The Romance Writer’s Ultimate Guide to Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Romance Writer Ultimate Guide to Preparing for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner! Find out to prepare for and survive the 50k writing challenge!

Text version is below the video.



You might be wondering, why bother to write like a madman just to get a bad draft? The answer it two-fold:

1) Bragging rights. It sounds impressive to say you wrote 50,000 words in a month.

2) Completing a draft of a novel. Yes, it’s a bad draft, but often the hardest part of writing is the first draft. At the end of the 30 days, you have 50,000 toward a completed book.

An aside on writing fast…

Writing seems to be the only task for which doing it quickly is considered bad. Play the piano everyday…good. Practice a language every day…good. But write every day and complete a book in a month is bad. Why?

I have two thoughts on this:

One is that because many quickly written books are in the romance genre, which already is considered the lowest of the low, despite outselling every other genre combined.

The second is that the negative nellies seem to think fast writers write and publish, not bothering to revise and edit, which isn’t true. At least not any more true than the indie author that takes a year to write something and loads it up on Amazon. Authors who release frequently have a schedule. While a book might be written in a month, it won’t be published for two months after that, because it goes through editing, formatting, and presale. The book that goes up today was written two or three months before.

Okay…rant over.


If you’re serious about writing a book, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) can jump start your effort. Many NaNoWriMo participants have parlayed their 50,000 words, after lots of editing, into a published work, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

It sounds daunting to write 50,000 words in 30 days, particularly in November, when the holiday season is in full swing, but it can be done.

Tips to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

1) Register and learn about NaNoWriMo. It’s free, and the site has tons of information, tips and a support forum of like-minded writers.

2) Plot before November. Although it’s cheating to write before 12:01 a.m. November 1st, you can jot down ideas, do research, and make an outline. Even if you’re a pantster, you can make notes on what you already know about your novel. Some ideas include:

  • Creating your book’s premise (character, goal, conflict)
  • Sketching your character’s goals, flaws, conflicts, personality, backstory, etc.
  • Deciding your settings
  • Identifying what happens at major plot points
  • Summarize each chapter (this is the level I plot at so that I never am stuck on what needs to be written when I sit down to write)

romance novel organizer cover imageConsider grabbing the Romance Author’s Novel Organizer to help you take your romance idea from idea to a selling novel. The Romance Author’s Novel Organizer is available in print at or you can get a digital PDF version that you can download and print in the Write with Harte/Jenna Harte shop.

3) Create a schedule. The reason most people don’t write is that they don’t think they have the time. In NaNoWriMo (or in any writing goal) you have to make the time. Find a big pocket of time or several little pockets of time every day. For example, for 50,000 words in a month, your daily word count is 1667 words a day. You can strive to write 500 in the morning, 500 words at lunch and 667 words at night. Or 900 words in the morning and 800 words at night. Writing 1667 words takes an hour, maybe a bit more if you KNOW what you plan to write (see #2 above)

4) Find a writing space. With wi-fi and laptops, you can write just about anywhere whether it’s your kitchen table, deck, local cafe or the library. Pick a place that is comfortable and inspirational. Make sure you have good lighting and a comfortable chair, as well.

5) Gather your tools. All you need is a computer and a word-processing program. Some people like to use writing programs like Scrivner, Ulysses or YWriter. You might want to try voice recognition and speak your book. Dictation is faster (if you’re low on time).

Other tools to consider are synonym and phrasing books, notebooks, and bookmarked websites or apps that store your research, provide timers, and other tools.

6) Put together your NaNoWriMo kit that includes everything you need to write and feel inspired. Over at the NaNoWriMo forums, writers have shared what goes in their kits. Most have coffee or tea and notes. Others have lollipops or other kinds of candy, a “Do Not Disturb” sign, pens and pencils and a favorite shirt. My kit includes coffee, my notebook, access to the Internet (for quick research), reference books and music, usually some sort of R&B music source.

7) Get excited. Writing is hard under the best of circumstances, but writing 50,000 is a huge undertaking. You’ll suffer from writer’s block, get tired, and even worse, you’ll fall behind requiring you to double or triple your daily writing count to catch up. And yet, it’s a thrill to challenge yourself to try something new. You don’t have to worry about quality, so you can let your mind go and see where the characters take you.

Surviving NaNoWriMo

Prepping for NaNoWriMo is fun and inspiring. You might find yourself champing at the bit for November 1 to come so you can start writing. However, like many goals, once you get started on them, the enthusiasm can wear off as the challenge hits you. Here are tips to staying surviving NaNoWriMo.

1) Know what you want to say each time you sit down to write. For me, the most difficult part of NaNoWriMo isn’t the writing. I can write the minimum required 1,667 words in about an hour. The hard part is if I don’t know what to write. As a pantster by nature, I’ve done so many NaNoWriMo’s where I’ve hit a wall around day 8 or 10 because I didn’t know what to write. This is where plotting helps. I know the pantsters out there are fussing, but even as a pantster, you can still plot your next scenes even if you don’t plot the whole story. If you get stuck, write anything. Usually the act of writing will jump-start the creative juices.

2) Silence your inner critic and editor. The second hardest part of NaNoWriMo is turning off the voice in your head that tells you your writing sucks and your grammar is wrong. NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality. You can go back later to clean up your work.

3) Go, go, go. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for many, many years, but I’ve only hit the 50,000 mark a couple of times. However, I don’t feel like a failure because even though I missed the mark, I still wrote more words than I would have if I hadn’t challenged myself. So, even when I fall behind, I don’t give up. Ultimately, it’s all about writing. If you’ve written, even if it’s not 50,000 words, you’ve had success.

4) Keep track of word count and strive to stay on pace. The minimum daily word count to achieve 50,000 words in 30 days is 1,677 words a day, which isn’t a lot. But if you miss a day, you have to write 3,334 words, which is significantly more difficult. Even if you can’t get all 1,667 words in everyday, strive to write something each day to avoid getting too far behind.

5) Enlist support and cheerleaders. Let your family and friends know what you’re doing so they can support you. If you need more support than that, visit the NaNoWriMo forums or attend a live NaNoWriMo event (which you can find in the forums). Or join the Write with Harte Preptober Writevember challenge, for tips, inspiration, and access to a support group.

6) Take care of yourself. Adding a big feat like writing 50,000 words right in the middle of holiday season is crazy. Your time and energy are pulled in different directions all ready. Your best course of action to get it all done is to get plenty of sleep, eat right, and get regular exercise. In fact, during a workout is a great time to plot your next scenes.

Join the Write with Harte PREPTOBER WRITEVEMBER 2023 Challenge SIGN UP FOR FREE HERE.

The challenge started on October 1, but it’s not too late to join in and catch up. The Write with Harte Preptober Writevember Challenge coincides with NaNoWriMo to support writers wanting to take the NaNo challenge, however, here at Write with Harte, the challenge is whatever you want it to be whether that’s finishing a book you’ve already started, writing a short story, or whatever writing goal you want to set.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, join the Write with Harte community where you can get access to member-only resources, join in a weekly call, receive weekly email updates with news and information, and more. Join for FREE here.

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