Kim Montgomery

Written by

Kim Montgomery

26 October 2019


What 335,000,000 Words Have Taught Us About NaNoWriMo

We are not the experts on NaNoWriMo. We are not even the experts on writing. We are certainly not the experts on writing during NaNoWriMo. However, the thousands of Novlr users taking on the challenge over the years have taught us about NaNoWriMo and how they participate.

Over 335 million words have been written by Novlr users over the last few years, and those stats have helped us create a list of tips to help you win:

Tip #1: Build in some slack.

The most important thing our users have taught us about NaNoWriMo is that it’s not going to go perfectly. You will slip up. Hopefully, you’ll write 50,000 words in November, but to get there, there’ll be days you hit 1667 words, and days you don’t. Our stats show that very very few people manage 30 days in a row, let alone 30 days of over 1667 words.

Build in some break days. You don’t need to choose which days, but expect some days where you don’t hit the daily target. Factor that in to the daily target. Could you hit 1850 a day? If you can, that gives you three days to play with.

However, we also know how important momentum is. Our Streaks feature—which tracks how many days in a row you’ve been writing—is one of our most popular. We recommend seeing how far you can get at 1850 a day—it’ll make the rest of the month easier. And roll with it if you miss a day or two unexpectedly. 

Tip #2: Write, don’t delete.

The second thing our users have taught us about NaNoWriMo is that writing does not mean writing well. No one, even you, pours perfection onto the page for 50,000 hasty words. So don’t worry too much about the exact words, phraseology, or even the novel timeline, during the month—just smash the words out. 

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to WRITE 50,000 words in a month, so even if you don’t particularly like a sentence, don’t delete it. Leave it there. By the time you come back to edit it, you might have grown fond of it.

Novlr will keep you motivated with celebratory messages as your word count grows… Just. Keep. Writing.

Tip #3: Day 4 is hard.

From analyzing Novlr streaks, we know that Day 4 is hard. A big thing that our users have taught us about NaNoWriMo is that they drop their streak after day three—not just in November, but across the year. It seems getting on a roll has a 3-day limit for many. Knowing this is your weapon against it. Day 4 this year is a Monday—plan to make sure you make it very easy for yourself to achieve your target that day—set the time aside, maybe have two or three times in the day that you plan to write so that there is more chance of being able to do it. 

And not just day 4, but every day 4. Every few days you may find a lull. If you haven’t decided it’s time for a break (see tip #1) then make sure you make it easy for yourself to write. It might help to set a small target for that day: “Today I will write 400 words, either before work, or right after dinner, or right before bed.” Beat the day 4 lull before it beats you. 

Tip #4: Switch it up.

If the unchanging view from your dining room table is becoming too much; if your bum’s numb from the same office chair; or the noise of the kids every time you try to write is driving you up the wall… then it might be time for a change of scenery. 

It might sound simple but in the depths of NaNoWriMo it can be hard to be rational! If you’re sensing writer’s block, switch things up. Leave your desktop computer behind, grab the laptop and get yourself to a cafe, the library, a museum or gallery—or the local pub if that helps. Even consider what you eat and drink, what you wear, what you listen to and who you write with. Change things.

We can see that many of our most prolific writers log into their Novlr accounts from different devices. What we don’t know is if that’s at work, at your mum’s house, at the public library or on your spare laptop…but it seems that a change of scene works. 

Tip #5: Create a purpose list. 

This tip isn’t based on Novlr stats—this one is personal. 

Before you start, write out the reasons why you are doing this. Why did you sign up to NaNoWriMo? What made you decide to do it this way rather than the usually approach to writing a novel? Be that: “I need the outside push to make me do it”; “I won’t make time otherwise”; “I won’t have time later in the year, it has to be now”; “I want to achieve this thing I’ve been talking about doing for years”; “I want to make my family proud.” 

Everyone has a reason, or a myriad of reasons, for taking on this incredible challenge. Don’t lose sight of what that is. Write the reason, or reasons, down on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet/on the fridge/anywhere. When you are struggling to keep motivating, read it and remind yourself what got you here in the first place. 

Learning from data

At Novlr, we’re determined to use the statistics and data about how people write to find ways of helping support writers better. Good examples of that are our Streaks feature and our positive messages of encouragement as you hit targets, which our users tell us help them write more (and we’ll be looking at the stats around this in the coming months to see what impact it has). 

If you are interested in seeing if Novlr can make you more productive, or as thousands of writers have already found, is the best place to write your novel, try our free two week trial.