Tips for NaNoWriMo Success from a Newbie

The following is a guest post from Carrie Mumford.  Carrie is a writer and editor living in the wild Canadian West. She writes short stories and non-fiction articles, and hopes to complete her second novel during NaNoWriMo this year. When she’s not participating in word-related activities she can be found chipping away at her certificate in publishing, running, or trying to learn CSS. You can find her on her blog, website, Twitter or Google Plus.  

She also wrote this post a year ago, but the MLs are slackers who were delayed getting the blog up and running.  Please forgive us.



You may be wondering what tips a NaNoWriMo newbie could possibly give to help you complete this monster of all writing challenges. Well, even though this is my first NaNoWriMo attempt, I’m hoping a few lessons from my past will prove useful for this new challenge.

Earlier this year, I participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest (3DNC). The 3-Day Novel Contest requires entrants to write a full novel over the course of the Labour Day long-weekend. I entered the contest on a whim, and – to my surprise – completed it!

My positive experience with 3DNC was just the push I needed to sign-on for NaNoWriMo. Since I’m a NaNoWriMo newbie, I’ve been reading all I can about the event, trying to get up-to-speed on what I’ll need to do to be successful. While scouring the web for advice, it dawned on me that the lessons I learned during the 3-Day Novel contest might serve me well during NaNoWriMo.

I wanted to share these tips with the Calgary Wrimos in the hopes that they may be helpful, but also as a way to start a conversation about NaNoWriMo tips with my fellow Wrimos. NaNoWriMo vets, please let me know if I’m on the right track in the comments!


5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Success

1. Immediately silence your inner critic:

When racing against the clock for events like NaNoWriMo, there is no time to listen to your inner critic. When I was writing for 3DNC, I pictured my inner critic crouched in the corner of the room, mouth covered with duct tape. When you’re writing for quantity, you’ll write passages (and sometimes whole chapters) that will make you cringe, but no matter what, you can’t stop to edit. There will be lots of time to edit in December.

2. Be prepared for physical discomfort:

Whether you plan to write a little bit each day or in big chunks, be prepared for your body to protest so much time spent at a computer or notebook. During the 3DNC weekend, my wrists hurt, my fingers hurt, my shoulders hurt, even my bottom hurt. I don’t expect the discomfort to be quite so extreme for NaNoWriMo, but I imagine that sitting for so many extra hours in one month will take a toll on the body. You can battle your aches and pains by taking frequent stretch breaks and warm baths to soothe your tired muscles.

3. Write about something you’re interested in:

If you’re going to spend an entire month working on one novel, and one novel only, you should make sure you’re writing about something you really like. I’ve come across this tip in several articles about NaNoWriMo, and my 3DNC experience confirmed it. You wouldn’t spend a month vacationing with your most-boring cousin, so why would you spend a month writing about something that you’re not passionate about? Choosing to write a story you’re excited about will keep you coming back to the page time and time again in November.

4. Use your online support systems:

One of the benefits of writing a novel for an event like NaNoWriMo is that you have a built-in cheering section throughout your journey. Take advantage of online forums, Twitter hashtags and Facebook pages to commiserate with fellow Wrimos and to make sure you’re not falling behind. You can find the Calgary participants on Twitter and Facebook, and in the online forums on Just be sure to schedule your social media breaks and keep them short or before you know it they’ll be eating into your writing time.

5. Don’t underestimate your recovery time:

I was surprised by how long it took me to recover from 3DNC. For days after the contest, I felt fuzzy and burnt out. I felt creative, but couldn’t bring myself to write a thing. I can only imagine how burnt out a person must feel after focusing on a novel for an entire month! Be sure to leave room in your schedule for recovery time in December so you’ll be back in top form for the holidays.

Before participating in the 3-Day Novel Contest, writing a novel seemed like a giant, daunting, near-impossible task. I now know that writing a novel is no different than any other writing: you just sit down and type (or write) it out. Writing a novel in one month is possible, and I look forward to working alongside you as we strive for NaNoWriMo success this year!


Experienced Wrimos and newbies: Do you have any tips for completing NaNoWriMo?


    1. Of course, Carrie! Sorry it took so long!

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