10 NaNoWriMo Tips for Writers

Goodbye Thanksgiving, goodbye November, goodbye NaNoWriMo.

And hello to my novel!

NaNoWriMo Tips for Writers

I did it. I wrote my 50,000 word novel last month, a hugely gratifying experience for me. To  everyone who participated — whether you reached your goal or not — congratulations on putting in the work.

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo. My preconceived ideas turned out to be wrong. It was not stressful; it was fun. It didn’t involve late nights and lame excuses.  And it helped me realize a lifelong dream.


I share these NaNoWriMo tips that you can use anytime, not just November, and hope that they might encourage any struggling novelist (as I was pre-NaNo). If you are determined to do this, you.will.do.it.

Disclaimer: these NaNoWriMo tips worked for me. Not saying they will for everyone.

NaNoWriMo Tips

  1. Accept that your first draft will be kind of awful. An awful first draft does not mean you can’t write.

And it should be kind of awful. Because your focus should be getting it all down on paper (or computer screen). You will pretty it up later. This is a different kind of writing than what I’ve been doing with my blog posts and essays. You can’t fret over each word. Get it out, get it down, and leave it be. For now.

  1. You don’t have to outline.

I may get criticism for this because I know most writers do it. I’m not a good outliner. Never have been. So I had an idea in my head of where my story was going but kept an open mind and just let it flow. That worked for me.

  1. You don’t have to write chronologically.

Like, start with the prologue, then Chapter 1, Chapter 2. I did not do that. I jumped around and wrote chunks of the story as they came to me, and then fit them together, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.

  1. I did not spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before I started to write.

Again, this is probably blasphemy. And certainly I will be spending plenty of time on character development during the editing process. I found that the more I wrote, the more the characters’ personalities emerged. I have a much better idea of who they are now.  I also added new characters as I went along.

  1. Characters really do talk to you.

I had heard this but thought, oh, come on now. But it’s true. I let them have their say and believe me, they did, along with some surprises. One of my minor characters turned out to be a major character. Several characters demanded a sex life. I had not been prepared for that, but how could I deny them?

  1. Discipline is good. But so are breaks.

I was strict with keeping a schedule. I think this is important but the actual schedule depends very much on your free time and biorhythms. Being a morning person, I started writing around 8 and stopped around noon to eat lunch and take the dog out. And often on that walk I would come up with fresh ideas, come back and do a little more work. When I needed a very short break I would sneak a peak at social media. But I didn’t stay for long.

  1. Writer’s block is not inevitable. But there is help out there if you have it.

I was lucky. I had dreaded the thought of writer’s block but it never happened. And yet, I was prepared for it. I learned about online resources to spark your creativity or give you writing prompts or even put you on a tight schedule with rewards/punishments, like Write or Die. Or if you work well with a little background noise, there is Coffivity that recreates the white noise of a coffee shop. The NaNoWriMo site has tons of help, and of course the Facebook groups of NaNo writers were my go-to for support and encouragement.

  1. An artificial deadline can work wonders.

So why had I been unable to do this my whole life and in one month I did? I didn’t really have a deadline, but completing the NaNo competition seemed to drive me.

  1. Tell your friends and family you are doing this.

I did, because I thought it would keep me accountable. I knew it would be embarrassing to  come up short, and having a cheering section definitely helped me keep going. So tell everyone that you will have done x amount of work by Jan. 1, or whatever date is reasonable.

10. You really can do this.

Trust me, you can. Because I never, ever thought I could do it, and I did. It wasn’t painful. It was exhilarating. And now I can mold this lump of clay into a real book.

Do you have writing tips that you can share?


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45 Thoughts on “10 NaNoWriMo Tips for Writers

  1. Congratulations on a huge achievement. I admire that you made it happen. It took a lot of focus and commitment. Kudos, girl!

  2. Oh, thank you Wise One for writing these tips. It gives me hope!

    I am so proud of you for doing this, Helene, and I can’t wait to read your book.

    Coincidentally, as I took my walk yesterday I listened to a TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert who spoke about characters “talking” to us. Next time I’ll be listening to Helene Bludman giving a TED talk! xo

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 10:25 am said:

      You are the sweetest! I thought of you when writing this post, Cathy. You can SO do this! I know you can!

  3. Congratulations, Helene – what a great accomplishment! I agree that the process of writing is entirely personal – the only requirement is giving it enough time and energy to get out of one’s head and into the world. It looks like NaNoWriMo was a great way to do that, and to develop a writing process that works well for you.

  4. Helene,
    You were my inspiration and kick starter for this. I was and am a NoNoRebel (because I am writing non-fiction.) I have enough material to be edited, purged, rewritten, and organized for a year…but I don’t plan on taking that long. Life’s Too Short.

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 10:27 am said:

      GREAT job, Julie!!! So proud of you. And this comes on top of your achievement at Erma. What a year for you!

