10 ways to work through NaNoWriMo – plus the Melbourne Cup

There are two significant events happening in Australia today.  The start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the Melbourne Cup – the horse race that stops a nation.

I’m excited to be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day.  I’m not so excited about the Melbourne Cup although I know a lot of people who are.

The reason I mention the horse race is that I see similarities. The Melbourne Cup is an event that people spend a long time to prepare for and then it’s over in a flash.

I know from last year’s experience that NaNoWriMo  month will speed by. So how do you prepare for either event? For me it’s all about trying to step away from other distractions and set realistic goals.

For jockeys, trainers, owners and horses, the Melbourne Cup requires complete focus, concentration and stamina. Which is pretty much what you’ll need to get to the finish line with NaNoWriMo.

I can’t tell you who’s gong to win the Melbourne Cup or how they’re going to do it but I can tell you the things that worked for me for NaNoWriMo  last year.

1.            Break the 50,000 words into manageable pieces. 50,000 words sounds a lot but it equates to less than 140 words an hour for a 12 hour day.  If you get up an hour earlier and cut out two hours of television, that’s just over 500 words an hour.

2.            Have an idea of your story in your head but let it find its natural course throughout the month of NaNoWriMo. Don’t try to force it. Nobody expects you to produce a bestseller on your first NaNoWriMo  draft.

3.            Know your character. If you get to know your main character really well they will be inside your head telling you where to take their story, helping you avoid the dreaded writer’s block, helping you cope with the pressure of 50,000 words in fifty days.

Find out

  • Who your character is
  • What their goals are
  • What they want more than anything
  • What their worst fears are
  • What obstacles stand between them and their goals
  • How they will overcome them
  • What they will learn along the way
  • How the character will change and grow from when they stepped onto the page at the start of your story?

4.            Stay on track. If you let yourself get too far behind you will never catch up.

5.            Remember, this is a short burst. You only have to do it for a limited time. You don’t have to sustain this pace forever.

6.            Seek support. If you feel your resolve waning, talk about it with other writers or loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

7.            Carry the story in your head everywhere you go so even if you don’t have time or tools to get words down on paper or screen, you can think about what will happen next for your characters. Writing is as much about thinking as writing time.

8.            When you finish writing for the day make a note of what will happen next for your character so that when you start writing again you won’t be sitting staring at a blank wall or screen. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved that day.

9.            Drink lots of water, remember to eat and go for lots of walks. For me, that seems to free up my brain and allow the creativity to flow.

10.            Set yourself small manageable daily goals. If you have an important event you can’t miss, take a break for the day and don’t berate yourself.. If you divide the 1667 words by the rest of your Nano Month that’s less than 60 words a day you’ll have to make up.

Stay calm, stay focussed, have fun and you will get there.

Good luck with NaNoWriMo. Throughout the month I’ll be sharing my NaNoWriMo  journey on this blog. Feel free to share your experiences and questions too.

Happy writing and have a blast:)


p.s. if you’d like me to be your  NaNoWriMo buddy you’ll find me at DeeScribe.

13 thoughts on “10 ways to work through NaNoWriMo – plus the Melbourne Cup

  1. Thanks, BookChook,

    You won’t get ‘sensible’ Melbourne Cup tips from me. If I ever put a bet on it’s based on the name of the horse or the colours the jockey is wearing:) Thanks for your good wishes with NaNo.

    I’m very excited about my project this year.

    Dee x

  2. Thanks Kerri,

    That’s lovely of you to direct people to my blog. Good luck with the Melbourne Cup. I never have any idea who is going to win. No racehorse owning in my blood and no idea lol.

    Enjoy your January NaNo.

    Dee x

  3. Thanks, Kerri,

    Hope you picked a winner on the Melbourne Cup…very hard thing to do.

    Glad you enjoyed the post and lovely of you to direct people to me:)

    Hope your January NaNo goes well.

    Dee x

  4. One more tip from a seasoned veteran who’s done it every year since 2000 and only failed to win the year I had pneumonia and didn’t start till the 25th. This always helps.

    Really pound it hard in the first few days. Try to get a bit ahead. If you can do double the day’s words on the first or second day, keep going. Buy yourself two or three “virtual days” of being ahead in word count – 1667 extra words or 3334 extra words by the end of the week will give a cushion for the time you had to work late or the day you had the flu or whatever it was that put you behind.

    If you go ahead to finish the scene you’re in every time you pass the daily word count, those “virtual days” accumulate from the “and change” to the point where you’ll wind up with a green bar before the Validator gets activated to let you turn it purple.

    This really helps if your story gets too big to fit in 50,000 words too.


  5. All of your tips are excellent. Thanks for breaking it down to manageable size. Anyone new to novel writing will have a much better time making it to the finish line with this article!

    See you on the forums!


  6. Fabulous, Dee. With your handy list of character prompts, I now have a few scribbled notes and a much stronger protagonist. Cheers!


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