NaNoWriMo 2023: How to prepare for a successful writing month?

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo 2023, is that exciting time of year when writers embark on a literary marathon. It involves racing against the clock to craft a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. It is a challenge that sparks creativity, tests dedication and leads to the creation of countless new stories.

But how do you prepare for such an ambitious undertaking? I hear you ask. To prepare for a successful writing month during NaNoWriMo 2023, consider these essential steps. First, outline your novel pitch to keep you motivated throughout the month. Know your protagonist inside out, giving them depth and relatability. Outline key plot points to guide your writing journey. Choose a practical point of view (POV) for your narrative. Second, create a writing schedule, then eliminate distractions that could lead you to procrastination. Last, get inspired. These steps, along with dedication and daily writing, will set you on the path to a rewarding and successful NaNoWriMo experience.

The birth of NaNoWriMo

The story of NaNoWriMo 2023 begins in 1999 with a simple yet audacious challenge: write a 50,000-words novel in 30 days. This challenge was not limited to seasoned authors. It welcomed also individuals from various walks of life, from elementary school teachers to mechanics and stay-at-home parents. By the end of the month, they emerged not just as participants but as novelists, with their first drafts in hand.

Over the years, NaNoWriMo has gained internet fame and become a community-powered endeavour. It has hosted authors who drafted novels that went on to capture readers’ hearts, including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. Additionally, volunteers around the world organise real-world writing events, creating a unique sense of community.

Evolution of NaNoWriMo

In 2006, NaNoWriMo officially became a nonprofit organisation. Its programs expanded to include community writing challenges, such as National Novel Writing Month in November and Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Resource-driven initiatives like NaNo Prep in September and October and the ‘Now What?’ Months in January and February help writers at various stages of their creative journey. Furthermore, the Young Writers Program caters to kids, teens, teachers and families, while local initiatives like the ‘Come Write In’ program and the Municipal Liaison program connect communities and writers.

How to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2023?

The official NaNoWriMo 2023 calendar.
The official NaNoWriMo 2023 calendar. Source:

Outline your novel

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2023 begins with a fundamental step: outlining your novel. This is not about restricting your creativity; it is a roadmap that guides you through the creative landscape. Outlining your novel before NaNoWriMo 2023 will help you stay on track and meet your word count goal while allowing your creativity to flow freely.

An outline is a compass that helps you navigate your story’s terrain. It ensures you keep sight of your destination — a 50,000-word novel by the end of November. The outline does not have to be rigid. Instead, it may work a flexible guide. You can change course if a new, exciting idea arises.

Begin with a rough sketch of your story’s structure. Identify the critical plot points, significant characters and the overarching theme. What is the opening scene? What is the climax? How does it all conclude?

Once you have these significant points mapped out, start adding details. Consider character backgrounds, subplots and the nuances that make your story unique.

Next, think of your outline as a treasure map. It shows where the literary gems are buried, but the exploration and discovery happen as you write. Your outline does not need to be elaborate; it just needs to give you a sense of direction.

Create a writing schedule during the NaNoWriMo 2023

For a successful NaNoWriMo 2023, crafting a novel in thirty days requires inspiration and a disciplined approach. One of the most critical elements of this approach is creating a dedicated writing schedule.

Begin by assessing your daily routine and responsibilities. Whether you are an early riser or a night owl, find a time slot that works best for your writing. Moreover, consistency is key. Once you have chosen your writing time, stick to it. This commitment reinforces your determination to meet your word count goal. It transforms writing into a habit, ensuring you make progress every day.

Next, setting daily word count goals within your schedule is also essential. Aim for a reasonable target, achievable within your chosen time frame. A daily plan not only breaks down the daunting 50,000-word mark but also gives you a sense of accomplishment with every word written.

Planning breaks within your writing schedule is equally vital because they help maintain your focus and prevent burnout. They also allow your mind to digest your story’s progress.

Finally, remember that your writing schedule is a flexible framework, not a rigid regime. If life throws unexpected curveballs, adapt your schedule as needed. The goal is to accommodate your writing without overwhelming your daily life.

