My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons For Surviving NaNoWriMo

So, confession time. It’s Monday, which means I post here (usually). I had an idea for a grand POST TO END ALL POSTS about NaNo and surviving and EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW, IN ONE HANDY POST. Unfortunately, I’ve neither written it, nor have I taken my own advice and gotten prepared for NaNo yet, PLUS I realized that most of my tips are… well… in previous posts?

Therefore! I will mention a handful of new things I’ve discovered that help, and then leave you to peruse my previous NaNo posts (linked at end) for further tips, if you’re so interested.

Because we’re a half a month away from NaNo (WHAAT???) and I’ll be honest: I’m not ready.

I’m so, so not ready.

I need to go spend my time prepping for NaNo, plotting my novel, and trying to conquer my several-miles-long to-do-list. IN TWO WEEKS, MIGHT I ADD. *tries not to collapse and curl up and hide behind a tapestry* Rehashing all the stuff I’ve said about NaNo in previous posts is, sadly, not going to help with that. XD

ANYWAY! Behold, a few of my recently discovered (since my previous posts) not-so-secret weapons for conquering NaNo!

Tools in My NaNo Toolkit



Time is your enemy during NaNo (TICKING DOWN TO THE END NOOOO) but it can also be your friend.


Well, I’m a long-time advocate of wordwarring (with friends, and with oneself on a timer), but also: during this last Camp NaNo, I discovered the magic of setting a timer for an hour and focusing on writing just for that time. Can take a break afterward, but focusing NOW. Just for an hour.

I can usually write 1K in an hour, which means (theoretically; hear my story laughing at me. XD) it should be a couple of hours per day, yes? *cough*Leavemetomydelusions.*cough*

Make time your ally: use it with timers and word-sprints and chunks of writing time for focusing.

Make it work FOR you.


Screenshots for this year (below, top) and last year’s NaNo (below, bottom)

SCRIVENER IS MAGIC, OKAY. I used it last year and it. was. amazing. I hate buying software and stuff because I’m cheap and like free things, but I tried it free for a month during NaNo last year and loved it so much I got it (half-off with a NaNo coupon).

The plotting and organizing features give me life, and having a word-count goal set on each individual chapter/section/day was SO helpful — and the fluidity of being able to merge or separate them at will was amazing. I also utilized the full-screen writing mode to lessen distractions, and loved to make it a slightly-smaller window to write in, with a small window of my browser open in another part of the screen, showing the counting-down wordsprint tool on the NaNo site. πŸ˜€ SO motivational!

All the planning

This one is both old and new. I’m keeping notes in a dedicated-journal just for this project, which is helpful/inspiring. The journal and the scrivener are the new things, but planning is SUPER IMPORTANT. Unless you’re a pantser, in which case I salute your bravery. I reeeally need to do a braindump scribbling-down of all my ideas (so many scenes and things in my head!) and then organize those and make an outline… But anyhow. Plot plot plot!

Bullet Journal to stay organized

Please note, I keep an “ugly” bullet-journal, which is to say, I don’t make mine a work of art and I don’t actually “journal” much (like talk about what I did; I just mark stuff off).

It’s like a daily/weekly/monthly/planner thing which I use with bullet-points of to-do-lists and things going on, and I usually plan it out a week or a month in advance.

I’ve done stuff like this before, but this is the first time I’ve had an actual bjournal (my abbreviation) to do it with.

I have a page or two of to-do lists for October, and will have one for November. I have a page for a to-do list for each week. And I have a page for every day, with info at the top about stuff going on, and a to-do list. Also daily trackers in a list on one page for keeping track of stuff I should do every day and don’t want to rewrite over and over, and a calendar list so I can keep track of what’s going on.

It doesn’t have to be fancy (in fact, please don’t try!) but both for pre-NaNo-prep, and for NaNo itself, it’s very handy to keep track of stuff!

NaNo runs at an insane pace, and I’m seriously going to need this in order to keep life/writing/ML-ing straight. Not to mention daily wordcount goals listed each day… πŸ˜‰

Draft Zero

Last but not least: Draft Zero.

I SERIOUSLY need to do a post about this, but it’s basically getting the story down in its most basic form. It’s a mix of extreme plotting (but super vague too? It’s hard to explain) and very rough first-draft. It kind of bridges drafting and outlining so that I can Howl* myself into writing without actually writing, and then it’s easy to expand into a real first-draft.

