The busy person’s guide to preparing for NaNoWriMo


Nanowrimo, for those who are uninitiated, is a hare-brained scheme dreamt up in the land of hare-brained schemes—the US of A— some years ago, with the express purpose of torturing writers. It is now an international phenomenon involving a community of thousands of writers from all corners of the globe attempting to write 50 000 words in a month. I know, CRAZY.

The idea is that you don’t have time to scratch yourself, let alone obsessively self-edit, like I usually do, and so you should be able to build the habit of writing unencumbered by the fear that you’re producing a pile of drivel. I’m not 100% convinced that I will love it, and I’m certain that there’s no way I’ll ‘win’ (i.e. complete 50 000 words) but I’ve reached the point where I need to pull the finger out and make a start on the first draft of the novel that’s been percolating in my head for the last few months. So, I’ve signed up for Nanowrimo this year. Gulp.

The problem, of course, is that life goes on. Writing copious amounts of rubbish (sorry, literary gems) will be interspersed with work, kids, groceries, end-of-year parties and craziness, and of course—lead-up-to-Christmas planning. Whose idea was doing it in November anyway, I wonder? Here is a list of the ways I am preparing myself for Nanowrimo (and I’m not talking about writing a book outline):

  1. Telling my loved ones. I have now broken the news to my other half, whose response was, ‘I don’t think I’m going to like that very much.’ Too right, I thought, but at least he’s prepared for the reality, and hopefully will pull his weight and be supportive. If  friends and family don’t know what you’re up to, they definitely won’t understand why you’re being such an antisocial git.
  2. Doing a time audit. This is a tip from Grant Faulkner, executive director of Nanowrimo, discussed during an interview with Valerie Khoo on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast. He suggests that before November 1, you make a note of how you spend your time, looking for windows of opportunity. We all have wasted time in our day. Could you get up a bit earlier? Give away an hour or two of TV in the evening? How many hours do you spend on social media, or shopping for example? I’m sure I’ll find more time than I think I have, being squandered away.
  3. Scheduling writing time. As a follow-on from point 2, when those precious moments in the day can be identified, physically schedule them in the calendar, as writing time.
  4. Engaging with the community and mentally committing to the process. According to the Nanowrimo website, authors who upload a book cover design are more likely to successfully complete Nanowrimo, as are those actively engaged with their online community. So, I’ve uploaded a photo, made a dinky cover in a couple of minutes, and checked in with my local community on the website. I figure that makes it a bit harder to chicken out and skive off as I fear I may be tempted to.
  5. Pre-writing blog posts. Part of the reason that I’ve been neglecting my actually writing has been my recent commitment to building my blog. I’m not keen to let that slide for a month right now, but don’t want to be distracted from the new novel during November, so for once in my life I’m planning to embrace pre-writing blog posts. If I was across the technology, and more organised, I’d schedule social media posts too, using something like Buffer—but I’m not there yet.
  6. Limiting social media time. This one’s hard. I’m really enjoying connecting with like-minded people on social media, but it can easily become all-consuming. Especially when the point of Nanowrimo is to engage with the online community during the process. The thing is, when I do a time audit, there are many moments in the day when I engage with social media while doing another task: waiting in lines, school pick-up, down-time at work. I’m planning to limit myself to using those stolen moments, rather than veering towards my phone every time I can’t think of the right turn of phrase.
  7. Getting my house in order. I’m shopping for quick, healthy meals. Curry kits, pre-marinated meat, tofu. I’ve made a roster for the kids and written it in whiteboard marker on the kitchen splash-back. They need to step up, and I’ve told them so. Mum means business. And I’ve got a cleaner.
  8. Considering online Christmas shopping. The problem with Nanowrimo being in November is that when the dust settles, I’ll be slammed with the prospect of getting sorted for Christmas, with its piles of presents and visits from both sides of the family. And work Christmas parties etc. So, I’m considering getting really organised and starting to buy some presents online already. I said considering. In all likelihood I’ll stick my fingers in my ears and yell, ‘La, La, La,’ until December.
  9. Trying to stay physically active and eating healthy food. Yep, I’m going to make sure I don’t just use the time I currently spend trying to get a bit of exercise for writing or I’ll be a Vitamin-D-deficient slug by December.
  10. Planning to stay mentally strong and positive. Hey, I know that I won’t get 50 000 words done in a month, but if I manage 10 000, that’s a whole lot better than nothing, and I’ll be on the way with the next big story. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Anyone else tackling Nanowrimo this year?


By Lisa Kenway

Lisa Kenway is an Australian writer and doctor. Her debut psychological thriller, ALL YOU TOOK FROM ME, is coming in August 2024 from Transit Lounge Publishing. An early version was long-listed for the 2020 Richell Prize. A 2023 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre fellow, her work has appeared in Island Online, the Meanjin blog, Meniscus Literary Journal and elsewhere. Find her at or on Twitter @LisaKenway.


  1. Ooh, you sound so organised and positive, you’ve almost convinced me, too!
    Seriously, it sounds like a great way to focus on your writing for a month, and how often do you get to do that? Writing is often the last thing we think of, because everything else must come first, but for a set time period, with others pre-warned, it seems fair enough to prioritise writing for once.
    Go for it, and maybe keep us posted with your progress now and then? Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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