Hello, fellow writers! Like many of you, I'm determined to complete my 50,000-word goal for NaNoWriMo 2016. Also like many of you, I'm a wee bit behind—though I will finish by midnight or death(I know that didn't work grammatically. Just go with it.)

3 Tips to Help You Finish NaNoWriMo

As I race for the finish line, I want to share a few tips with you to help you complete your own race. We can do this together, fellow writers, and here's how.

Tip Number One: Prepare Your Workstation

Where do you write? A sofa? A desk? A coffee shop? The dining room table? Here's the trick: where it is doesn't matter. What you do with it does.

Make sure your workstation is clear of distractions. If you're working from home, make darn sure you have already done the dishes, or folded the laundry, or at the very least, aren't sitting where you can see either pile. Distractions will pull you from your writing.

Feed the kids before you write.

Lock the cats out if you have to.

Fetch what you want to eat or drink before sitting down. Do you like to have water or tea for sipping? Get it before you sit down. Coffee? Chai? Whiskey? Seriously: get it first.

If you let yourself start writing, then decide you need comfort-mac-and-cheese, you'll lose inertia. Slice that apple ahead of time and save yourself the struggle.

Tip Number Two: Prepare Your Scene

Think about what you intend to write next. Plan your scene—and I say this as a life-long pantser!

You don't have to know everything about it, but you need to at least know the purpose of the next scene. Is it to expand the scene before? To add information? To develop a character? Every scene must have a purpose; if you have some idea what that purpose is going in, you'll have a better chance of completing it.

Ah, but what if you don't know what that purpose is, or even what to write? Read on, my friend. That's next.

Tip Number Three: Prepare Your Heart

Repeat after me: “I have permission to suck.”

That means if you don't know what to write and you're reduced to writing your thoughts about the characters and scene, that's all right.

Repeat after me: “I have permission to suck.”

That means if you find you were wrong about the purpose of this scene and know you're going to have to light a match and burn the whole thing down later, that's all right.

Repeat after me: “I have permission to suck.”

Yes, your finished product must be good. Your first draft does not. Your first draft isn't the one you're sending to agents, fellow writers. It's the one you're taking a chisel to once it's written. Or, to put it another way (for those of who you like logical if-then statements):

If your first draft isn't written, you can't make it good.


The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing regularly and to help you conquer your inner critic (who, as I am fond of saying, is a jerk). There is only one way to silence that guy: you have to write it in spite of him.

Write your draft even if it's the worst thing you've ever written in your life.

“You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.”
―Jodi Picoult

Keep writing that scene even if your inner critic screams that you're wasting your time. You're not. You're practicing. Ever heard someone learning to play an instrument? Terrible practice is required before you can sound good on that flugelhorn.

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
―C.J. Cherryh

This is a good rule for writing in general, but especially for NaNoWriMo: give yourself permission to suck. Ignore your inner critic, jerk that he is. When you're sure your writing is terrible, write it anyway.

Write to the Finish

Prepare your heart so that when you write those last words today, you accept them for whatever they are—and you know that by choosing to write them instead of freezing up, you are becoming a stronger writer, a better writer, and—if you don't quit—a happier writer.

Let's finish NaNoWriMo together, fellow writers. We can do this.

I'll see you  at the finish line.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know in the comments.


Take a deep breath: prepare your workstation, prepare your scene, prepare your heart, and write for fifteen minutes without stopping. Fight your inner critic!

If you're not working on a NaNoWriMo novel or another work in progress right now, take these fifteen minutes to write a story about a frenzied writer rushing to meet a deadline despite obstacles and distractions. The same rules as above apply here, too: prepare your workstation, prepare your scene, prepare your heart, and write without stopping.

When your time is up, post your practice in the comments and don't forget to encourage your fellow writers, too.

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

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