Guest Post: Break The Rules And Become A NaNoWriMo Rebel


NaNoWriMo is a great idea. It’s a whole month dedicated to trying to write a novel. If you want support, there are forums on the site and local chapters, and a whole lot of people worldwide that know exactly what you are going through.

There’s only one problem with NaNoWriMo, the rules! They’re great for some writers, but they don’t work for everyone, including me, and a lot of writers I know. I played by them my first time, in 2004, with a novel idea I loved. I completed 50,000 words in 30 days, but I’ve never been able to revise or rewrite that mess (and I’ve tried several times). After that I played by my own rules, until 2009, when I tried it their way again. It was another complete disaster of a novel.

Playing by their rules wasn’t all bad. It helped me get into the habit of writing every day and it pushed me to meet a huge goal. Now that I’ve tried it (twice!), I’ll be playing by my own rules for my sixth NaNoWriMo. Here are six tips to make NaNoWriMo work for you:

1. Start when you want to start. If you have an idea for a first sentence or three chapters before NaNoWriMo officially starts, go ahead and write them. Just don’t include the pre-writing word count as part of your final total. Aim to write 50,000 new words for the month, even if you don’t start your novel on November first. I have one writer friend who has to write the opening sentence in October, and another who has to write the beginning and ending scene to the novel before starting.

2. Don’t worry about word count. Word count can make you obsess about how many words you are typing instead of the quality of those words, or whether they help move the story forward. Try to write more than you would in a normal month, no matter what the word count ends up being at the end.

3. Rewrite or revise an old idea. If you need or want to work on an existing project instead of something new, do that. It’s better to reach a goal on a project you’ve got going, than to get writers block on a new project because you can’t get the other story out of your head.

4. Write more than one story. If you’re not finished with the novel you’re already writing by November first, finish it before starting a new novel (include those words in your final total too, as long as you wrote them in November). If you’re writing short stories or a chapter book series, use multiple stories as your NaNoWriMo novel.

5. Write your own rules. Use whatever tricks you have up your sleeve to make writing a priority for the month. Some ideas: treat yourself for meeting weekly goals, announce your goals publicly and be accountable to a writing partner, your family, or the internet, or set a timer (10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc) every time you sit down to write, and when the timer goes off, continue writing until you get to the end of the scene or chapter.

6. Follow the rules. I know, this is supposed to be about breaking the rules, but if they work for you, keep doing what works.

Be a NaNoRebel and make the challenge fit your goals. Remember, if you break the rules one year, that doesn’t mean you can’t follow them again the next time.

p.s. If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo and aren’t sure you can do it, check out my post: Six tips for writing 50k in 30 days for NaNoWriMo!

Today’s guest post is brought to you by writer & artist extraordinaire, Ani Louise! Who thought a rule breaker could be so  cute?

Bio: Ani Louise is a MG/YA writer, artist, and zombie cheerleading coach. She tells stories so other people can hear the voices in her head, and likes to hang out on Twitter as Ani_Lou   She blogs occasionally here .


13 responses »

  1. I don’t do NaNoWriMo, but much of your advice here is applicable to anytime a person wants to write very productively. I especially recommend the use of the timer. That can really kick-start me when I’m unfocused.

  2. Nice! I plan on participating with my own rules too. I have a WIP I’ve been drafting, have revised the first few chapters, and want to pick up momentum and finish the draft in November. I can’t do 50K in a month, but I want to shoot for 1K a day, which would have me just about at The End. 🙂

  3. Anne, You’re right, the advice can be used at any time, and sometimes the timer is the only reason I get moving to do stuff (usually something I don’t want to do, like cleaning the house, but it works great for writing too).

    Kiperoo, Yay! Happy to meet another NaNo-er playing by their own rules! Shooting for 1k a day sounds like a good goal. Not sure yet what goal I’m going to set, except to write every day if possible (even Thanksgiving, which is always hard). Good luck getting to The End in November!

    MB, Thanks so much for letting me guest post! 😀

  4. This is the way I plan to do it. I am actively working on a WIP, so I won’t be starting a new project, but I will only be counting words I write in November towards the Nano goal. Great post!

  5. thanks for this! i’m still mulling over that word count thing. i really do want to push myself – but not too hard. following the rules in 2009 and getting that nice winners badge was great. but i need to make it work for me. i think i’ll go and read a few more posts about rebels. (i hardly ever get anything done without being a rebel anyways 🙂

    • Isabella, That’s how I felt about my first win following the rules too. It was great, but … Good luck with your novel this year! I hope you can find a way to make it work for you!

  6. I use Nano to finish projects that need finishing. I tried starting something new and failed miserably. When I start a story I need to percolate a lot and go back and revise and revise until it really gels. But using Nano to finish projects usually gets me to the 50k. Thanks to Nano, I’ve finished three novels to date. I’m hoping this year will be number four. I’m 63k into a story that needs at least another 40k. If I fall short of word count when I’m done the I’ll move onto another project.

    • I should do that as well since I have 3 projects that need finishing, but I’m personally kind of a stickler for the rules..for myself anyway. Whatever works for you. Good luck!

    • Marguerite, it sounds like you’ve found a way to use NaNo that works for you. It’s great that it helps you to finish projects (sometimes the hardest thing is getting to The End). Good luck with that final 40k or so! I hope you’re able to finish the novel up this November.

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