NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide


What is NaNoWriMo?

For the third year in a row, I will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.

National Novel Writing Month challenges everyone to write a novel in a month. It is not a writing competition based on quality, but quantity. Complete the 50K words (that’s only 1,600/day) and you’re a winner!

How many pages is 50,000 words?

Because of variations in page & font size, it is difficult to give a set number of pages, which is why the challenge is for words and not pages. A novella is considered any story under 40,000 words.

Some noteworthy books in the 50K range:

  • Animal Farm: 29,966 words
  • Farenheit 451: 46,118 words
  • The Great Gatsby: 47,094 words
  • Slaughterhouse Five: 49,459 words
  • Brave New World: 64,531 words
  • The Catcher in the Rye: 73,404 words

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Writing Tools

  • Write or Die lets you challenge yourself to a certain word or time limit. Start to lag and the site gets angry.
  • NaNo Report Card is a word count tracking spreadsheet that provides an easy look into your progress throughout the month. Learn how many hours you have spent writing, how many hours you have left, how many words you type in an hour, and fun other stats.

    There are two versions: Simplified for Google Docs (by me) and Full Excel Sheet w/ Charts (by s.m. worth )

  • NaNoWriMo Calendars are user-made calendars that let your desktop background become a daily reminder of how many words you should have completed and ‘why aren’t you writing right now?’ There is an entire thread on this, along with calendars on Deviant Art & Flickr.
  • Name Generator at Seventh Sanctum can be a life saver when you are looking for names for characters, cities, etc.
  • FocusWriter has been my free word processor of choice for the past two years. It provides distraction-free writing with it’s minimal interface. When all I want to do is write, this is exactly what I need.
  • DropBox lets you sync your story between your laptop, home computer, work computer (for quick ideas), mobile device, and any computer anywhere. Also, it provides instant back-up since it’s on the cloud.

Emotional Support

  • is invaluable! Take advantage of NaNo’s official regional forums. Set your local region and keep in touch with other writers for morale boosts, story ideas, and information about local write-ins. (Because what is more fun than getting together as a group and not talking to each other for hours.)
  • Twitter: Follow the official @NaNoWriMo account for word wars, challenges, support, and more! Also, check if your region has a twitter account. NYC’s is @nycnowrimo.
  • Reddit: Take a look at the NaNo subreddit for daily encouragement and tips.


  • There is an entire list of NaNo-related discounts on a variety of products for writers.
  • Scrivener is FREE from now until Dec 7th as a free trial for NaNoWriMo! After the end date, you will be able to purchase Scrivener at a 50% discount for winners or 20% discount for all participants. Definitely use this time to take advantage of this great program!

Work Space

I cannot write in my apartment. I need to be in an environment where I am forced to do nothing but write. I usually disable wifi on my laptop and turn my cellphone off to limit the possibility of distractions.

NYC does not have many late-night non-bar options. Most coffee shops close by 10p. That may seem late enough but, trust me, there will be times you need to catch up and writing until 4a is the only way to do that.

Coffee Shop/Bar
  • Tea Lounge is open until midnight/1a in Park Slope but after 10p they have live performances so it’s not exactly a quiet, conducive environment. On the other hand, beer! It gets quite crowded even though the space is huge with lots of couches/tables.
  • Milk and Roses in greenpoint is open until 11p/midnight and has coffee/tea/beer/wine/snacks. This is a normal-sized coffee shop with cozy tables.

Public Spaces

It is annoying to have to purchase a coffee/tea every time I want to write outside of my apartment. I am not a normal coffee/tea drinker. Thankfully, some nyc buildings offer a public lobby & seating space that is free to use, with free wifi and everything. I cannot vouch for all of these spaces being a good writing environment, but at the very least they are worth checking out.

Public spaces open until midnight:

  • Space in front of Ollie’s Noodle Shop at 1991 Broadway b/t 67th & 68th
  • Winter Garden Atrium in the Financial District at 220 Vesey st

For more public spaces, here’s the complete list and a map.

Good Luck!

Warn your friends now that you won’t be seeing them for a while!


Have you attempted/completed NaNoWriMo before? Are you signing up this year?


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