Slay NaNoWrimo: How to Write 50,000 Words in a Month from Someone Who Does it Regularly

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First, a confession: I’ve never “won” Nano. I first attempted it in 2006, when I was in undergrad (don’t do the math). Unfortunately, I didn’t make the effort to finish it, but before I started it, I thought I could never write a novel. The mere idea of it was foreign to me, though I loved reading and had worked in bookstores for over 10 years. Luckily, I came across with the goal that I could write a novel, and now, I’m a full-time freelance writer.

What can I offer you, a newbie NaNo participant?

I probably write 50k a month, when all of the words I’ve created are counted.  Two weeks ago, I wrote 10,000 words in 2.5 days because my client had a quick deadline. I regularly write blog posts of 600, 700 words for clients. I’ve written extensive biographies at, blog posts, and social media posts for the site. I’ve written auction descriptions, and thousands of viral galleries. I do most of these things weekly. If you’re a freelancer, the saying “time is money” applies more than ever. For every second I’m not writing, I’m not earning, yes, however, if I spend too much time working on a project, I’m lowering my hourly rate, so I’ve learned how to write fast.

Here’s my advice to you.


Embrace the Pomodoro and work in sprints.

The Pomodoro method is my favorite productivity method ever. It’s very simple: Work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes, repeat. You can repeat the process throughout the day, and you won’t believe how much you get done. I use an Mac OS app called Pomodoro Time to break my work up into these increments, and I also like Productivity Timer on the Android. Online, I use

Slay #Nano with the Pomodoro method: Work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes, repeat. #NaNoWrimo Click To Tweet

You can use a specialized timer that tracks the work and break segments, or just use any timer online. I write many of my articles or pieces using this method, and it works. Not only do I find myself procrastinating less, but once I tell myself “Just work for 25 minutes and then you can take a break,” I start and find my rhythm. Sometimes it might take more than one session and that’s okay! The point is, I got the work done, and it will get done. If I don’t use a timer, sometimes I find myself just staring at the page. Go fast, write in 25 minutes, repeat.

Don’t edit as you go.

This is my worst habit when writing fiction. Since the race is on to get 50,000 words, don’t edit as you go. It takes your time and thoughts away from the larger picture. You must just push through, and not worry about how it looks. The point is to get it on the page, and then you can revise it. Many a writer has said that they hate their first draft, so you’re not alone. First draft means FIRST draft, not final draft, so get the words down. It’s going to be your baby, your messy, ugly baby.

Writing tips for #Nanowrimo: First draft means FIRST draft, not final draft! Click To Tweet

Don’t fall into the “research trap.”

lisa-simpson-bookwriting2As a freelancer, I have to often write about things I have no expertise about, such as jewelry or national parks. I then have to research, which eats into my time of writing. Unless I’m on the clock with my timer, I might not get paid for that research, which means that research is important but is not the #1 factor. As writers, we need to research or we feel like we can’t do the piece or story “justice,” but sometimes we can just research and research and research. For my NaNo project, I’ve allotted 15 minute increments at night, when I’m not working, for research. I keep it all in an Evernote notebook so I can refer to when needed. Pick designated times or time lengths for research, and stick to them, collecting your research in one central place.

Avoid falling into the research trap, plus ways to collect your research for #NaNoWrimo. Click To Tweet

Here are ways to collect your research:



Scannable, an Evernote app converts pictures into PDF. Perfect for compiling your handwritten notes, logs, and histories, especially if you’re writing a genre or fantasy book.

WorkFlowy is an online digital list organizer that I love. It organizes your notes into a flow with a digital outline, where you can click to retrieve notes easily.

Learn how to write anywhere.

lisa-simpson-writing-a-book1The other night, I was watching American Housewife, and the husband was discussing his writing “ritual.” He had to eat exactly 6 almonds, drink a glass of port, and pose like Wonder Woman before getting started, followed by complete silence for hours to find his “magic.” There’s nothing wrong with such a ritual, but engaging in waiting for the “right place to write, the right atmosphere to write” will cause you not to write.

Your words are still an accomplishment even if they weren't written in your amazing Brooklyn office nook. #NaNoWrimo Click To Tweet

Alex, our co-editor here, remarks often “Bri, you can write anywhere!” because I have an ability to write at a coffee house, a relative’s house, a brewery, an office, and a car dealership, to just name a few. I grab my headphones and get lost in the world. You don’t need a computer to write your novel. You can write on a notepad, or in your phone. Your words aren’t going to be any less of an accomplishment because they weren’t written in your amazing Brooklyn office nook or in a plush coffee shop. They’re still your words and they all count. Just put them together when you can, and let them help you inch toward your goal. Find yourself blocked and unable to write anywhere but home? Go outside your comfort zone for 25 minutes and do the Pomodoro method.

Start with small goals.

Don’t think “50,000 words in a month.” Think 1,666 words a day. That’s easy, right? You probably did the equivalent in your day’s emails and social media posts. Start the writing session with a sentence, then a paragraph, and let it build. I tend to not obsessively check my word count when writing fiction or non-fiction – though it’s hard not to, I’m not going to lie.

If you don’t make your word count on a particular day, don’t fret. As you write, keep a calendar or planner to write down each day’s word count and you’ll be surprised at how fast they add up. Don’t forget, there’s no perfect way to get the 50,000 words in November. You can get 6,000 on Monday and then 10 on Tuesday, and you’re still 6,010 words into your project. Aim for as much as you can the next day, and the next, and so on. Fall into the words.

This blog post is currently at 1,075 words. Now it’s 1,080. See? You can easily get 1,666 today.

Go out and do it!

Are you participating in NaNoWrimo? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share your favorite resources or advice. Want to share your own NaNoWrimo experience? Write for us! 

Check out our previous NaNoWrimo posts!

NaNoWriMo: Music to Inspire!

Make your own NaNoWriMo goals!

NaNoWriMo Prep: Spreadsheets, Calendars and Meters

NaNoWriMo: Prep to Succeed!



Bri is the founder and co-editor of What the Fangirl. She loves chai lattes, Disney and fairy tales.

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