How To Finish NaNoWriMo With Time To Spare

I aced my 2020 NaNoWriMo.

It wasn’t the first I’d tried, but it was the first I’d finished. I’m a perfectionist writer – and a slow one at that – so I didn’t think it was possible.

But after the colossal waste that was 2020, I was determined to make the year count for something.

I was working full time, so the key to my success wasn’t having loads of time to spare in self-isolation. I wasn’t even working from home, so there was no chance of me switching tabs and sneaking a few extra words in. The stakes were the same as any other NaNo, except I had to make it count.

And I did, with three days to spare.

Here’s how.

Decide Your Project

First step, is to decide what you’re going to write.

For me, this was my science fiction romance disaster novel, then dubbed The Next Passenger.

For April’s CampNaNoWriMo, I will be doing heavy re-writes for this novel – which is now untitled as the original title, sadly, no longer works. I plan to finish these re-writes before July, so I can start a new project for the next CampNaNo event.

CampNaNoWriMo is generally considered a relaxed version of the main event in November. For CampNaNo, your project can be smaller.

The point is, you need to go in with a plan.


Don’t go overboard here. Sometimes it’s easier to know what you need to research after you’ve already started writing, but NaNo is not the time for research. You want to get that out of the way before the month starts.

Here’s some things you might want to start with:

  • Character sketches
  • Settings
  • Plot points

Take enough to get you through the month.

Set Your Targets In Advance

The NaNo website gives you a target word count for each day, which changes based on how much you’ve already written to help keep you on track.

The average word count a day to get you to 50,000 is 1667.

REMEMBER: This doesn’t have to be your personal target.

Take a look at your schedule. Are you working full-time? Do you have kids and other responsibilities to juggle? There’s no need to put your life on hold to write a novel.

I decided to print off a calendar and write my word targets for that day. The highest target was 2,100 and the lowest was 200.

I’ve seen people give up on NaNoWriMo because they think if they don’t hit that 1667 every day then they’re done for. You’re not. The goal can be small. Use your time well.

This is a personal process. Do this in your research phrase.

Start Your Stopwatch

Think you don’t have time?

You do.

Everyone, no matter how busy, has one hour in their day. One hour is enough to meet that 1667 target, or whatever target you’ve personally set for yourself.

Get a timer. Set it to one hour. Or even 20 minutes, if you concentrate better in shorter bursts. Sit down and write.

You’ll surprise yourself.

And you’ve still plenty of time in the day to do everything else.

The Road Doesn’t Need To Be Smooth

Here’s my chart from 2020’s NaNoWriMo. I think we can agree that it’s a little all over the place. A mix of good days and bad days.

Your NaNoWriMo journey is yours alone. Don’t be hard on yourself, and most importantly, keep going.

In Summary

  • Decide your project.
  • Do some research, make notes.
  • Set yourself a word target each day.
  • Write for an hour. Set a timer.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself.

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