NaNoWriMo Begins! 30 Tips for Conquering Your 30-Day Writing Challenge

Taking on a 30-day writing challenge this month? Here, 30 veterans share their best NaNoWriMo tips and advice for finishing the month strong.
Publish date:

Taking on a 30-day writing challenge this month? Here, 30 veterans share their best NaNoWriMo tips and advice for finishing the month strong.

Somehow I have convinced myself to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. It's not as if I don't have a story idea—I do, and I've spent the better part of the last two months struggling to stop it from leaking out of my fingertips while I'm trying to accomplish, you know, work and all that. Editors don't just edit, after all. We write sometimes dozens of articles per week while proofing books and magazines, reviewing competition entries, managing social media accounts, programming events, and all manner of other tasks. In fact, I'm pretty well up to my ears in to-do lists, and yet here I am, committed to writing 50,000 words in 30 days as a recreational activity.

Image placeholder title

(By the way, if novels aren't your thing, try your hand at Robert Lee Brewer's November Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge. It can be a little less daunting word count-wise, and he provides awesome prompts throughout the month. Find guidelines and details here, and check out the prompts here.)

In my bewilderment, I turned to Twitter for help. Via @writersdigest, I asked past NaNoWriMo participants to share their best tip or lesson learned from their previous NaNo journeys. Fortunately, the answers were improbably helpful—which is why I've decided to share my favorites with you here.

Plus, check out my daily NaNoWriMo tips @writersdigest on Twitter and Instagram—all drawn from nearly 100 years of WD history.

30 NaNoWriMo Tips for Conquering Your 30-Day Writing Challenge

1. Eat sparingly. Drink lots of water. Yoga every 500 words. Your friends will still be there when you are done. Your family has to love you. Always write 50 extra words a day. — @Suzanne34930264

2. Set a timer for thirty minutes and just write what comes to you. Skip ahead to scenes you need if you're stuck. Whatever you end up with is more than what you had on October 31st. —@MCromancewriter

 Writing Your Novel in 30 Days: Prep Kit

Writing Your Novel in 30 Days: Prep Kit

3. If you find all the formal stuff like outlines and all that complicates things for you find what works for YOU. I'm a writer with ADD. Protocol can frustrate and clog me. Sometimes I need an outline to get the BASIC stuff down, and sometimes I just let the story lead. — @Return_2_Zion

4. Remind yourself that someone else is feel exactly how you are right now, but they are still pushing through, you should too! — @arthurkrichards

5. Make sure you triple save all of your words every day. Send them as an email to yourself, Dropbox or similar and saved on your pc ( I save in two places) I lost 20k words NOT doing this one NaNo! — @mazblondie

6. If you change a character's name, favorite color or motivation, don't worry about. Keep writing forward and fix problems & continuity in the second draft. — @JenSneedWrites

7. Have an outline, and join the local NaNoWriMo chapters. They give you a morale boost when you're down. — @carlarjenkins

8. Have someone hold you accountable. Get your family, spouse, children, significant other involved and have them hold you to task! — @arthurkrichards

Image placeholder title

9. When you get stuck, write anything just to keep moving and adding word count—food descriptions, rambling dialog, whatever. You'll eventually get out of the ditch and hit pavement. Edit later! — @SKimmelWright

10. I pick one aspect of my writing that needs improving, remind myself of it before each writing session. Over the years I’ve worked on verb tense consistency, not head hopping, & adding descriptions. It’s a marathon of a writing practice! — @KatGentian Kat Terrell

11. When you can't nail a scene, write it regardless. Make it deliberately terrible and funny, just write. When you return to edit at a later date, your brain will provide better words and pacing because it can't help but to improve the already half forgotten "how not to"-version. —@PiSquare

12. Just do it. Don't get caught up in what you wrote before. Just keep on writing. If you get stuck at one part, write a different part. Don't go back and edit or you'll never finish anything. And don't forget to take breaks or it'll take a lot longer to finish! — @skybornex

13. If you get stuck with something, drop a note in brackets (you might put [INSERT SCENE HERE] or [RESEARCH THING] for example) and keep moving along. Always keep moving. —@IsalyWolf

14. Don't beat yourself up for a bad day. You'd be surprised how much more you accomplish when you just move on and let it go. A good day can offset it just fine. — @rejohnsonauthor

