10 Tips To Help You Finish Your Novel and/or ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo

November 13-20th is World Kindness Week, an entire week dedicated to spreading kindness around the world. I encourage you to celebrate and commit at least one act of kindness each day this week.

Here’s a link if you need ideas

I recommend participating in the November 14th Donation Day at the NaNo site – this program runs entirely on donation day and I’ve been saving my giving till now to help my region. 🙂

My Random Act of Kindness for the week is giving some extra special writing encouragement to my #ROW80, More Cowbell and NaNoWriMo peeps.

I’ve been seeing a bunch of peeps hit the dreaded Week Two Wall in the NaNo challenge where the initial endorphins have faded and the grind of their new schedule sets in. I’ve seen words like “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” and “haven’t.”

We all know this feeling, whether we’re doing a writing challenge or not.

I’d like to chat about what I consider to be a NaNo “win”:

  • Your very best = a NaNo win
  • Achieving your goal numbers = a NaNo win (ex: my goal this month is 30K, not 50K)
  • Finishing a project = a NaNo win
  • Forming new and amazing writing habits = a NaNo win

I think people get twitchy about some things that don’t matter during the month of November. You remember the cartoon I posted at the beginning of the month, right?

The Office of Letters and Light, those crazy cats that run this November challenge, have the right idea. Their slogan is: We believe in ambitious acts of the imagination.

There’s a reason why they refer to November as “30 Days & Nights of Literary Abandon”…

NaNo should be fun.

However, if you’re still feeling the push to “Go 50K or Bust,” I found the tips below as I poked around the site. I was  astonished to realize, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo since 2007 and never once looked at their welcome message. [FYI: It seriously rocks.]

Behold their Tips for Successful WriMos (i.e. writing 50K by November 30)…

Here’s a quick overview of the things we wish we had known for our first NaNoWriMo:

1.  It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one.

2. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it.

3. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

4. Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output.

5. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t.

6. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

7. Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month.

8. Seriously. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

9. There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through.

Above are the NaNo team’s words.  They have them squinched together into just a few tips, but I spread it out. All this wisdom needs to be heard.  (Full welcome message here.)

Now, for my #10. I lifted this from one of my inspiration posts at Writers In The Storm:

10. Wherever you are on your writing journey, DON’T STOP.

The best is always yet to come because we keep improving the more we do it. I heard Linda Howard speak at a writer’s conference in San Diego some years back and I’ve never forgotten her words, which meant so much to me.

“Everybody dreams,” she said. “But writers are special because they write down their dreams.

“As writers, we can do anything and be anyone. You can be astronauts or spies or time travelers. Writers can go to amazing places and build imaginary worlds for others to visit.

“The sad fact is that no matter how hard you try, the music and the magic of your dreams will never be equaled by the words you put on a page.

“Do it anyway.”

Every writer in that room started crying because it IS so hard to translate the grand scope of our imaginations into words on the page. The words never seem quite big enough or important enough to express the magic that lives inside our minds.

My hope is that, even on those days when you feel that all is lost, when you wonder why you ever believed that YOUR words were important, you keep at it.

Do it because you have to. Do it because you need to. Do it because the act of sharing those words is more than most people will ever attempt.

And finally, do it because no one else will have the inner ear to hear the words exactly as you do, the strength to birth them onto the page, or the vision to translate those words into the perfect story that floats from your heart to ours.

DON’T STOP. Your story is calling you.

What is the most painful part of meeting your goals for you? Are you like me where it’s hard to get started? Perhaps you have a hard time being organized or prioritizing the time. Whatever it is, enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing Challenge and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to 10 Tips To Help You Finish Your Novel and/or ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo

  1. Wonderful tips. NaNo is all about taking a leap of faith and believing in your writing. How is your NaNo going, Jenny? Mine isn’t. *sighs* Too many real life commitments that of course all have the busiest time now. Plus neighbour drama causing stress.


  2. sarahneeve says:

    The tips listed above are like a cattleprod to poke yourself with when the need arises.
    For the past three years I’ve shied away from NaNo (I take a peek and think, ‘next year’). I say, with hand on heart, at the best of times I’m full of broken promises when it comes to commitment. But those words of inspiration have bulked up my determination, and next year I think I’ll give it a go.
    Thanks for the snippets of encouragement.
    Forgot to ask, is world kindness week an American thing?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sarah, when you decide to hop on the NaNo train, we’ll be waiting for you. 🙂

      I don’t know if it’s an American thing – it says Wold Kindness day so I figured y’all are doing it everywhere.


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  4. Gene Lempp says:

    Great post, Jen 🙂


  5. “You know you could be writing right now, don’t you?” LOL Awesome post!


