Preparing for NaNoWriMo: how to manage your time, stay motivated, and keep the creativity flowing


Resources for authors that want to write a novel in less than a month

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is a little more than a week away. On November 1st, thousands of authors will start writing with the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel by midnight on November 30th. That’s a hell of a goal, and it requires that you write an average of 1,666 words per day for an entire month. Sound inspiring? Painful? A bit of both?

It’s really an amazing event fueled by the passion of a worldwide community of authors, and it might be just the thing you need to temporarily turn off your internal editor, experiment with new approaches to writing, and push your craft to the next level.

But it won’t be easy. That’s why I’ve put together some info to help you prepare for this writing marathon (or is it a sprint?).

An outline for your writing process during NaNoWriMo

If you’re going to finish a novel in 30 days, your schedule may look a little something like this…

1. Pick your topic (day 1-2)

2. Create an outline (day 3-4)

3. Start writing (day 5-25)

4. Redraft your book (day 26-28)

5. Make final changes (day 29-30)

For more details about each of these phases in the writing process, click HERE.

Time management tips for writers on a deadline

Arbitrary deadlines are great for getting things done, and by combining ambitious goals with a sense of fun, NaNoWriMo helps foster an atmosphere that is conducive to creating quantity AND quality.

But you’re going to have to call upon your inner resources — discipline, drive, determination (wait, aren’t those all the same thing?) — in order to finish on time.

If you need help focusing your writing efforts in terms of time-management, check out these articles:

1. Time Management Tips for Writers 

2. A Writer’s Timeline: Tips for Setting Deadlines (and meeting ‘em!)

It always helps to read about writing

Reading about the craft of writing is a great way to mentally prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo. In the week before you start writing, check out some of these books from the Writer’s Digest Shop:

1. Write That Book Already– by Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark

2. Getting the Words Right- by Theodore A. Rees Cheney

3. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing– by the editors of Writer’s Digest

Things are starting to get real

Is a picture forming in your mind of a desk cluttered with used coffee mugs, ashtrays full of half-smoked cigarettes, and skyscrapers of printer paper — while you sit there in the same clothes you’ve worn for days, speed-typing the next great novel? Yep, things are starting to get real. So let’s watch the true story of a writer working hard to finish her novel, live her life, and stay connected to her family during National Novel Writing Month:

Month of Writing Dangerously from David McFarland on Vimeo.

5 habits of highly motivated novelists

Did that video make you nervous? Stay strong, novelists! This thing hasn’t even started yet, which gives you time to develop habits right from the get-go that will help you stay motivated throughout.

After the 2012 National Novel Writing Month, RescueTime did some research to find out what traits were shared by the the most productive novelists amongst the NaNoWriMo crowd. Here are the results:

5 habits of productive novelists

That should give you a good start for getting into NaNoWriMo. Be sure to register for the event at their website where you’ll be able to engage with NaNoWriMo’s whole community throughout the process. And I’ll be sure to post a few more articles during the month of November to hopefully help you along.

Are you going to do NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done NaNoWriMo before? Let me know all about it in the comments below.

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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. I would think that “Pick your writing topic” and “Create your outline” (if you’re the type to do that) would be things you would do as you PREPARE for NaNoWriMo (along with “check coffee/tea stocks,” clear other projects away from desk/writing zone, etc.), not things you would actually wait for NaNoWriMo to start.


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