I have so far only done this in segments — like a scene or chapter at a time (often out of order) and then expand it. I used it especially for the ending of my short story Darkling Reflections (actually the last third of it) and my novella The Rose and the Raven. Super helpful.

I WILL post about it someday, but basically don’t worry about spelling/punctuation/sentences; just write down what happens in brief bullet-point order (dialog included!) and throw in descriptions/whatever, whenever you feel like it. Basically give yourself permission to make a mess on the page.

I may try to do this for NaNo, or I may just do it each day as my outline-plotting before turning each chapter into a first-draft chapter day by day. Not sure yet. Either way, it’s my biggest secret weapon, and with it in my toolkit, NaNo-doubt doesn’t have a chance. πŸ˜‰

*Apologies for those who don’t understand this Howl’s Moving Castle reference. It derives from a quote Howl said about being a coward — and the only way he can trick himself into doing things is pretending he’s NOT doing them. I’m very Howl-ish and am a slitherer-outer. XD


And there you have my 5 new tips. Thank goodness I only did five because otherwise this post would be enormous. XD

I hope these tips (and the ones below) help you. But you know what? Even if you don’t have tools or secret weapons, even if you’re not prepared for NaNo… you can still do this. If you have a story you want to tell, then that is all you need.

All you REALLY need is to show up each day in November at the screen (or pen/paper) and look in your heart and write.

You’ve got this, writer! I believe in you! Now get out there and conquer this NaNo. πŸ™‚

Check out more tips below. ^_^ THANKS FOR READING, AND GOOD LUCK! ❀

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20 thoughts on “My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons For Surviving NaNoWriMo

  1. THIS IS GOLDEN ADVICE RIGHT HERE. I was just soaking up everything you said, because I’m alwaaaays on the pursuit to make NaNo a little less stressful. What you said about time really hit me. I usually can write about 1k in an hour, too. So, technically, two-ish hours a day is all we *really* need for NaNo. Looking at it in that perspective really takes the load off! I mean…I usually just obsessively write all day (and then wonder what I’m doing with my life). BUT on those days I have work and stuff, I can’t do that. So I just have to remember if I can set out 2 hours every day, everything will be fine! Thank you for this reminder!

    SCRIVENERRRRRR. I’m already using it obsessively for plotting AND I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH I CAN’T. I am SO pumped to be using it for the first time this NaNo. IT IS THE GREATEST THING.

    Planning…yes. I’m trying. o.o I’m kind of doing a mix of both messy and organized planning right now. When I get ideas, I messily type them out. But then I’m outlining in an organized fashion. So it’s just a mix of everything!

    You are so organized with your bjournal! You put me in awe. I really should just start one. Because lately I’ve been making daily to-do lists and they’re helping SO much. So perhaps I should just get a journal and be a smidge more organized about it…

    I would LOVE a post about your draft zero-ing process!!! It actually hit me the other day that my outlines are maybe shorter versions of your draft zeroes? Because they’re essentially chapter by chapter descriptions of the book. Just (somewhat detailed) summaries of what happens in each chapter. And I even occasionally sum up what the dialogue will be. So I think I’ve been doing a small version of your draft zero process accidentally for years now! But I don’t know. They may be different! But I just love how you have such an awesome process! You’re totally gonna show NaNo who’s boss!

    THANK YOU FOR THIS WHOLE POST. It was spectacular! I’m kind of in shock we only have two weeks left. BUT WE’RE GONNA MAKE IT. It always works out in the end. We’ve got this! *fistpump*

    Liked by 1 person

    • YAY, I’M GLAD YOU LIKE IT! πŸ˜€ Eheh, yes, it’s true that we need all the tips we can get. XD

      I know, right?? I tell myself that IN THEORY I only need 2 hours per day, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way. XD (But yes, if you’re working or something! :))

      SCRIVENER! That’s fantastic you’re enjoying it! πŸ˜€ I haven’t been using it to prep AT ALL yet and I’m just like gaaaahh must plot!! Ahem.

