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Gearing Up for National Novel Writing Month: Advice & Motivation From a Former Participant

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

It’s that time of the year again, and no, I don’t mean that it’s an aesthetic season of cider donuts and pumpkin spice lattes. If you’re a writer, then you’ve probably been savoring these last few days of October, relishing in peace and comfort before the oncoming whirlwind of November. In that case, maybe you should grab your cider donuts and pumpkin spice while you still can, because next month is going to be an emotional rollercoaster of excitement, creativity, procrastination, despair, and perseverance. That’s right: National Novel Writing Month is coming at you in full swing.

Every year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of writers across the globe grab their notebooks, click their pens, and open their computers to begin writing a new story for NaNoWriMo. The challenge: write a 50,000-word novel in the span of 30 days. That’s 1,667 painstaking words each day with no breaks.

It’s a daunting task, but a rewarding one nonetheless. Whether you’re a first-time Wrimo or a seasoned veteran, here are seven pieces of advice and encouragement to help you power through November and end the month with a finished novel.

1. Set aside a specific allotment of time to write.

My first successful NaNoWriMo took place at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, so needless to say, I had a lot of time on my hands. It was fairly easy for me to find time to write when most of my classes were online.

Now that the world is making its way back to some semblance of normalcy, chances are your schedule isn’t as open as it used to be. For that reason, dedicate a consistent slot of time to write so you can incorporate your NaNo project into your daily routine.

2. Set goals for yourself.

The general challenge for NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel, but you are by no means obligated to stick to that word count. If you want to participate in NaNo with a 25,000-word goal, go for it! If you want to amp it up to 100,000, be my guest! NaNo is for everyone, and every participant gets to define what their milestones will be and how they will achieve their success.

You can also set daily word count goals. Maybe you want to divide your word count into six days per week, leaving a day of rest to spend some time away from your work in progress. Or maybe you’re like me, who decided to write 1,667 words per day with no breaks.

In any case…

3. If you procrastinate — and you will procrastinate — try not to do so for more than a day.

Did I follow through with my plan to write 1,667 words per day? Nope, I most certainly did not.

One thousand, six hundred and sixty seven words per day didn’t sound like too much of a challenge, but when you stare at a computer screen for hours on end and develop an unfortunate case of writer’s block, sometimes the best thing you can do is step away.

Remember, it’s okay to take breaks. It’s even okay to procrastinate a little. Whatever you do, however, don’t let piles of unwritten words turn into an insurmountable goal. You don’t want to be forced into writing half of your novel in the span of three days. If you’re going to procrastinate, then do it in moderation. Try not to delay for more than 24 hours every few days.

4. Don’t waste time by going back to edit and revise.

I know! You want your writing to be flawless. Pitch perfect, no typos, all literary excellence. I’ve been there. Here is your snap back to reality: your writing will not be good. In fact, it’ll probably be awful.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer or trash your writing (I’m positive that you’re a talented writer), but this is a first draft. It’s going to be messy, and typos are inevitable. Going back to edit is just another way of procrastinating the actual writing process. It may feel productive, but in the end, it isn’t getting you any closer to your word goal.

For me, the urge was strongest whenever I hit a wall of writer’s block. I didn’t know what to write, so I would submit to the temptation of revising. Don’t do as I did; it isn’t helpful.

With that being said…

5. Word vomit.

When struggling with writer’s block, don’t think: just write. Don’t focus on sentence structure, lack of description, or even too much description. Just get down whatever is in your head, whether or not it makes sense. Even if it’s a stream of consciousness. Even if it sounds choppy. Even if you don’t know where your story will take you.

Word vomit.

6. Find something to romanticize or aestheticize your writing experience.

Look for something to incorporate into your experience that motivates you to write, other than the idea of a finished novel. For me, I felt most committed to writing when I was at my desk, late at night, with scented candles flickering and a mug of hot cinnamon tea at my side. Romanticizing or aestheticizing your experience can be a huge help when it comes to staying inspired.

Some other ideas to keep your creative juices flowing include:

  • Listening to bookish ambience such as sounds from Hogwarts or the Shire.
  • Writing in different locations, like a coffee shop or the library.
  • Wearing your softest sweatshirt and fuzziest socks.

7. It’s worth it.

For me, NaNoWriMo was grueling. But the experience of finishing a story — of typing the words “the end” after 30 days of excruciating exhaustion — is nearly indescribable. I was overcome with a conglomeration of pride, relief, and satisfaction, but above all else, a sense of liberation.

Your writing experience is likely to be difficult. It may even be the most ambitious challenge you’ve ever undertaken. In the end, however, leaving the month as a novelist is an experience unlike any other.

If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected].

Emily Tarinelli

Mt Holyoke '25

Book nerd, creative writer, coffee enthusiast, competitive swimmer, and aspiring journalist. I write about anything nerdy and everything feminist. She/Her/Hers ~ Class of 2025 Staff Writer - Mount Holyoke News Contributor - HC at Mount Holyoke
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