15. Set yourself a realistic daily word count goal that leaves a few days free. That way, if you get behind, you won't feel discouraged. If you get ahead of your goal, you'll feel even better. Get your household's support and have fun! — @Metal_and_Earth

16. “Write drunk, edit sober.” — Hemingway, via @TandWToday

17. Don't over write in one session. Follow a word count plan and stick to it like a compass. The daily/ weekly word count matters for you. Then stop the session just before a new scene, go into it with a few sentences, so it is easier the next day, to write in to the new scene. —@Sven_Neo_

18. Don't forget to eat, pet your dog, get some sleep and eventually, don't forget to shower. —@Cynthia19953311

Image placeholder title

19. Just block out even 25 minutes to write. No distractions either. If you give yourself designated time to write each day, you’ll get some words on paper. And words on paper is how NaNo is won. —@hmwilsonauthor

20. Be a Plotter-Pantser: Plot out five points to give your story a direction and then make sure you’re on track roughly every 10,000 words. The just write and see where the characters take you! — @thetjedwards

21. Tip: Go on social media blackout for a set period everyday (I like to switch up the hours), brew a lot of coffee, and get a playlist related to your novel concept ready to get you in the zone! — 산드라 (@melanchanly) October 31, 2018

22. If you have a full-time job, write during breaks or lunch if you can bring yourself to do it. Try to make the time. Might not meet the word count each day, but just keep writing. — @XicanoX

23. Be intentonal and minimize distractions. Tweet after you've crushed your word count for the day! All in all, treat it like a job and show up every day… and do the work! —@ErinDaleDarling

24. Don’t fall behind… but also allow yourself some time that doesn’t revolve around your book! — @cherrytwizzlerr

25. 1,667 is the daily goal, but some days, every word will feel like pulling out a tooth. You (likely) have 32 teeth. Pull them all out! 32 is better than 0, and by that point, you might magically find yourself with many more teeth to pull. Good thing they grow back every day! —@AlexRezdan

Image placeholder title

26. Don't get bogged down by trying to hit daily word counts. Just write. Don't be discouraged if you come up short. Its ok to write in a non-linear way. Move from one topic to another — @MrsBaggins20

27. It's about overcoming a litany of things and showing people the beginnings of a novel can be fashioned in 30 days. It's an inspiration thang! — @bycameronaviles

28. Give yourself a buffer for when you fall behind due to holidays or when you lose momentum during the Sophomore Slump. Ex: I find it harder to write on Saturday & Sunday, so my goal's usually 2,273 words M-F (50k/22 weekdays). Even when I fell behind, I was still ahead. — @ganymeder

29. I find word sprints help push up my daily word counts. Find a word sprint buddy or set a timer and go alone. Write for 20 minutes, give yourself a 5-minute breather, then do it again. Repeat until you reach 1,667 words! — @tanyabryan

30. Believe in your story! Keep writing no matter what. 1500-2000 words a day… you can do it! — @RuthADouthitt

Image placeholder title
April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 19

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write an animal title poem.

Writer's Digest May/June 2021 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest May/June 2021 Cover Reveal

Presenting the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest featuring a collection of articles about how curiosity fuels writers, including the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers and a new interview with Chris Bohjalian.

Through Another’s Eyes: An Auschwitz Survivor Inspires His Biographer

Through Another’s Eyes: An Auschwitz Survivor Inspires His Biographer

Popular lecturer and biographer Joshua M. Greene discusses the hardship of writing the biographies of Holocaust survivors, and the biography that convinced him to continue writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The May/June 2021 Issue, a Chance at Publication, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce that the May/June 2021 “Curiosity” issue is now live in the WD shop, there’s still time to have your From Our Reader’s response selected for publication in the July/August 2021 “Bravery” issue, and more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 18

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write an ekphrastic poem.

Personal Essay Awards

Announcing the First Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the first annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards!

From Script

Movie Theatres Return While Indie Cinema and TV Turns to Horror and Beyond (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by, read movie reviews from cinephile Tom Stemple. Plus, exclusive interviews with Amazon’s Them creator and showrunner Little Marvin, horror film Jakob’s Wife director Travis Stevens, a history lesson with Dr. Rosanne Welch about trailblazer screenwriter Anita Loos, and much more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 17

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a waiting poem.


Your Story #112

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.