      Messy planning that then get organized sounds like the best. *thumbs-up*

      You should! πŸ˜€ A bjournal is sooo handy, and doesn’t have to be fancy at all, and honestly is pretty much what I USED to do, just with some excellent new tricks and all in one journal…

      I’ve been planning to do a Draft Zero post for like a year or two now. XD It WILL happen! And I betcha you do have draft zeroes in your outlines! Probably lots of people do similar stuff to this, I just… do it my way and named it draft zero. πŸ˜›

      Aww, you’re welcome! Thank YOU for your loverly comment! ^_^ And I’M IN SHOCK TOO. O.O JUST. WHAT. But yes, we can do thiiiis! ❀


  2. If I weren’t at college, I would totally try Scrivener for this NaNo session, since I”m editing instead of writing. However, I am at college and need my document to be immediately accessible no matter where I am on campus, so . . . no Scrivener for me. Maybe during July Camp. We’ll see.

    I understood your Howl reference. I can see where you’re coming from . . . but I think that if I tried Draft Zero, it would turn into a normal draft. The method seems interesting, though, and I’d like to hear more about it.

    Also, YES to your time advice. I’m going for an unofficial hour/time goal this year, since 25 hours is easy to convert into 50K words (theoretically, at least) and I want to get winner goodies if I complete my goal, dangit.

    Best of luck with your NaNo prep!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, I can see why that would be an issue. *nods* Scrivener is SO fun though so if you do every get a chance, you might find it helpful. πŸ™‚

      YAY HOWL! Ahem. XD I do turn my Draft Zero into a normal draft after I do it, usually the same day for each scene, honestly. It’s more a stepping-stone, for me, I guess? And I definitely plan to talk about it in a post someday…

      Ooh, good luck on your hourly goal! Editing is awesome too and you SO deserve your winner goodies if you complete that! πŸ˜€ GO YOU.

      Thanks, Sarah! Same to you! ❀


  3. These are awesome strategies! I’m definitely going to be using them. Also, it sounds like you’ve plumbed much deeper into the awesomeness of Scrivener than I have. I must practice using it more. I love those color-coded scene lists you’ve got going on there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Hope they’re helpful. XD Eheh, I was rather obsessed with it when I first started learning, sooo… πŸ˜› (I know there are things you’ve figured out that I haven’t though, like collections, which I need to look into…) Scrivener is so fun and helpful! Thanks — I color-coded them by which POV character the scene was about. πŸ˜€ (Which… obviously is pointless when one is writing a first-person book. XD)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, but the color-coding will be very useful for The Clawthorn Rose. I’m writing that in 3rd-person omniscient. (I tend to do that with female leads.) Collections are most helpful when you’re in the ebook compiling stage; however, you could probably also use them to compare different ordering of scenes or different versions of the same draft. If you ever get to the point where you want to try them out, I can talk you through it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ooh, neat! So excited! πŸ˜€

          The way I did it was in the general meta-data over on the right, there’s a place you can hit LABEL and pick CONCEPT or CHAPTER and it labels it one of two different colors. So I just hit “EDIT” below that, and added new colors and named them after characters. Then I could just color each scene for the right one. πŸ™‚

          Awesome, thanks! I may ask about that someday. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Love your post, very good points and tips as well πŸ™‚ Yeah, I haven’t gotten to planning mine either. Like I know what I’m doing but I do need to write an outline since the story I’m doing is episodic (plan to post about it soon) My mom and I are planning on going to a coffee shop sometime this next week and taking a couple hours to really plan for NaNo though so hopefully I can get it done in time. If not, hello pantsing life πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hazel! πŸ™‚ I hope your writing went okay even if you weren’t plotted enough. πŸ˜‰ Ooh, planning at coffeeshops sounds fun! πŸ˜€ Thanks for reading! (Gosh, this reply took ages. XD *NaNo is my excuse for all things*)


  5. EEP Thank you for this, Deborah! I’m basically panicking and flailing over here, trying to get ready for NaNo, and these tips helped ground me a little bit. I reeeally need to get Scrivener, and I’ve heard about Draft Zero!! You should totally do a post about it! I would love to learn more! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Madeline! Sorry I never replied to this! o.o NaNo ate my life. XD I’m glad you found the post helpful! I will definitely have to do one about Draft Zero… Ironically, I didn’t actually really use it during NaNo this time… so much for my tips. πŸ˜› I used all the others though. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: How’s the Writing Going? NaNo + Skyships (Beautiful Books: Nov. ’17) | The Road of a Writer

  7. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Writing Tips & Giveaway! | The Road of a Writer

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