NaNoWriMo schedule example

Here is a writing schedule you can set up for NaNoWriMo 2023:

  • Days 1–3: Setting up your story with exposition
  • Days 4–5: Writing the catalyst and inciting incident
  • Days 6–8: Introducing the first plot point
  • Days 9–14: Writing the promise of the premise
  • Day 15: Writing the mid-point
  • Days 16–20: The bit where the bad guys close in
  • Days 21–23: Building tension and conflict
  • Days 24–27: Resolving subplots and character issues
  • Day 28: Writing the climax
  • Day 29: Falling action and resolution
  • Day 30: The completion and conclusion

Creating a writing schedule for NaNoWriMo 2023 is your roadmap to success. The structure turns your creative bursts into a cohesive, 50,000-word narrative. Remember that the specific timing and pace may vary depending on your story and writing style, so feel free to adapt this schedule to fit your creative process and the needs of your novel. With consistency, daily goals and flexibility, you will be better equipped to embark on this writing adventure and meet your ambitious deadline.

Eliminate distractions during the NaNoWriMo 2023

To prepare for a successful writing month during NaNoWriMo 2023, one of the critical ingredients is creating an environment that minimises distractions. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a novice, distractions can be the silent saboteurs of your writing goals. Here is how you can effectively eliminate them:

  • Designate a dedicated workspace: Start by choosing a specific spot where you will do your writing. This could be a corner of your room, a home office or a cosy café. The idea is to create an association between this space and your writing. When you are there, it is time to focus.
  • Silence notifications: The digital age bombards us with constant notifications. Turn off email alerts, social media pings and other digital distractions. Consider using website blockers during your writing time to avoid tempting websites.
  • Inform your household: If you share your space with others, let them know your writing hours. Request their support in maintaining a quiet atmosphere during this time. A do-not-disturb sign on your door can be a simple yet effective tool.
  • Clear your workspace: A cluttered workspace often leads to a cluttered mind. Keep your writing area tidy and organised. Have all your necessary writing materials within arm’s reach. This eliminates the need to leave your writing to find a missing pen or notebook.
  • Time management techniques: Consider using time management techniques like the Pomodoro method. It involves working in focused, short bursts with regular breaks. This can help maintain your concentration while preventing burnout.
  • Embrace ambient noise: Some writers find that some ambient noise, such as soft instrumental music, helps them concentrate. Experiment to see if this works for you, but avoid music with lyrics that might compete for your attention.

Get inspired

In the undertaking of writing fifty thousand words during the NaNoWriMo 2023, inspiration is your trusted companion. It is the driving force that propels your creativity and keeps your writing flame burning brightly. Here is how you can cultivate and harness inspiration for a successful writing month:

  • Read voraciously: To write well, you must read well. Immerse yourself in books, both within and beyond your genre. Reading not only exposes you to diverse writing styles and storytelling techniques but also triggers your creativity. It is a wellspring of inspiration waiting to be tapped.
  • Explore nature: Sometimes, inspiration hides in the beauty of the natural world. Take a walk in the park, hike or relax in your garden. The sights, sounds and scents of nature can awaken your senses and spark fresh ideas.
  • Engage with art: Visit art galleries, watch plays or attend music concerts. Art in its various forms can evoke emotions and stir your imagination. A painting, a melody or a theatrical performance can breathe life into your writing.
  • Connect with other writers: Join writing groups, whether in your local community or online. Sharing ideas, experiences and challenges with fellow writers can be incredibly inspiring. Their insights and encouragement can rekindle your motivation. For instance, you may consider joining a writers’ group or finding a writing buddy.
  • Maintain a journal: Keep a journal or a notebook with you at all times. Jot down ideas, observations or snippets of conversation that intrigue you. These fragments can later evolve into full-fledged story elements.
  • Reflect on life experiences: Your life journey holds a treasure trove of inspiration. Recount personal experiences, both ordinary and extraordinary. Often, the most authentic stories spring from the tapestry of your life.

The role of drafting during the NaNoWriMo 2023

As you embark on the exhilarating journey of NaNoWriMo 2023, understanding the role of drafting is paramount. This initial phase sets the stage for the creation of your novel and lays the foundation for your entire writing month.

During NaNoWriMo, the primary objective is to draft your novel within a compressed timeframe. Your goal is to reach the magic number of fifty thousand words by the end of November, which amounts to approximately 1,667 words per day. It is an ambitious challenge that requires dedication and a creative spirit.

