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  • Writer's pictureSofiya Pasternack

How to Succeed At NaNoWriMo: 2020 Update

We're coming up on the most wonderful time of the year: NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH aka NaNoWriMo aka when I'm on my computer even more than usual (which is a lot, y'all).

There are a few different schools of thought about NaNo. One of them is the one I belong to: HOORAY FOR NANO WHEEEE! Another one is the exact opposite of that: NANO IS ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO TAKE THIS WRITING THING VERY SERIOUSLY. And yet another one makes me sad: NANO IS STUPID, REAL WRITERS DON'T WAIT FOR A SPECIFIC MONTH TO WRITE.

I'm not going to try to convince these latter two groups that NaNo is good and for everyone, because if you want to live your life being annoyed at the happiness of others, that's all you, man, go for it. Rather, I'm going to address the unsure writers who have been affected by that negativity, and I'm going to give you a nice plan on how to succeed at NaNo. Are you ready? Okay, let's go!


STEP ONE: NaNo is for real writers lol

The novel that I published in 2019 was written during NaNo 2015.


It has a much better cover now.

Anyway, the point is, NaNo is for real writers. It's also for casual writers. It's also for writers who don't know if they want to be real or casual. NaNo is for anyone who wants to sign up and write 50k words in 30 days. End of discussion.


STEP TWO: Think outside the novel box

I have a secret for you. Come here, I'm gonna whisper it:



"Sofi," you say, indignantly, "stop talking nonsense. It has 'novel' in the name of the event! Of course I have to write a complete novel from hook to resolution!"

Nah, nah, nah. You don't. The organizers of the event even have a specific term for people who choose not to write a fresh new novel: NaNo Rebels. How cool does that sound?!!?

I've NaNo rebelled before. Rather than drafting a new novel, I'll finish one I already started. Or I'll write a few short story backgrounds of characters. Or I'll flesh out some scenes that were barebones.

Remember this, my Possible Future WriMos: no words are ever wasted words. They all develop something in you. And they all count toward your NaNo total.


STEP THREE: Try new things

I have always used NaNo to try new writing stuff: new genres, new age groups, new outlining methods, new POVs. The list goes on. To jazz NaNo up a little bit, try one new thing during November!

Are you a pantser who thinks outlines are disgusting? Try outlining one scene! Maybe you'll hate it, but maybe you'll find that you actually like it (or parts of it).

Are you an Adult writer? Try writing a scene from a 10-year-old's POV!

The point is, NaNo is a time for adventure! Live life on the edge! Or at least write on the edge. Not too close, though. Okay, make sure you're tethered to something in case you slip. Living life on the SAFE EDGE!


STEP FOUR: Socialize

BLEH talk to other humans?? Am I serious right now?

Okay, yeah, but hear me out: the NaNo forums can be a ton of fun. They're easy to get lost in, so I recommend (especially for first-timers) to get involved in your regional forum (allllll the way at the bottom of the list) and whatever genre you're writing in.

Try to make it to a local write-in or two! You might make some bestest writer friends, and maybe even start an in-person critique group!

To start you off socializing, you can be my friend on the NaNo website (I'll buddy you back ASAP)! Also, you can follow me on Twitter for a manageable amount of NaNo support, but mostly weird gifs and a lot of goat pictures.


STEP FIVE: Go easy on yourself

NaNo isn't supposed to be stressful. If the event is stressing you out, take a step back. Go drink some tea. Take a walk. Pet a doggie. If you get to the end of the event and you didn't make it to 50k words, that's okay! You did more than zero, and hopefully you made some writer friends along the way, tried some new things, and improved your writing ability. No matter what, you win!


NaNoWriMo is an event for everyone.

For all levels of writers, whether you're just starting out or a seasoned veteran.

For all genres, for all age groups, for all formats.

For writers who want to develop a write-every-day habit.

For writers who consider the event a race and get to 50k words in 3 days.

It's for everyone.

It's for YOU.

I hope to see you there. :)


meet sofiya!

Sofiya Pasternack is a mental health professional, the highly-distractible author of Jewish MG and YA fantasy, and prone to oversharing gross medical stories.

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