Guest Post: NaNoWriMo Tips by R.E Stearns


*Note:  NaNoWriMo has ended, but keep these tips in mind for future events.  

Very few NaNoWriMo writing days remain. However, there’s still time to finish your novel! I know, because one of my NaNoWriMo projects was just published last month.

Please keep in mind that the following tips work for me, but they might not work for everyone. The pressures of NaNoWriMo may highlight the writing practices that help you enjoy the process. Experiment and find out what works.

I got into NaNoWrimo because it was an opportunity to talk word count and storytelling weirdness with other writers. I “won” (meaning “wrote 50,000 words in November”) because I let myself get caught up in their literary abandon. Reach out to your thousands of new writer friends on the forums, in the NaNo social media tags, or at your local write-ins.

My favorite forum board for commiseration is NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul, an annual review of “Oh God, writing is hard and it makes us do strange things.” Other fun boards include This is Going Better Than I’d Hoped for success stories big and small, Word Wars, Prompts, & Sprints to inspire and motivate you, and NaNo Soundtracks for ideas on what to listen to while you craft your story. One caveat: Set a timer to remind you to get off the website and get back to your novel!

Once you’re inspired, find your best writing environment. I’ve tried writing at all times of day, with various audio and chemical accompaniments, and in many different locations. For some parts of Barbary Station I’d write in the morning and evening. In the morning, I’d come back with no memory of what I’d written the evening before! That got confusing fast. Experiment and find your own best times, places, and situations. It may not be what you expect.

Some days, you’ll miss your word count. Some days, you’ll blow that word count out of the water. I’ve found it helpful to minimize celebration on big word count days, so that I don’t get lazy the next day. That also helps me feel less awful on the low word count days. It all evens out in the end, and getting overly emotional about it doesn’t help me.

If that doesn’t work for you, another technique I’ve heard is to celebrate everything. Celebrate the low word count days, because at least you’re writing, and perhaps some of it is good. Celebrate the high ones because you wrote a lot. Celebrate the no-writing days because you thought about your novel while taking care of whatever was going on in your life (mental health included).

Amidst all of life’s distractions, I appreciate NaNoWriMo’s November 30 deadline. Without a deadline, I tend to go over and over a passage keep messing with it until it’s “perfect,” or I’m sick of it, and never finish the story. NaNoWriMo doesn’t give you time to choose the perfect words while you’re drafting. That helped me write all the way to the end, without obsessing about things that would prevent me from finishing the story.

Maybe today will be a fast writing day. You won’t know unless you show up and see what you can do. Have fun, keep experimenting, find what works for you, and stick to it until the end!


Barbary Station Cover.jpg

–Synopsis: Two engineers hijack a spaceship to join some space pirates—only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Now they have to outwit the AI if they want to join the pirate crew—and survive long enough to enjoy it. Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space. But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out. Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds. There’s a glorious future in piracy…if only they can survive long enough.

R.E. Stearns (Photography by Carlos Romero).jpg
Author Bio: R.E. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate. When not writing or working, R.E. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references Internet memes in meatspace. She lives near Orlando, FL with her husband/computer engineer and a cat.

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