The drafting phase is where your imagination takes flight. You let go of the need for perfection and embrace the art of storytelling. It is a liberating experience where ideas flow freely, characters come to life and the plot unfolds unexpectedly. This is the time to explore uncharted territories, experiment with narrative techniques and see where your creativity takes you.

The beauty of drafting during NaNoWriMo2023 is that it offers a unique opportunity to silence your inner critic. With the word count as your primary goal, you can set aside self-editing and instead focus on progress. This approach allows you to conquer writer’s block and hesitation as you prioritise the act of writing itself.

While the drafting phase encourages a certain level of chaos and creativity, it is essential to remember that this is just the beginning of your writing journey. Once November ends, you will have a raw manuscript in your hands, filled with both literary gems and imperfections. It is here that the next phase, professional editing, steps in to refine your work and transform it into a polished, publishable piece of art.

Do you need professional editing during NaNoWriMo 2023?

As you gear up for the exciting writing challenge of NaNoWriMo 2023, you might be pondering whether professional editing is a necessity during the event. The answer lies in understanding the unique roles of drafting and editing in the writing process.

The importance of professional editing

As you navigate the intricate process of preparing for NaNoWriMo 2023, it is crucial to grasp the significant role that professional editing plays in your writing journey. While the drafting phase is all about creativity and generating content, professional editing is the complex process that follows, bringing your manuscript to its highest potential.

Refinement and polishing

Once NaNoWriMo draws close, you will find yourself with a substantial manuscript, the product of a month’s intense creativity. However, this initial draft is akin to a rough gem, uncut and unpolished. This is where professional editing steps in. Editors can examine your work, identifying and rectifying grammatical errors, spelling issues and punctuation inconsistencies.

Consistency and coherence

A well-structured novel requires consistent characters, plot development and thematic coherence. Editors pay close attention to character arcs, ensuring that your protagonists evolve organically and they verify that your story maintains its thematic integrity throughout. Inconsistencies and plot holes are addressed, resulting in a seamless narrative that captivates readers from start to finish.

Clarity and flow

Professional editors enhance the clarity of your writing. They ensure that your ideas are effectively communicated, making your narrative more engaging and accessible to readers. The flow of your story is also a critical aspect, with editors optimising the pacing and structure of your novel, guaranteeing an immersive reading experience.

Feedback and improvement

Beyond grammar and structure, editors provide valuable feedback on your writing style. They offer suggestions for enhancing your narrative, refining your character development and strengthening your dialogue. This feedback is a vital tool for your growth as a writer.

How much does professional editing cost during NaNoWriMo 2023?

The cost of professional editing during NaNoWriMo 2023 can vary widely. However, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association, the following are the price ranges for the various editing services.

What factors determine the price of professional editing services?

Professional editing prices vary depending on several factors. These include the following;

  • Type of editing: Different types of editing include developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading — the more comprehensive the editing, the higher the cost. Developmental editing, which involves in-depth feedback on plot, character development and structure, tends to be more expensive than copyediting or proofreading.
  • Manuscript length: Editing costs are often calculated based on the word count of your manuscript. Longer manuscripts will generally incur higher editing fees.
  • Editor’s experience: Experienced and highly skilled editors typically charge higher rates. Their expertise can significantly impact the quality of the editing.
  • Editing service: If you opt for a professional editing service or agency, the cost may be higher than hiring an individual freelance editor. Services often offer a range of editing packages at different price points.
  • Urgency: If you require a quick turnaround, some editors may charge more for rush jobs. Planning and booking editing services well in advance can help you avoid these additional fees.
  • Additional services: Some editors offer extra services, such as query letters or synopsis assistance, which can add to the overall cost.

Final thoughts

NaNoWriMo 2023 is an opportunity to unleash your creativity and produce a novel that could become the next bestseller. By outlining your book, setting a writing schedule and eliminating distractions, you can prepare effectively. Once the writing is done, remember the importance of professional editing to take your manuscript to the next level. With these strategies, you are well on your way to a successful writing month and a book ready for publication. Contact me for a free sample edit if you want to prepare your manuscript for publishing during NaNoWriMo (and remember to use my early bird discount). You can also follow me on MastodonTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

Photo of author


I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.