3 thoughts on “How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

  1. Thank you for this post. I am doing NaNoWriMo, but I’m struggling with word count. This is my first time, and I’m still giddy from the fumes of finishing my first novel, and to be honest I’m exhausted. There are lots of excuses I could give right now for why I’m not reaching my word count, but I’m writing lots of other things each day. So, why am I struggling with reaching 50,000 words when I just completed a 97,000 word novel? Lack of confidence oddly enough. I’m also not madly in love with the plot. Or the characters yet for that matter. I haven’t spent enough time getting to know them. I think what I am learning is that I’m a different kind of writer. Maybe NaNoWriMo isn’t right for me, or maybe I’m jusy not right for it this year. I’m not giving up yet though. I still have 24 days to pull 50,000 words out of the ether.


    1. I am dying–DYING–to read your novel. Anyway, NaNo has always been, like I said, a particularly awful challenge for me up until this year. And I really do think it was because I always wrote in my genre. Getting out of my comfort zone ironically liberated me to just go with story and have fun with it. The important thing is that you’re writing every day, whether it’s for NaNo or not!


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