Surviving NaNoWriMo: You Need A Plan

You Need A Plan.jpg

Your protagonist needs to be proactive. It’s a lesson we learn as writers. A hero content with being carried along for the ride is no hero. Since you are the hero of your own story, you need to be proactive as well.

You can do that with a plan. Or a promise. Anything constructive that will help you get through NaNoWriMo, because trust me, November will be difficult. But the reward is worth it. Why is it worth it?

It’s worth it because:

  • You get to write a novel
  • You get bragging rights
  • Your writing skills will improve
  • Your creativity will improve
  • Your typing/writing speed will become faster
  • You will be seen as disciplined
  • Finishing NaNoWriMo will make you feel more confident

But if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided to do NaNoWriMo (NaNo for short). If you haven’t decided yet, check out my blog post on why you need to do NaNo, it elaborates on some of the ‘worth it’ reasons that I listed above.

If you have decided that you are going to do NaNo, but you don’t know how you’re going to stay afloat, read on. A plan will help you greatly. But why take my word for it? Because I’ve successfully completed NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo a combination of 4 times. Unfortunately I wasn’t signed up on the websites any of those times, I would just check in with a local writing group. I was young and didn’t realize the value of an online community.

But I realized the value of a plan.

What Kind of Plan

Any kind of plan, be it a plot plan, a word-sprint plan, or a plan with family and friends to not disturb you at certain hours because you’ll be writing. Even deciding to write 1,667 words everyday for an entire month is a plan.

It doesn’t matter which of these you choose, or if you choose something entirely different. Just knowing how much you’ll be writing each day, or at what time of the day, will help keep you motivated and on track for November.

Making a Plan

Making a plan can be intimidating, but I’ll be giving suggestions for how to plan out based on time of day, how many words you’ll be writing each day, and planning out word-sprints.

If you feel you need a plan for how your novel is going to go, just stick around. I’ll be publishing a blog post on the 1st of October on how to outline a novel.

Plan by Word Count

In order to achieve the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month, you’ll need to write 1,667 words every day. Planning that is easy enough, just grab a calendar, open it to the month of November and write down 1,667 x Whatever The Date Is.

For example:

  • 1,667 for the 1st
  • 3,334 for the 2nd
  • 5,001 for the 3rd
  • 48,343 for the 29th
  • 50,000 for the 30th

When you do NaNoWriMo, try to get your total word count to match or be higher than the number for the day you’re writing on. That way you won’t fall behind.

If you want to leave a bit of wiggle room, you can write 2,000 words each day instead of 1,667 and have 5 days off, stress free. In 2017 there are 5 Wednesdays and 5 Thursdays in the month of November so you could take a break from writing on those days.

Alternatively, there are 4 Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in November 2017, so you could take any of those days off, and have an extra day in case you’re sick or have something scheduled.

If you do decide to write 2,000 words every day, but don’t take any days off, you’ll have written 60,000 words by the end of the month, so if you’re planning on doing a longer story, increasing the daily word goal by 333 words will get you an extra 10,000 words by the end of the month.

Plan by Time of Day

This kind of plan is useful if there are consistently times during your day where you know you’ll be able to write with minimal distraction. This could mean getting up an hour earlier and writing before anyone else in the house wakes up, or going to bed an hour later and writing after everyone has fallen asleep.

It could also mean writing during your lunch break instead of going out for a stroll, or giving up watching TV in the evenings in favor of sitting down at your desk and just getting the words down on paper or on the screen.

The important thing about scheduling out certain times of the day is to tell others about it, especially friends and family, as you’ll want to minimize the disruptions you get during those precious moments of creativity.

Planning Word Sprints

A word sprint is a set amount of time, usually 15 to 30 minutes, where you try to write as much as you can, without worrying about whether or not the writing is any good.

Word sprints are a very effective way to write as much as possible in a very small amount of time. I’ve seen people write over 1000 words in a 30 minute word sprint; I can usually get somewhere between 500 to 800 words.

I would suggest doing 2 – 4 word sprints a day, of a 30 minute duration, around 2 – 3 times a week. Spreading word sprints out over different times during the day will help you see when you write most effectively, so vary the times that you do choose.

Instead of doing word sprints at:

  • 8:00 – 8:30
  • 9:30 – 10:00
  • 11:00 – 11:30


  • 9:30 – 10:00
  • 14:30 – 15:00
  • 19:30 – 20:00

For this upcoming NaNo, I’m probably going to do word sprints every Monday and Friday; since those are the days that I do most of my writing on, it’s natural for me to continue that pattern.

Think about which days you’ll have free during the week, and plan your word sprints for those days. Let family and friends know that those will be times of serious writing, and see if you can get someone to do it with you. Friendly competition is a great motivator.

Using Your Plan

Using your plan is a pretty simple thing to do. Plan on doing word sprints at a certain time of the day? Set a timer and just do it. Need to write 1,667 words by the end of the day? Open up your writing program or take out a notebook and pen, and just go at it, one word after another.

If you frequently have issues following plans, tell it to a trusted person, and they might help you stick to it by sending you reminders over email, or calling you to let you know that you should be working on your novel.

Still unsure about whether or not you’re going to do NaNoWriMo this year? I have a post on why you need to. If you are going to be doing NaNo, may you have the best of luck, and may the words flow onto your page or screen with ease.

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