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Sharpen your skills, get ready to write in November


You’ve probably heard the whispers about a completely insane program called National Novel Writing Month, and yes, it is completely insane. But it’s also amazing, and I wanted to tell you everything I’ve learned about the program in the four times I’ve participated and won.

Yes, I’ve successfully written four manuscripts, each just over 50,000 words, and if you’d asked me if I was able to do that three years ago, I’d collapse from laughing so hard at the absurdity of the question. The main thing to know about me is that I had never finished a writing project before NaNoWriMo.

(Flickr: Angie Garrett)

(Flickr: Angie Garrett)

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Sure, there were the little short stories I wrote for workshop classes in college, but those were short stories—certainly difficult in their own way, but obviously nowhere near as time-consuming as novels. And I’d had plenty of ideas waiting for me to actually finish them.

But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the outside motivation or the belief that I could actually accomplish it. I was a novice writer, amateurish and scared.

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Participating in 2012’s National Novel Writing Month jump-started my writing career. I wouldn’t be writing to you guys today if I hadn’t plunged in blindly, flailing and praying and kicking to reach 50,000 words.

But I did. And I’m here to tell you anyone can do it. Here’s how I did it and maybe it’ll work for you.

Outlines: I didn’t have one ready in 2012. I had a vague notion of what I wanted my story to be, and technically, I did write an outline eventually; it was just me writing what I wanted to accomplish the next day before I went to bed. If that works for you, go for it. These past three months—November 2013 and April and July of 2014 (Camp NaNoWriMo)—I went in with an outline, ant it was immensely less difficult to keep going. No, they’re not technical. Yes, they’re basically lists of everything that needs to happen in chronological order.

Note files: Just how they sound. Write all the non-prose but necessary information in this separate document and nothing will fall through the cracks.

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Stats: On the NaNoWriMo website, it tells you how many words you have to write per day to finish on time. Use this! Don’t let the big, scary 50,000 scare you. You only have to write 1,666 words per day. It’s very manageable.

Social life: Be willing to lose this. Seriously. There are a whole slew of methods on how to break it to your friends and family that you’re devoting the next thirty days to finishing your novel. If you’re serious about getting it done, they have to take it seriously too.

Preparation: Don’t be afraid to spend October in preparation, or even longer. Just don’t write any prose until November 1 and you’re not cheating.

There you go. Use these tips and maybe, just maybe, you can jump-start your own writing career with NaNoWriMo.

Nicole Aronis is an aspiring novelist and short story writer. She runs a writing advice and community blog at


Nicole Aronis

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