National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) ends on Thursday. That means you have to figure out how to finish a novel . . . in three days.

How to Finish a Novel in Three Days

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first—you might not make it.

The good news is that it’s not impossible. With the right strategy and enough determination, you can finish writing your book and win NaNoWriMo.

Want to learn how to write a book from start to finish? Check out How to Write a Novel: The Complete Guide for fiction and How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide for nonfiction.

10 Steps to Finish a Novel in Three Days

Wondering what the right strategy is for how to finish a novel? Follow these ten steps

1. Clear your schedule.

Take all three days off from work or school. You need to make the time to write.

2. Review your old writing.

Review short stories/false starts/last year’s NaNoWriMo attempt and every other unpublished thing you’ve ever written to see if it can be re-appropriated into your current attempt.

3. Outline your novel.

This may be controversial, but outline whatever is left of your novel. If you haven’t started yet—outline the whole novel.

There is a longstanding controversy between “planner/plotters” and “pantsers.” The former plans her novel in advance. The latter writes by the seat of her pants.

People have very strong opinions about which method is better. But if you're struggling to finish your book in a matter of days, this might be the perfect time to try outlining, even if you normally wouldn't.

Not sure what happens next? Try adding one of these word count-boosting scenes to your story.

4. Boost your energy.

Prepare an energy boost. For some, that means scheduling a quick run or yoga session. For others it's buying a 24-pack of Red Bull.

Whatever helps boost your energy, anticipate needing it at some point and get it ready.

5. Get rid of distractions.

Delete all social media apps from your phone and alert loved ones that you will be MIA for three days. They should only make contact in case of an emergency.

6. Set goals.

Set a word count goal for each day. If you don’t reach it the first or second day, adjust.

7. Embrace imperfection.

Throw away all expectations for yourself. The first draft is going to be terrible. Accept it.

8. Write.

Day one, write.

9. Write.

Day two, write.

10. Finish your novel (that is, write!).

Day three, write until you’ve completed your novel.

You Can Finish Your Book

Feeling the pressure of the impending deadline? Don't worry! There's still time, and you CAN definitely finish your book by the end of NaNoWriMo.

That said, I'll add a caveat: although these ten steps will give you a huge boost, success is not guaranteed. You'll have to do the hard work of putting the words on paper.

Even so, don't quit. Your NaNoWriMo goal impacts so much more than just this one book. And even if you don't make it to 50,000 words, you still have something to celebrate: you wrote all the way through November to the very end, and you're this much closer to a finished first draft.

We're all cheering you on. Good luck!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? Let us know in the comments.


To show solidarity with our NaNoWriMo-ers, today we’re all going to write under pressure. Write 300 words about one of the following topics in fifteen minutes or less:

  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Babies
  3. Skyscrapers

When the timer beeps, stop! Then, share your writing in the comments. Be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers, too!

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

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