1. Don’t edit. You’re shooting for something more ambitious than pretty sentences: an entire first draft of a book, in all its imperfect glory. You have to embrace November as an experiment in pure output. Delete nothing and use daily word-count goals as your sole measure of success or failure. You can edit in December.
2. Invite friends and family. Writing with a group—even a long-distance group—raises everyone’s accountability, makes writing a shared adventure and gives you a shoulder to cry on.
3. Write a beginning, middle and end. The cut-off point for winning NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words. This is a very short novel. If you’re not careful, you’ll hit 50,000 and only be halfway through your story. Force yourself to knock out a beginning, middle and end in November, even if it means omitting scenes.
4. Give November to your novel. For one month, agree to orient life around your book. Try takeout food. Let the dishes pile up. Pony up for a babysitter so you can spend a few extra evenings a week writing. Think of November as a month-long writer’s retreat in the midst of your daily life.
5. Expect ups and downs. In week one, you’ll feel ecstatic and invulnerable. In week two, you’ll feel like beating yourself with your laptop. But stick to your word-count goals and I guarantee week four will be one of the creative highlights of your life.
Chris Baty is the founder and director of National Novel Writing Month and the author of No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.