Saturday, October 5, 2019

How To Use NaNoWriMo to Further Your Writing

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

It’s almost that time of year again. No, not pumpkin-spice season. NaNoWriMo.

Now, for the very few of you who are asking what is that, NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month that takes place annually in November. Can you believe that this is its twentieth year?

It started in San Francisco, the city of cool rice, and their website is Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word novel during the thirty days of November. That comes out to an average of 1,667 words a day, if my calculator is correct.

Bringing up NaNoWriMo (which I must say is more fun to say than to type) is a great way to split up a room of writers. One group sees it as a social event, a chance to get with and encourage others as they pass their writing goals.

The other group sees it as the bane of a writer’s existence, sucking the joy out of the creative process of writing and making it only about one’s daily word count. They feel that instead of having the goal of writing words that you would wish to read from the mountaintop, you are dropping into the pits of drivel.

Well, then.

And, like in most cases, both sides are right.

In 2017, over four hundred thousand participated in NaNoWriMo according to their website. My local library had two write-in events where you could meet with others to write and encourage each other on your works. If you read writing magazines like Writer’s Digest and Poet and Writers as I do, I am sure that we will soon be seeing articles in them about groups and forums where you can get involved.

But this also comes with some warnings. The goal of NaNoWriMo is not to have a finished product. It is to get the whole bunch of words onto the page.

When I started my first book, I wrote the first draft, longhand, in a week. (And if you think that sounds fishy, you’re right.) I anxiously typed it in and it came up to six thousand words. A little short of my eighty-thousand word goal. Still more than anything I’d ever written before.

So, I sat down and used it as an outline. Added this wonderful thing I learned about called dialogue, threw in additional, but not extra, characters, and showed not told. The next draft came to fifty-six-thousand words and I had something to work with.

And that is the goal with NaNoWriMo. To take this opportunity to get your draft on paper. It’s funny how different a story in your head is from the one on paper. You have to describe the picture in your head, develop out the vague emotional feeling you had, and flesh out that character you want others to come to love as much as you do.

But, until you get it on paper, you only have a dream.

I know not all of our writing goals are to complete a novel. Some of us focus on devotions, poetry, articles, and blog posts. But I do want to challenge each of us to decide what steps we need to take to advance our writing and then take November to implement some of them.

This comes at a great time for me. I seemed to have fallen into neutral during the summer and am having a hard time getting back into gear. And now is the time to start. There is no sense looking back at what has passed. For some of us, it could be years. You can’t do anything about that. But, today, and tomorrow, these you can do something with.

Here are some steps if you are interested in participating in NaNoWriMo or just want to take a step forward in your writing.

1. Plan

This is why I am bringing up NaNoWriMo now. Writing 1667 words a day is possible. You can do it in a couple of hours. But to do it thirty days straight, it helps if you have a plan or idea about where you want the stories to go. Who are your characters? Why do you want to write this story?

This may all change, and some likely will, but it lets you get started and gives you a route when you come to the inevitable sticky place.

2. Set aside time

For some of us, this is a biggie. Between family, work, and sleep, there is no more clock. But it is amazing what people can do with an hour here and there. Edie Melson tells about writing on her laptop during her boys’ soccer practices. Cyle Young teaches about binge writing, how he had to write ten to fifteen thousand words on a Saturday to fit it in with all his other obligations.

So look at your schedule and see when you can find some time. It may mean saying no to something else, but remember what your dream is.

3. Find a group of encouragers

Not all groups are helpful. There are people who like to talk about writing, but never write. And others who always have to be the best. Find a group of people, in person or online, who you feel comfortable sharing your goals with. A load is a lot easier to carry when you divide it up.

I want to encourage you, whatever your writing journey is, let’s use these next few months to take the steps to grow as a writer. Even when you plan the steps, with God, the destination will be much greater than you could’ve thought. 


Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at


  1. Thanks Mr. Tim. No NaNoWriMo for me this year (I don't think ever it seems), but what great encouragement found in our words. For me, and perhaps because I'm an old retired guy, I focus less on quantity of words and more on finding the right words. You know which ones those are my friend.