October 31, 2017

10 Ways to Make NaNoWriMo Work for You — Guest: Jenny Hansen

NaNoWriMo Participant Badge for 2017

Woo hoo! Who’s ready for NaNoWriMo tomorrow? Anyone? *crickets* Er, well, if you’re still unsure if you can make NaNo work for you, I have the perfect guest post for you today.

I’ve said before that I don’t worry about whether or not I “win” NaNo by writing 50K words during the month of November. For me, my goal is to use the camaraderie and encouragement to write more words than usual. Any words are better than no words, and any progress is better than no progress.

But if you’re still not convinced, Jenny Hansen is here to share her advice about what matters during NaNoWriMo and what we should ignore. Check out her 10 tips for rocking NaNo your way.

Please welcome Jenny Hansen! *smile*


10 Tips To Help You Rock NaNoWriMo Your Way

by Jenny Hansen

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is here at last! For those of you who are unfamiliar, November is the time when hundreds of thousands of writers gather to try to bang out as many words as possible.

NaNoWriMo is my birthday present to myself each year. Every year, I love it. And every year, I hate it…there’s simply too much to do in the tiny little month of November.

Even without my birthday falling at the beginning of the month and Thanksgiving at the end, there always seems to be unexpected craziness. One year it was shingles, another year a family vacation.

I tend to arrive at December 1st a little bit out of breath.

And still, I love NaNoWriMo.

I love the community, the late-night writing sprints, the before and after parties my local team throws. I love the write-ins, the pep talks, the excitement and uploading my word count. I adore getting the chance to encourage my peeps and watch everyone chase their goals.

Whether you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo or not, I wish you luck in your writing goals this month.

NaNo Is a Time to Ignore Our Inner Critic

I’d like to address the dreaded phenomenon of the Week Two Wall in the NaNo challenge where the initial endorphins have faded and the grind of the 1,667 words-a-day writing schedule sets in. The shiny has worn right off our shimmery fabulous idea.

Words like “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” and “haven’t” begin to rear their ugly heads.

We all hate those words, whether we’re doing a writing challenge or not. So before NaNo starts, 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 Amazing Writing Habits = a NaNo win

Remember What Really Matters

I think people get twitchy about some things that don’t matter during the month of November. You’ve seen this cartoon, right?

NaNo should be fun.

The only word count that matters is YOURS.

However, if you’re still feeling the push to “Go 50K or Bust”…

10 Tips to Make the Most of Your NaNo Experience

Not sure how to make #NaNoWriMo work for you? 10 tips to rock it YOUR way... Click To TweetBehold the NaNo Team’s Tips for Successful WriMos…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. (There’s years of writing pep talks here.)

Now, for my #10.

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

Just Don’t Quit…and You’ll Win

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 made me cry at the time.

“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.”

My hope is that this November (and every month), 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.

DON’T STOP, my friends.
Your story is calling you.


About Jenny Hansen

Jenny HansenBy day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.


Thank you, Jenny! I love the message you’re sharing here, especially the idea that if we stick it out, that is a win.

My goal is to write 20K this month rather than 50K (or actually to finish my novella). But honestly, given my past year, any words will be a win, as I need to strengthen my writing habits again after so many time-outs for my health issues. So, yes, as long as I don’t give up, I’ll come out ahead.

That idea of just not giving up goes back to my post last week about how writers succeed at perseverance. Not quitting mid-NaNo, no matter what word count we end up with? That’s perseverance.

Isn’t Jenny awesomely encouraging? *grin* If you’ve decided to join in the NaNo fun, you can buddy Jenny for NaNo here, and you can buddy me here. *waves pompons* We can do it!

Do you participate in writing challenges? Do you do NaNoWriMo? For my NaNoWriMo pals, what do you do in advance of November to get ready? What are your goals for NaNo? What will count as a “win” to you?

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Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin

I totally agree about the camaraderie, it really does make such a difference. Last year I joined our regional group and it was great, so much so that I’d say 75% of the reason I’m putting myself through this hell again is so I can go to the weekly write-ins! As it’s a last minute decision, I’m really not as prepared as I should be. I spent 6 hours yesterday listening to meditation music and burning some fabulous incense, hoping that it’d all become a little clearer. Nada.Today is faring a little better, I at least know what I’m writing tomorrow. After that, who knows, especially as I have an interview Thursday!

Jenny Hansen

“75% of the reason I’m putting myself through this hell again is so I can go to the weekly write-ins!” <– Hahahaha! You and me both, Lara. You and me both. Good luck to you. And I usually make a few big pot meals and exist on those. My people get to go out if they want variety. 🙂

Kristine Brorman

Sharing this with my Region. Yep, I volunteered as an ML to hold my feet to the fire! EEEK!

Jenny Hansen

Wow, you’re an ML?! That’s impressive. I’ll bet your region is gonna rock.


Thank you for this post. Needed it badly.

Jenny Hansen

You are welcome! Amazing writing awaits…

Julie Glover

I’ll be late to the party, not getting started until next week at the earliest. But I’m eager to get some words down! This year, I’m not expecting to win, but to get a big chunk of my WIP down. Which is a win for me!

Jenny Hansen

You and I will drag each other as far as were able, because that’s what buddies do. 🙂

Jennifer Rose

The camaraderie is why I’m going to write the second book in my series in November…even though it’s my debut book launch month, I can’t start until 11/8, and I’m going out of town for 10 days, AND I need to write 80k words (or 100k) to finish my book by 11/30… But I will use PEER Pressure and I WILL WIN! 😀

Jenny Hansen

The camaraderie is the best part! And I can already tell you write faster than I do. Go you!!!!


I don’t do Nano. I tried it once years ago and realised quickly that setting myself a daily wordcount leads to disaster. I end up painstakingly pulling the words out one by one and the moment I reach the target I throw my pen down because hey, done!

But, in the spirit of Nano, I’m committing to working on it every single day during November. Like you, my writing habits took a hit and I really want to get back into writing regularly.

(I’m plotting a novel rather than writing it because I want to work out some kinks and add a bit more meat to it so I don’t get stuck but, same difference, it’ll still get me closer to finishing it.)


Hi Jenny,

I added you as a Nano buddy. 🙂 I’m Sieran Lane.

Nanowrimo works very well for me because that “possibility of letting people down after you’ve talked about your novel for a whole month” is a very powerful motivator for me too.

It does increase my usual wordcount. And I feel like a happier and better person when I write more, partly because of my obsession with being “productive,” and partly because there is something intrinsically meaningful about writing your story. I feel like the best and deepest parts of my life spontaneously appear in my writing. 🙂


[…] on top of the fabulous tips from Jenny Hansen last week, here are some tips to help you get the most productivity out of NaNoWriMo…and […]


I envy all the people who seem to enjoy the camaraderie of NaNoWriMo. I am afraid I would just get competitive, and that would spoil it. So, I opt out. I feel like a kid with my nose pressed against the candy store window looking in.

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