  5. Congratulations! I hope you reward yourself with a private ‘high-five’ before moving into the edits. I find it interesting that a hashtag promotion helped you achieve your goal. The power of joining a movement! Especially when you’re a writer working alone all the livelong day.

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 10:32 am said:

      Thank you, Mithra! Yes, somehow this 30-day competition (with myself) did the trick when nothing else did.

  6. Congratulations on reaching your goal! Honestly, I can not fathom 50K words in a month, when I’ve had the same children’s story rattling around in my head for a year and a half now. Mainly, because I’ve never seen myself as a writer, but rather a storyteller for my kids. Maybe your tips can help me dislodge this story and finally get it on paper. Thank you!

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 11:07 am said:

      Linda, you can do it! With an idea and a commitment, it is doable. Trust me, I have had this idea rattling around in my head for 10 years. Truly.

  7. I am SOOOO proud of you!! I knew you could do it! Can’t wait to read the finished book — whenever. And thanks for these great tips. Love you. xo

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 11:08 am said:

      You inspire me with your fantastic writing, Lois! Thank you so much for your support. xoxo

  8. I am the world’s worst “outliner”, LOL. It killed me in college. As a history major I was supposed to be able to think this way or be taught to think this way. It never really worked for me. I still got my degree, though 🙂 So, there, all you outliners, you!

    I am so proud of you for accomplishing this task. I think that you are so right about the deadline thing — artificial or not, it works. Now, of course, I just have to put it and some of your other top-notch suggestions into practice.

    P.S. I cannot wait to read it 🙂

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 11:08 am said:

      Jackie, your writing is so incredible. You know you have a book in you just waiting to get out.

  9. My advice is to let it breathe for a few weeks but jot down thoughts/ideas when they come to you so you have them for editing.
    So proud of you and cannot wait to read it!

  10. Congratulations on completing your book! These are great tips and I’m beyond impressed that you were able to accomplish this. Woohoo!!

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm said:

      Thank you so much, Sharon! I’ve still got plenty of work to do, but it’s there but for the editing.

  11. You are so right with this advice. I never outline. I get to know my characters as we spend time together and they are ALWAYS talking to me. In fact, one is calling right now.
    Great job!

    • hbludman on December 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm said:

      I am glad to hear that, Janie. I guess we all find what works for us as we’re going through it. Can’t wait to talk to you more about OUR books. 🙂

  12. That is an amazing achievement, and one I hope to complete one day! Thanks for the tips!

    comment luv isn’t posting my latest…..do you have the latest version?

  13. Wow. That’s a major accomplishment. Congrats to you. You now have a manuscript. Thanks for the tips. I still have to launch my kids, but I’m hoping that after my era of taxi mom concludes, I can write a book-length work. Thanks for trailblazing.

  14. Wow what an awesome accomplishment! The tips are so valuable! I made sure to bookmark them. Hopefully, I can get that book out as well. Looking forward to reading it next and soon!

  15. Congratulations, Helene! Even though I’m not a writer, I am a reader! I can’t wait to read your book one day! Cheers!

  16. Congratulations, Helene! It is an awesome accomplishment. I’ve tried NaNo twice now, and have yet to win, but I am always writing! Looking forward to reading the finished work.

    • hbludman on December 2, 2014 at 8:34 am said:

      Thanks so much, Donna. You are a winner even though you didn’t reach 50K. The fact that you are always writing makes you a winner!

  17. Haralee on December 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm said:

    Wow! Congratulations. Talk about characters talking to you, I have found I don’t remember what they say after I write it! I wish they would speak up when I am trying to retell someone. Does this happen to you?

    • hbludman on December 2, 2014 at 8:37 am said:

      LOL! I see what you mean. My characters and I are sharing their secrets for now. Another thing I have to work on is my elevator speech. I can’t easily describe my book in a few words.

  18. You rock my friend – way to go! I am eager to get to know your characters and enter their worlds. I know each and everyone of them will be rich and colorful because that is how I see your writing – a peak at another world, all represented in full color! Yeah you!!!!

  19. Wonderful tips. I have never written fiction. I have never thought myself imaginative enough. But I have worked with a writer who has shared with me the idea that the characters speak or write themselves. I love that idea and would love to experience it to have a relationship with the characters of a book I write. Maybe I will have to try it sometime!

  20. Congratulations Helene! That is fabulous news. Characters have been speaking to me my whole life. I can’t wait to read all about yours.

  21. These are great tips. Surely this sounds like a real life writing class. I think you are naming very clearly the creative process, and how to foster it.
    I love the just do it attitude,
    do it and then return and return.
    What’s the title of the book?

  22. hbludman on January 12, 2015 at 8:45 am said:

    Connie, just Google these terms and you should find answers. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November. Good luck with your writing!

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