By Yasmeen Mughal


It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is in full swing.  NaNoWriMo is an annual writing challenge that has been going on for over a decade and pushes even the best of writers to their limits: 50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s also known as “the-month-every-one-of-your-writer-friends-goes-completely-insane.”  There really is no prize, other than the sheer pride in being able to say “I wrote a novel” while you stand in line at Starbucks getting you coffee – black, like your tortured, poetic, writer’s soul. 

I fail every year I participate, and I’m not exactly making it this year, which obviously makes me the perfect person to bring you a quick guide to getting through the rest of the month and future NaNoWriMo’s!

  1. Plan ahead – If you didn’t spend October planning out your characters, plot, and structure, Halloween night and the first days of November are hell.  Trust me.  I convince myself every year that I’m just going to “wing it” with the vague notes I have jotted down in my journal, which further contributes to my descent into insanity.  You can avoid that and it just makes your life easier and experience better if you know what direction you want to take it in and you won’t be left with a mess by November 30th.
  2. It’s okay if you haven’t figured it all out yet.  Really.  I know that contradicts my last point a little bit, but don’t expect yourself to just vomit out 10,000 words of perfect prose within the first days.  (But try to keep your pace at 1,660 words a day.)  I get it, writing is hard. Writing a novel is hard.  Writing a novel in a month is hard.  There will be tears, there will be blood.  But remember that there are tons of other people going through what you’re going through.  The NaNoWriMo website even has a way you can add writing buddies, and you can support each other!  It’s hard, but it doesn’t have to be scary.
  3. Your writing will suck.  Like I said, nothing you write the first time will be perfect prose.  If you think otherwise you’re lying.  But that doesn’t mean you should stop!  Just keep going; you’ll get it.  December is the unofficial editing month, so try to hold off then to go all Grammar Nazi over your novel.  For now, just suck and be glad about it.
  4. 1,660 is the magic number.  You may not reach it every day, and you might exceed it some days.  But try to make it a goal because saying you’re going to write those 1,660 words is only half the battle.  You actually have to do it.  Blast some music, make some tea, put on some PJ’s- if that makes you focus.  Don’t have time during the week?  Catch up during the weekend!  Don’t have time ever?  Make time; who needs sleep?  Make sure you’re keeping track of where you are (the NaNoWriMo website even has a handy-dandy word counter) and where you want to be because it’s easy to fall back on your goal and just stop all together.
  5. Write. Write. Write. Write.  That’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo – to get you writing.

You can find more tips and tricks at  They also have a newsletter and they email you pep talks from a lot of authors across the spectrum.  Keep calm and happy noveling!