  6. Shah Wharton says:

    Loving this act of kindness Jen, I’ve been so busy ad slackened off a little while I have house guests, but this has enthused me to press on. I am making progress, and even if I stopped now, I’d have almost half a book written. Can’t complain and I should acknowledge this, instead of worrying about what I may not achieve. Good luck on your NaNo. X


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Shah, life happens and I think you’re doing WONDERFUL with your goals. The other trick I’ve learned is to only check in and upload every few days. For some reason, this makes me a lot less feverish. 🙂


  7. This was an inspiring post even for those of us who didn’t get to do NaNo this year (despite our best intentions).


  8. I’m having a hard time getting through the dreaded middle right now. I usually don’t have this problem, but the good news is I know why it’s happening: I didn’t stay true to my process. For me, that means plenty of pre-planning, and my middle scenes, while noted, are lacking in conflict and twistiness. So I’m doing my best to power through – I can add to them later!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Wonderful way of thinking, Jennette. I do that same thing all the time. Why don’t we see that we can add it in later while we’re staring at a flat scene? I have no idea, but no writer that I know sees it.


  9. Great post, Jen, and so true! I’m barely waddling along right now, but I still have thousands of words more than I did this time last week. That’s what we need to concentrate on! 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Congrats on piling up those words. I’ve been trying to be sure that I get over myself and just write. Scrivener is helping a lot because I can separate everything into little compartments. I’m loving it. 🙂

      KEEP GOING!!


  10. I deviated from my initial outline, & now I don’t know where I’m heading! I keep recalling those notes to “just add ninjas” or “send everybody to the circus”, so I see some seriously baddy-bad-bad guys emerging from a cloud & tearing shit up. Relevant to the story? Not in any way whatsoever. Who cares, though, if it makes me write SOMETHING as opposed to my current NOTHING!!!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Go, Andi, goooooooooo! You just tear some shit up and see what happens. It’s all so much more fun that way. 🙂

      And seriously, if you just stop looking at your word count and write your scenes, you’ll feel so much better! I try only to upload every few days or I start to get obsessed.


  11. Emma says:

    Personal humiliation as a tough motivator – I like it.


  12. K.B. Owen says:

    Wow, Jenny. I’m getting a little sniffly myself! Thanks for the inspiration and reminders. I’m in the editing stage, and it’s slow slogging. Good luck with your WIP!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You’re welcome, Kathy! And the editing stage makes me insane so more power to you. I have to depend on my critique group for that – I just can’t see my own stuff clearly.


  13. Love this Jenny!!!!! So much inspiration and motivation!!!


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  15. amyskennedy says:

    I’m with K.B., you brought tears to my eyes. Much needed words! I was feeling all stucky yesterday, this a.m. had to take the train into the city, brought my tablet to write on, read what I last wrote (on it, writing on all kinds of devices!) and was shocked at the non-suckiness of it. Which made me write.
    But already I needed the motivation.


  16. Diana Beebe says:

    Thanks, Jenny. My NaNo rebel self has been struggling and this has been helpful! I really have to stop editing as I write. I’m leaving the list up on the monitor as a reminder!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Editing in November??! *shaking head* You’ve gotta stop that, girlfriend. It’s bad for you. Good girl. Read the list, then come back and read it again, the next time your inner editor tries to bitch-slap you!!


  17. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    Reblogged this on "CommuniCATE" Resources for Writers and commented:
    There is no way I can say this better than Jenny has. Please check out her blog and please, give to NaNoWriMo. A lot of behind the scenes work and expenses go into it and somehow, bills have to be paid so we can have the benefits. Cheers Jenny!


  18. I don’t do NaNo anymore, but this advice is good for anyone who is writing a novel. Thanks so much for sharing!


  19. shanjeniah says:

    Reblogged this on shanjeniah and commented:
    This is really good advice…there are a couple of these that donn’t suit me particularly, but a wonderful read for getting unstuck and celebrating every step of the way.


  20. shanjeniah says:

    I liked this so much that I reblogged it! Thanks! =D


  21. Thanks for sharing these valuable tips to get our butts in the chair and sitting there. I beat myself up sometimes because I’ve “only” completed one novel, a third of a new one, and half of my current. Your past gave me an “Aha Moment.” Two years ago, I didn’t even know what NaNoWriMo was, much less have a book started. LOL I’m gonna keep writing, right where I am. 🙂


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  23. emaginette says:

    I always try to do a good thing once a day, but I do it all year round. You never know when Santa is watching; and my family, friends and fellow human beings are important to me. 🙂


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  26. Tanya Cienfuegos says:

    the cartoon absolutely cracked me up. Great post! NaNoWriMo really drives home the fact that ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’.


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